Professor Upham lectured for over
twenty years on Church History in Trinity Theological College, which was a
member of the then Brisbane College of Theology, affiliated with Griffith
University. He has a particular interest in Australian Church History.
were firstly at the United Faculty of Theology (Sydney) and the University of
Sydney, then with the Melbourne College of Divinity, and finally at the
University of Queensland. He is currently
living in Brisbane.
It is realised that the title given
to the work is guilty of ignoring the presence in this country of other
religions—not only those brought in by migrants from the Middle East and the Far
East—but also the religion(s) of indigenous Australians.
The relationship between the church and
the state is of perennial interest to historians and others, and is especially
relevant in Australia at present with the rise of the ‘religious right’ in the
political arena, and the formation of the Family First Party XE "Family First
Party" , closely allied with a Pentecostal Church in South Australia.
This new party was successful in having a member elected to the South Australian
Parliament, in the 2004 Federal election it was successful in electing a senator
in Victoria, as well as influencing the outcome in other places by the
distribution of preferences. This sparked anger in some quarters, to the extent
of one person placing expensive advertisements on television telling the church
to stay out of politics! That person was obviously unaware that the church has
rarely stayed out of politics. Sometimes its influence might be described as
right wing, sometimes left wing, depending on the issue at hand.
Some knowledge of the historical
background is essential to understand these recent developments, and this work
attempts to fill in part of that background. It is not comprehensive—no single
book could possibly claim to cover all aspects of how the Australian churches
and governments have interacted and intertwined with one another.
This study is mainly concerned with the
history, rather than the philosophical and theological aspects—though these are
discussed briefly at some points.
The story of church-state
relationships in Australia has never been dealt with in a comprehensive way.
Brief references to the subject can be found in various works, such as
denominational histories, biographies, general histories and the like. A number
of articles have appeared in journals.
Border’s XE "Border, Ross" Church and State in Australia 1788-1872,
while valuable for its coverage of the early period of Australian developments,
doesn’t cover all the colonies, and, as its sub-title indicates, deals only with
the Anglican Church.
Gregory XE "Gregory, J.S." ’s Church
and State is also restricted, though more general than Border in its one
chapter devoted to the early period prior to the separation of Victoria from New
South Wales in 1844. It deals only with the Victorian scene.
Turner’s Sinews of Sectarian Warfare? gives useful information on the
operation of the Church Act 1836, but does not include anything beyond
New South Wales.
Frame’s Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary Wall is a more recent
short account of both the history and the constitutional aspects.
PART I of this work covers the story in
all the colonies up to the various times when they ceased to give direct aid to
the Churches. The differences between the colonies have been largely due to
differing prevailing political outlooks at their times of formation. Leading
personalities also influenced events in some colonies.
Geography played a part. Aboriginal
issues were more to the fore in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern
Territory in the second half of the nineteenth century than in the southern
States, because of their numbers. In the south they had been reduced to tiny
minorities, whereas in the north they were sufficient to pose a threat to
squatting interests, which looked to the government for a solution. Christians
and other humanitarians had a deep concern for their wellbeing and future, and
so both church and state became involved.
As mentioned above, timing also
contributed to the difference. For example, the separation of Queensland from
New South Wales came when liberal-democratic emphases were running strongly in
the community. This had an immediate impact on the political process. One of the
first acts of the new parliament in Brisbane when it came together in 1860 was
to abolish financial aid to all the denominations. In Victoria, on the other
hand, which had been proclaimed a Colony in 1851, and had responsible government
from 1855, it was 1870 before conservative opposition gave way on the issue.
Also included is a reference to the
situation peculiar to the Anglican Church in Australia due to its background as
the established Church in England—and effectively also in Australia during the
early decades of British settlement. The legacy of that involvement was evident
throughout the period under review.
PART II is a case study of Queensland
from the time of its separation from New South Wales in 1859 and the virtual
cessation of direct aid to the Churches in 1860, to 1920, indicating how there
were still many points of interaction between the church and the state.
PART III draws some conclusions and
compares the Australian situation with that in the United States of America XE
"United States of America" and several European countries.
The purpose of the study is not simply
to chronicle the events, but to interpret and understand the developments in
Australia as part of the much larger picture of church-state relationships as
they have unfolded down through the centuries. It will be argued that the story
of church and state in Australia must be seen as continuous with what had gone
before in earlier times in Britain, in Europe and the other areas where
Christianity was established in its early centuries.
It will be argued further that whenever
in a society there is a reasonable number of people adhering to a particular
religious faith and practice, then, given the intrinsic natures of both church
and state, it is inevitable that there will be a close interaction between the
This raises the question of what is
meant by ‘establishment’ and ‘disestablishment’ of the church. What is meant by
the separation of church and state? Is it either possible or desirable?
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most people came to think it was both
of these. Looked at in the sweep of history, however, the concept is seen as
something of a modern novelty. It is one thing for small dissenting groups to
seek separation from the state, as in England from the sixteenth century
onwards. A model that is workable on that scale is not necessarily applicable to
society as a whole.
Repeated references have been made above
to the ‘church’ rather than ‘churches’. This is justified in terms of the
church’s own understanding of what it is—there can only be one church,
even when, as for much of its history, it has functioned institutionally as a
series of denominational structures. The modern ecumenical movement has served
to remind the denominations of this facet of their own teaching, often forgotten
in the Reformation XE "Reformation, the" and post-reformation eras. What this
renewed consciousness will mean for relations between church and state is still
evolving, but even in the period covered here, limited realisation of their
‘oneness’ has enabled the denominations to operate in relation to the state in
ways not open to individual denominations. This becomes very evident, for
example, at a number of points in the matters covered in PART II.