Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies met to discuss the role of Christianity in contemporary Australia at the Annual New College Lectures on the evenings of 24-26 September.
The historical meeting of the archbishops was a first in an official academic setting between the two leaders of Australia’s largest Christian denominations. The importance and relevance of the Christian faith in the secular age was emphasised throughout the talks.
“Believers are pressed to renounce their most deeply held beliefs, remain silent about their dirty little secret in the public square, or adopt a kind of dual personality,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“Absolutist secularism resents its Christian heritage.”
The theme of the 2019 lectures, Faith, Hope and Love: Unchanging Virtues for a Changing World, covered each night a respective theological virtue and its relevance in current society. The two archbishops were accompanied by moderator Dr Meredith Lake, academic historian, writer, and host of Soul Search – a weekly show on ABC Radio National.
The panel engaged with an audience through topics ranging from theology and philosophy to the socio-political climate of contemporary Australia.
Archbishop Fisher affirmed that while distinctions between the secular and the religious are needed the relationship between the two spheres are nuanced.
“We find it in Christ’s command to ‘render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ yet that distinction does not entail a sharp separation, as if the same person could not operate in both spheres or as if no collaboration between the two were possible,” he said.
Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies emphasised the humanity of religion and God. “Our relationships with one another are based on trust. This is true not only in the human sphere but also in our relationship with God,” said Archbishop Davies.
“Fundamentally, faith in God is the only way to love consistently in God’s world.”
Archbishop Fisher also noted that mistakes from Christians in the past must be learned. “My own Church has at times in history engaged in totalising, violent or exclusionary behaviour similar to that of radical secularists today…I repent and apologise, determined that my Church not repeat these mistakes and resolved to do better.”
Both archbishops warned of the erasure of Australia’s Christian heritage, the fabric of our society. “Even secular institutions and culture rely for their underpinnings on virtues, values and practices inherited from Judeo-Christianity,” Archbishop Fisher said.