Although global cities are often viewed as more secular and cosmopolitan than other regions of their respective countries, London, England and Sydney, Australia show a different reality.
A report on the 2012 London Church Census in the newsletter Future First (June) finds that London is unique in England “in that its churches are growing and people are flocking to them.” The census, commissioned by the London City Mission and conducted by researcher Peter Brierley, found a 16 percent growth in attendance and a 17 percent increase in new congregations since the last census in 2005. Brierley writes that the characteristics of this London resurgence includes a church planting campaign in certain Inner London boroughs targeted to blacks and based on the philosophy of establishing neighborhood congregations.
There is also growth in churches, often large ones with evangelical (such as Hillsong) but also Catholic backgrounds, that offer special outreach to particular groups of people, particularly immigrants but also those catering to highly mobile and young adults. Brierley concludes that London is special because of its diverse ethnic makeup and because churches are able to afford full-time leaders and a strong volunteer base compared to the rest of the UK.
In the case of Sydney, the Australian city has become a magnet for religious conservatism. Pointers (June), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association in Australia, focuses on how the development of Anglicanism in Sydney lent it a distinctive conservative and evangelical tone, but notes that similar dynamics are seen in other faiths. The newsletter cites the book Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism by Muriel Porter.
The book shows how the Sydney Anglican Church’s congregationalism and conservative interpretation of the Bible has led to sharp conflict with the rest of the Anglican communion, not only on controversial sexual issues but also over its practice of lay leadership. The newsletter adds that “several other denominations also have their most conservative expression in Sydney,” most notably the Catholic Archdiocese under Cardinal George Pell. But this is the case also with Baptists, the Churches of Christ, Assemblies of God, and also the Muslims in the city.
The conservative tendency may be in reaction to cultural trends in Sydney: “. . . while opposition to homosexuality is probably stronger in the Sydney churches than in any other city in Australia, there is no other city which hosts such a strong expression of homosexual pride as the Sydney Mardi Gras.”