Church Renewal Network

Radical Orthodoxy and Counter-Cultural Community

A Call for Thinkers, Activists, Participants, Leaders


Getting Organised for the 21st Century

Australia's Christian communities are on the defensive as never before. In virtually every walk of life, an aggressive secularism is confronting the Christian presence. The intellectual, moral and political influence of our churches is withering before our eyes. Is there any coming back from here?

Two books stand out, internationally, as the key reference points for thinking about these trends. Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option was published in 2016. It re-presents, in a sharpened form, the argument of the 1980s bestseller Resident Aliens, written by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. In short: Christendom is dead; its passing presents an opportunity for Christians and our churches to rediscover our faith and to recognise ourselves as counter-cultural communities, 'colonies', in an increasingly hostile mainstream culture. See Rod Dreher's Resident Aliens and the Benedict Option 2015.

Responding to this challenge requires many things of us. First and foremost, it requires that we start talking to each other, seriously, across our denominational boundaries, in diverse settings, and on a large scale. And it demands that we get organised if we are to live as counter-cultural communities.

The experience of the Jewish community in developing a strong counter-cultural religious community over millenia is instructive for Christians. Seth Kaplan's Benedict Option II: The Jewish Example. Four keys to sustaining strong, countercultural religious community has been influential for many.

In Australia, we envisage a network of Christians, in parishes, groups, schools and dioceses, who want to respond seriously to these challenges. We want to do this at scale, because there are tens of thousands of us, and we are dispersed around a large continent in very diverse communities.

We also want to do this in a public way, so that the conversations between us can be overheard in the public arena, and shape the way faith and community are talked about in Australia, in our churches and outside them. We invite you to participate.

We envisage a Church Renewal Network with an online platform that enables us to advance on multiple fronts together - sharing ideas and resources; developing strategies and initiatives; and building up a socially diverse network of people of faith and communities.

Our starting framework is defined by the following:

1. Radically orthodox in theology (against both liberalism and fundamentalism)
Ecumenical in scope (inclusive of Catholic, Reformed and Orthodox traditions)
3. Relational in social philosophy (emphasising persons, families, communities)
4. Counter-cultural in community life (
building counter-cultural institutions)
5. Centrist in political identity (against extremes of Right and Left)
6. Open and respectful in debate (accepting differences and disagreements)

Within this framework, we are interested in the following practical challenges:

1. Developing lay leadership in radical orthodoxy and counter-cultural community
2. Winding back clericalism and managerialism in our churches
3. Reasserting the purpose of church schools as formation in the Christian faith
4. Reclaiming church welfare agencies from government contracting
5. Building cross-generational forms of care in our communities
6. Forming the faithful in radical orthodoxy and counter-cultural community

Further information: 
Vern Hughes
0425 722 890

Expression of Interest Form

Please provide the following contact information:


Please tick the following as appropriate:

I would like to participate in a Leadership Group to develop this Network
I have theological training/teaching skills
I have pastoral formation/leadership skills
I have experience in community building and organising
I have IT/web development/social media skills
I am very interested in reclaiming church welfare agencies
I have a strong interest in reclaiming church schools
I am very interested in winding back clericalism and managerialism

Please tell us about yourself and your interests in this network:



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