SYDNEY, Australia — At a regular Sunday morning service, before the praise songs and a sermon on resilience, a pastor at one of Sydney’s largest Pentecostal churches mentioned a congregant who was usually among those worshiping there.
Church had always been a part of his life and for the past decade, his spiritual home has been this bustling sanctuary with a cross formed from bright lights.
But he was not with them this past Sunday. On Friday, he became Australia’s newest prime minister.
“I’m incredibly hopeful — hopeful for the future of our generation,” said Alison Bonhomme, a senior pastor at Horizon Church, reflecting on the political tumult that led Scott Morrison to become the country’s leader.
A burst of applause followed.
Mr. Morrison and his faith represent a break with tradition in Australia, where politics has long been ardently secular. He is the first prime minister to come from one of the country’s growing evangelical Christian movements, leading many experts and voters to wonder how his Christianity might affect various issues, from foreign policy to social policy.
“The question is whether Morrison will choose to make his faith part of his political persona or to what extent he will,” said Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. “At this point, he doesn’t seem to have shoved it in people’s faces.”
In many ways, Mr. Morrison cuts a markedly different figure than evangelical Christian politicians in the United States. Like them, he has denounced what he sees as a growing lack of respect for Christian beliefs, and he has voiced opposition to same-sex marriage. But Mr. Morrison has often chosen pragmatism (or political calculation) over fundamentalism.
For instance, when the vote came to legalize same-sex marriage in Australia, after a postal survey showed majority support among Australians, he abstained.
“He won’t run on a campaign as being a cultural warrior or a socially conservative reformer,” said Jill Sheppard, a lecturer on politics at Australian National University.
“Sometimes he does reference his church and his beliefs,” she added. “But he also hasn’t shown much willingness to fight the moderates in his party on those issues.”
Still, his faith has been a thread weaving through virtually every chapter of his life.
Mr. Morrison, 50, was raised in a beachside Sydney suburb, and his family was active in the Uniting Church of Australia when he was growing up. He met his wife, Jenny, in church when he was 12.
In his maiden speech to Parliament in 2008, he described Christianity as one of his main motivations for service.
“For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social — as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message,” Mr. Morrison said in the speech, where he also cited a verse from the Book of Jeremiah as the encapsulation of the core of his beliefs: “I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on Earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.”
“Australia is not a secular country,” he added. “It is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose.”