Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Damian Thompson: Bishops battle it out over Muslims

(Ed: I couldn't help noticing that the reading from which I preached at a baptism service on Sunday was from Acts 16, where the Apostles are banged up in jail for disrupting the peace of Philippi: “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” Not much community cohesion or bowing to the law there.)

The row between the Bishop of Rochester (who wants to convert Muslims) and the C of E’s “Bishop of Urban Life and Faith” (who doesn’t) goes to the very heart of Christianity.

The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, who holds the Church’s urban life portfolio – since when was the bench of bishops a shadow cabinet? – says “the demand for the evangelisation of other faiths contributes nothing to our communities”. I’d like to hear him argue that point to St Paul, or to any of the martyrs who were put to death for preaching the Gospel to non-Christians without regard to “community cohesion”.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester started the row by condemning multi-faith “fudge” in a Sunday newspaper. As an ambitious anti-gay evangelical, he isn’t my idea of a fun person to sit next to at a dinner party – but on this occasion he is right on both theological and practical grounds. Read more
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