PAKISTANI-BORN BISHOP MICHAEL NAZIR ALI of the Church of England continues to roil his leftist and Islamist critics by recently defending the right of Christians to share the Gospel with Muslims.
“Just as Muslims have the right to exercise Da’wa—an invitation to Islam—so Christians must have the freedom to invite people to follow Jesus Christ,” explained the bishop at a press conference in Jerusalem on June 24. “Dialogue proceeds on the understanding that each is a missionary faith.”
The bishop had earlier received rapturous applause at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem, where 300 conservative Anglican bishops, most of them African, were meeting. GAFCON was aimed at bishops distressed at the leftward tilt of British and American Anglicans, especially the U.S. Episcopal Church. In July, the Archbishop of Canterbury will convene the once a decade Lambeth gathering for the global Anglican Communion’s 880 bishops, who preside over nearly 80 million Anglicans. Many conservative bishops, including Nazir Ali, will boycott Lambeth.
Nazir Ali has survived deep animosity in Britain from Islamists who resent his outspoken critique of radical Islam. “It is a matter of public record that I have received death threats from militant Muslims,” he told the Jerusalem press conference. Earlier this year, the Bishop of Rochester sharply criticized Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ suggestion that Britain recognize some aspects of Islamic law. Last month, he criticized the Church of England’s reluctance to share the Gospel with Muslims. The church has correctly been sensitive to minority religions in Britain, he said. But he told a British newspaper: ‘I think it may have gone too far and what we need now is to recover our nerve.’
In official statement on his Diocese of Rochester website, Nazir Ali declared, “In the context of our dialogue with [other faiths], it is our duty to witness to our faith and to call people to faith in Jesus Christ, whilst recognizing that people of other faiths may have similar responsibilities. Cooperation among faiths arises from a recognition of distinctives and not by diluting what we believe merely for the sake of good relations.”
‘Our nation is rooted in the Christian faith, and that is the basis for welcoming people of other faiths,’ Nazir Ali continued. ‘This is not a matter for exclusion but the very grounds for inclusion. It should be the basis for welcoming others and their contribution to national life. You cannot, however, be in honest conversation on the basis of fudge.’ Reportedly 50,000 Britons have converted to Islam over the last decade, while Muslim converts to Christianity in Britain are believed to be negligible. Some churchmen warn that within several decade, mosque goers may outnumber church attenders.
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