Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The perils of conversion *Updated*

UPDATE: A very interesting comment line going on at Stand Firm on this presentation and the topic of evangelizing in Muslim countries. Take a look.

Original: From EpiscopalLife Online, a story on the Everyone, Everywhere World Mission Conference (June 5-8) held at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute near Baltimore, Maryland. It was also a joint meeting of the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEM) and the Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission (EPGM).

But lest this sound too "evangelistic" for you, be reassured that ECUSA is still ECUSA [boldface mine]:

. . . The Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, Episcopal missionary and author and the conference's June 6 plenary speaker, urged participants to work to "bridge this chasm of misunderstanding" between Christianity and Islam, not by seeking to convert Muslims but by working to form interfaith friendships in which both religions can explore all that the two faith have in common.

"Our starting point always has to be to see the redeeming values of the other," he said.

Muslims who are pressured into converting to Christianity suffer in what Chandler called a "total break with society," describing how Christian converts from Islam in Senegal, where he grew up as the son of Christian missionaries, were exiled for the choice they made.

"They ended up getting Jesus, but the rest of their life was hell," he said.

Chandler said he feels called to help find another way of showing Muslims about the way of Christ. Muslims must be able see Christ in the lives of Christians, not simply be told about Christ, he said.

Chandler, who is the rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Cairo, suggested that Christians use the Five Pillars of Islam as a way to explore their common religious heritage with Muslims. That commonality is centered in the fact that Jesus was a Middle Eastern man whom Islam reveres, he said.

To the five pillars, Chandler added the concept of jihad, noting that the Qu'ran characterizes jihad as an internal wrestling towards God's intention for one's life. Christians must "actively wage peace on Islam," he said.

Concerning the shahada -- the first pillar, which calls for a profession of faith -- he compared the Muslim proclamation of "There is no god except for God and Muhammad is the messenger of God" to the earliest Christian creed simply professed as "Jesus is Lord."

With the pillar of Salat calling for ritual prayers done in the proper way five times each day, Chandler compared Christianity's emphasis on proper postures for prayers and the east-facing orientation of traditional churches.

Of the practice of Zakat -- charity -- Chandler suggested that Christians need to act charitably toward Muslims, loving what they love in themselves and their culture. When Christians act as the guests of Muslims and not their conquerors, "they know it, they sense it instinctively, even if you speak not a word of Arabic," he said.

Chandler noted the commonality between the pillar of Sawm -- fasting during Ramadan -- and the Lenten fast. He also suggested that Christians and Muslims must "fast" from the implication of both religions' notion that Christianity is a western religion. Christians and Muslims must return Jesus to his incarnated cultural context and remember that the Bible is not a western text received yesterday but a "collection of ancient Middle Eastern texts."

Finally, Chandler pointed out that both Muslims and Christian are called to the Hajj, or pilgrimage. He urged Christians to act more like pilgrims asking for directions and seeking companions on the way, rather than assuming they have already arrived at the truth that they need to proclaim to unquestioning listeners.

He reminded the participants that both Christians and Muslims hold dear Psalm 84, whose fourth verse says: "Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.". . .

Read it all.


Perpetua said...

I'm confused. Wikipedia says :
"He is currently the Rector of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist/Maadi in Cairo, Egypt, within the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt & North Africa. St. John’s Church/Maadi is the international English-speaking Episcopal/Anglican church in southern Cairo with an international congregation of over 20 nationalities from many denominations and church traditions."
So is he in the Episcopal/ Anglican Diocese in Egypt under Bishop Mouneer Anis?

Anne Coletta said...

From the church website, it looks like he is in the "Diocese of Egypt & North Africa, with Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti" with Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis.