A cat, in the form of evangelical Christian Paul Eddy, is loose among the pigeons of the Church of England. As the BBC reports, Eddy wants the Church to take seriously its duty to evangelise those of other faiths and none, specifically Muslims. The Alpha Course, which is the CofE's premier evangelism route (hated, of course, by many liberals) is aimed at lapsed Christians and sceptics - some might say white middle class lapsed Christians and sceptics.
There are two points I'd make here. First, Eddy's opponents are being pathetic. There is no question that Christians can and should engage with Islam with an eye on conversions. They should also take very seriously their duty of care towards Muslims who convert at great personal risk. Secondly, and in contrast, I do not think that active 'Jehovah's witness' style door stopping is anything but counter-productive. I evangelise. Bede's Library is intended specifically for that purpose. However, it is a passive medium that holds itself out to those who need it. I hope I never intrude where I am unwelcome (with the possible exception of the Internet Infidels discussion board).
Many atheists seem to imagine that all revelatory religions must, by necessity, be aggressively evangelising. Oliver Kamm certainly labours under this delusion. He seems to believe that theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr took their universalism from humane liberalism rather than from the Christian tradition. But of course, Jews do not evangelise and few Christians would accept the possibility of going beyond polite persuasion. It is beyond me how such behavior can be labelled 'destructive' by Kamm without his taking a profoundly illiberal stance.
Overall, I think Eddy deserves some support for his stand which is brave and bracing. I doubt he and I would see eye to eye on many aspects of Christian theology, but his motion at the Church of England's general synod seems little more than an assertion of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
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