The Daily Telegraph reports this morning a comment I made in a General Synod debate yesterday which I posted on last night. The Telegraph report says:
Christians should learn how to be a ‘minority’ from Muslims, bishop says.
Christians should learn from Muslims how to exist as a “minority” culture in British cities that are increasingly dominated by immigrant communities, a Church of England bishop has said.
The Rt Rev Nick Baines, the Bishop of Bradford, said some parishes in his diocese were 95% Muslim but that this should not be seen as “a problem”.
“This is a fantastic opportunity,” he told the General Synod, the Church of England’s national assembly, in York.
“It is a challenge, yes, but it’s an opportunity to rethink what it means to be a Christian community. We often ask Muslims to learn what it is to be a Muslim as a minority culture. Maybe we could benefit from learning some of the same lessons in some of our cities.”
His comments came as Church leaders at the assembly were warned that Britain’s increasingly diverse society could undermine the position of the Church of England as the “established” faith of the nation.”
The point he is an important one, but one that is open to misunderstanding. The screamers will now accuse me of selling out or giving up or conceding ground. My response is fairly simple: which bit of reality do you not understand?
The point is this. One of the major challenges facing Muslims in this country is how to be a minority community and faith. Islam assumes majority status, so the learning is not an easy exercise. Where Christians find themselves a minority presence in a parish here, it has to ask what sort of a community it should be, how it should shape its life, how it can best witness to Jesus Christ, what sort of language it needs to enable its voice to be heard and its life to be understood.
We could pretend that the situation didn’t exist. We might wish the situation were different. But that would simply be to ‘do a Daily Mail’ and live with a rather unpleasant fantasy. It is always better to live in the real world and embrace the questions and challenges we might otherwise ignore.
The point is, however, that Christians in such minority contexts (and we have some brilliantly committed examples in Bradford) have to ask fundamental questions others might be able or inclined to avoid: what is our gospel, how do we live/tell it, how do we witness to this faith, how do we order our church life (and for whose benefit), what language do we use, how committed are we… and to what?
It is not boring. It is demanding… and very exciting.
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