The Bishop of Lichfield has stepped into the debate about whether the Church should seek to convert Muslims by defending the church’s missionary approach to Islam. The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, in a pastoral letter in parish magazines throughout Staffordshire, the northern half of Shropshire and most of the Black Country, said the Church had nothing to fear by recognising that Islam too is a missionary faith. “Both Christianity and Islam are missionary faiths. That means that each understands that the other has a message to convey to the world,” he said. “Muslims do not respect Christians who compromise their faith or water down their belief in the uniqueness of Christ. “A fundamental plank of a free society is the freedom to argue for one’s beliefs and to seek to persuade others. “Just as important is the freedom to change one’s religion (‘be converted’) and to change it again.” He stressed, however, that the decision to change religion must be taken freely, saying: “Any coercion is to be avoided.” He added: “Part of that will be to learn about the Muslim religion and to show respect for Muslim communities. Part of neighbourliness will be to share our Good News with them.” Next month, bishops, clergy and laity from the Diocese of Lichfield will join with their partners from Malaysia, South Africa, Canada and Germany, to discuss “Mission and the challenge of Islam”.

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