The Church of England reaffirmed its commitment to sharing with people of all faiths and of none the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only savior.
A motion passed by the General Synod – the legislative body of the Church of England – commits bishops to drawing up new guidelines on the uniqueness of Christ in multi-faith Britain and to offering examples of good practice “in sharing the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone” with people of other faiths and of none.
The motion, approved Wednesday, was put forward by lay member Paul Eddy, who said the motion was not about targeting one particular faith group.
“It is talking about sharing Jesus Christ with people of other faiths and of none, including in this country loads of people who are atheists [and] for whom we need examples of good practice.”
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, said Christians had an obligation to witness the transforming love of Christ to all people.
“We should not target anyone but no one is excluded either,” he said.
Andrew Dow, a vicar in Cheltenham, warned against putting bishops through “a sort of theological or doctrinal Ofsted.”
“Of course we would love to know what they think. But why just them? This is something for the whole church – laity, clergy and bishops – to wrestle with afresh.”
Dow told the Synod that the Church needed to recover its confidence in Jesus as the only savior. "We need to recover our nerve. We need to refute the lie that to be evangelistic is to be a religious bigot or fundamentalist fanatic."
He urged Anglicans to be more explicit about their desire to convert people to the faith. “The dreaded ‘C’ word, we’re terrified of it. But why? It only means turning and both Jesus and Paul used the word to describe the very DNA of their ministries.”
Other Synod members spoke of the difficulties Christians were facing in speaking publicly about their faith in Jesus.
Representing the black-majority churches in Synod, New Testament Assembly minister the Rev. Nezlin Sterling said the church was being marginalized at a “rapid rate” in multi-faith Britain.
“Why should we as Christians have to walk on egg shells to preserve community cohesion [and] accommodate everyone else, when the world around us is becoming more aggressive to Christianity and the mere mention of the word Jesus Christ is an offense to so many with whom we are seeking a working relationship?”
Sterling urged the Church not to compromise on its mission to proclaim Christ for fear of being labelled politically incorrect.
“Every person in my mind is a potential convert," she said.
The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, spoke of the responsibility of Christians to proclaim Christ but stressed sensitivity.
"Because Christ is unique we owe it to our nation that nobody in this land should not hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, should not be invited to share within it, but we do it with great respect."