Church of England Shelves Debate on Evangelizing Muslims

A controversial debate by the Church of England's General Synod over whether it should seek to convert Muslims has been postponed to 2009.

The motion, tabled by lay member Paul Eddy, received 124 signatures of support from Synod members, including the bishop of Rochester, and was scheduled for a major debate and vote during the annual extended session of the Synod in York next month, just weeks ahead of a global gathering of Anglican bishops called the Lambeth Conference.

Eddy's motion called on the House of Bishops to "to confirm their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in a multi-faith society, and to publish details of best practices in evangelizing people of other faiths."

The Church of England must make it clear that it believes in what the Bible says about Jesus being the only way to salvation, Eddy said earlier.

A number of bishops and clergy have spoken out against the motion, including the Rt. Rev Stephen Lowe, the former bishop of Hulme and the newly appointed Bishop of Urban Life and Faith, who was quoted by The Telegraph as saying, "Both the Bishop of Rochester's reported comments and the synod private members' motion show no sensitivity to the need for good inter-faith relations.

"Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are learning to respect one another's paths to God and to live in harmony. This demand for the evangelization of people of other faiths contributes nothing to our communities."

Eddy's motion was dropped from the July Synod to make way for a backlog of legislative issues and another motion with a higher number of signatures on church buildings being used as tourist attractions. Eddy's motion has now been shelved for next February's Synod at the earliest.

He commented, "I'm not at all surprised that the motion didn't get timetabled following the opposition I had from many bishops and the reaction to the media interviews."

The former public relations consultant added that he had received wide support for the motion from the Anglo-Catholic as well as evangelical wings in Synod.

"People feel very aggrieved that, at this particular time in the Church's history, Synod was not given an opportunity to debate evangelism," said Mr Eddy.