Evangelical Alliance Invites Christians to Join Sharia Debate

The Evangelical Alliance (EA) is inviting Christians to join the debate on Sharia law following the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent assertion that the British legal system should accommodate aspects of Sharia law.

The EA is inviting church leaders, theologians and community practitioners to take a fresh look at the place of faith and law in the public square, and the impact that has on community relations and cohesion.

Views from the wider Christian community are also being encouraged and can be submitted to the Evangelical Alliance Web site.

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The EA is hoping that the exchange of views will help set the agenda for discussions on faith and law in light of the Archbishop's comments.

"The way faith operates in the political and legal sphere has always been extremely important to the Alliance, but the response to the Archbishop's speech has given this debate a real sense of urgency," said the Rev. Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance.

Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, drew fire earlier this month when he said the introduction of aspects of Sharia in Britain was unavoidable. On Monday, he clarified that his comments were "opening contribution" to the debate around Islamic law and said he did not advocate "parallel jurisdictions." He recommended that Christians and people of other faiths come together to reflect further on issues of faith and law.

Nevertheless, he took full responsibility for any distress that might have been caused by "unclarity" or a "misleading choice of words."

Amid criticism, many still showed support for the Archbishop. The Christian Muslim Forum said Williams' lecture on Sharia law opened "an important debate," not primarily about Sharia, but about the broader issues of how to accommodate the rights of religious groups within a secular debate.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, did not agree with Williams' comments but said he "may have done Britain a great favor by raising issues concerning Islam."

The controversial lecture was made as the Muslim population, currently at 1.8 million, continues to grow in Britian.

"We want to use this as a spring-board to find a way forward for those in our, and other, faith communities who feel disenfranchised on matters of conscience by the changing meaning of what it is to be British," said Edwards of EA. "We are encouraging the wider Christian community to join in this important conversation, by giving us their views through our website, which we will feed into our discussions."

The Alliance will direct opinions posted on its Web site to an expert group who will be formulating a comprehensive Christian response to these issues.

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