Rowan Williams Answers His Critics

John ArmstrongIslam

Archbishop Rowan Williams has expressed real dismay that his comments made yesterday about Britain legally supporting certain aspects of Sharia Law has already created a considerable storm of protest both in the UK and abroad. While the British Muslim Council Mencircle
has praised him a number of Christians, as well as UK politicians, have expressed profound concern, even calling for him to step down as head of the Anglican Church. His response, as well as that of various critics, can be read and even seen on video at today’s news on the BBC.

Christians in the West need to engage this conversation very carefully. Williams seems to go further than wisdom dictates, at least to me, but I hope we will not stop this conversation. I have my doubts about Williams, both about his leadership of the worldwide Anglican communion and his statements on a number of vitally important subjects, but before we throw him overboard we owe it to the truth and the love of our neighbors to at least engage in a dispassionate dialog about these kinds of subjects. Britain has a special problem in that the nation has already given a significant place to Muslim law and custom in ways that have created a great deal of fear among the general public.

It should be kept in mind, especially by all who urge tolerance in the West, that no such tolerance exists in the overwhelming majority of Muslim nations, especially where Sharia is the norm. This is clearly an issue that will not go away anytime soon. If you live in Europe the problem is real. It is also an issue in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, where a dominant Muslim community now influences the city and culture.

My first concern is not cultural preservation or even national security, though I have an interest in both, especially the latter. My first concern is how Christians in the West are going to love their neighbors and become vital Christian communities where Muslims will be loved as people created in the image of God. The hope of every Christian who shares a deep commitment to the gospel is that Muslims will be won to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But regardless of Muslim response to the gospel we must call upon all Christians everywhere to practice radical hospitality and real neighbor love. This is the obvious teaching of Holy Scripture. This is not the same thing as mere tolerance thus the missional mandate of Jesus calls upon us to do much more than tolerate the presence of our Muslim neighbors. Many of you, like me, live in neighborhoods where Muslims live, shop and go to our schools. What will we do now that the world is not simply over there but right here in our own community?