Understanding Religious Conversion from Islam to Christianity

This is the first of four lectures I gave in Copenhagen, Denmark on November 14th of 2017. And with this, all four of the Copenhagen lectures are available at my YouTube channel.

 

 

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Movements from Islam to Christianity

In the 1960s we saw the beginning of a historically unprecedented series of movements from Islam to Christianity. In this lecture I present a summary of some key elements of three of them–Indonesia, Iran, Algeria–and then offer an overall analysis of three categories of factors facilitating conversion in the modern and late modern context.

This is the second of my four Copenhagen lectures.

Delivered at St Nathaniel’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Copenhagen, Denmark.

My week with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark…and Islam there

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark and her Mission to Muslims

(Haga click aqui para leer el ensayo en español.)

by the Rev. Dr. Duane Miller

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The Cathedral Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen

It started months ago when Søren Dalsgaard, who is a coordinator of the Christian Refugee Network in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, e-mailed me. He had been looking for an expert on ministry to and among Muslims and ex-Muslims and he found me. My doctoral research had been on that topic and the thesis had been published as Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians (Pickwick 2016). I had also done some interviews on the topic for some Danish publications and a number of local Christians had read those.

He explained that numerous pastors who lived in multi-ethnic neighborhoods or close to asylum centers were being approached by individuals or families from places like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes these people would just start attending church. Other times they were looking for baptism. Still other times they related that they had converted in some other country but wanted to join the local church. Would I be interested in coming to Denmark to provide some seminars for local leaders and deliver some more academic lectures at a local university?

This led to me spending a week in Denmark. We started with a seminar in Copenhagen, traveled by train to Århus where I did another seminary and even learned to correctly pronounce Århus. The next day I was at the second largest university in the country. At the invitation of Prof. Peter Lodberg I spoke on sociology of religious conversion from Islam to Christianity to around 100 students, many of whom are studying for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark.

The church is the national church. Some 75% of all Danes belong to it, though of course many of those people rarely attend it. It is episcopal, meaning it has bishops. But I learned that it is not synodal, meaning the bishops don’t meet in synod to govern the church (which is indeed the form of government of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain here in Madrid). Also, both the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark belong to the Porvoo Communion, meaning the two churches recognize the ordination and sacraments of each other.

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At the University of Århus

It is easy to find bad news about Islam in Denmark. Just today my news feed told me about the Turkish government funding new mosques there. The clergy I spoke with there were quite open when talking about the rise in violence that has come with Islamic immigration. Yet they were also excited to do what they could to help people move from Islam to Christianity. One pastor spoke of 20 baptisms at the local parish. Another spoke of his desire years ago to be a missionary in Turkey but explained how it had not worked out, but then he realized that Denmark had a large Turkish population and that he could spread the gospel among Turks in his home country. A young man training for ministry at the university wrote me an e-mail after the lecture expressing his excitement to help the church move into challenging new places of ministry like this in order to connect not only to Muslims but also to the post-Christian secular population of Danes.

The seminars consisted of four talks each, with plenty of time for Q&A, lunch, and the singing of a hymn or two. The first three lectures were about background—what is conversion? What are some of the global movements from Islam to Christ? And third, what attracts people from Islam to Christ? The fourth talk was my favorite one—it focused on practical pastoral steps that ministers can take to help converts from Islam form a firm, new identity in Jesus Christ. Evenings often consisted of dinner meetings with key local figures.

[Update: all four lectures can be heard on YouTube now.]

I did get a little sight seeing in too. We were done by Thursday night, and my plane didn’t depart from Copenhagen until 3:20 in the afternoon. So I took the day to wander around Copenhagen and even managed to stumble on the Little Mermaid as well as other interesting historical sites.

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The Little Mermaid

Denmark is wrestling with many difficult questions. What is integration? What does it mean to be Danish? What are the ramifications of the break down of rule of law connected to people who immigrate? (I’m talking about people whose asylum claims are denied—many simply move on to another country or stay in Denmark with no negative repercussions.) Can a country where every successive generation is smaller then the previous one—thanks to low birth rates—really have a future? How can you protect the human rights of a person who has pledged himself to destroying the human rights of others?

In spite of being keenly aware of how precarious their situation is they are taking action on many fronts. One of those was to find an expert on converts from Islam and bring him to provide ideas and guidance for their clergy and leaders. This denotes to me a certain hope and confidence in God. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But it is better than the alternatives—denying the real dangers that come with a growing Muslim population or giving into anger and despair. All in all this is a church that is taking the initiative in a prudent and hopeful manner. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark is surely on the right track.

Marthe Curry interviews Duane Miller

Last year my book Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians was published by Pickwick.

I sat down with Dr. Marthe Curry, director of the Department of World Mission based out of San Antonio, Texas, to talk about it. That interview has now been published in Global Missiology (15:1). Here is an excerpt:

MC: Why do MBBs [Muslim-background believers] seem to be more comfortable in evangelical settings? Or is the correct question Are evangelicals more evangelistic than liturgical/traditional denominations?

DAM: One might think that since the ancient churches of the Muslim world are mostly Eastern or Oriental Orthodox, that people would be converting to those forms of Christianity. But that rarely happens. First, those ancient churches are still suffering from the trauma of centuries of living as dhimmis under the sharia. It was a belittling and dehumanizing way to live wherein Christians (and Jews) were routinely publicly humiliated by Muslim rulers. Christians could always convert to Islam, but were not allowed to evangelize Muslims or even learn about Islam. This has led in many places to quietism and seeing Islam as invincible. One pastor has likened how these Christians see Muslims to how a prostitute views her pimp as someone who really loves her, even though no one else sees it that way. Second, evangelicalism—as broad as that term is—places a great deal of importance on conversion. The strength of evangelicalism is that each and every Christian is seen as an evangelist. In other churches people tend to assume the priest or bishop is in charge of evangelism—if they even know what the word means. I will say that theologically there is nothing in Anglicanism, Catholicism or Orthodoxy that preclude vigorous evangelism by the laity. The barrier really is pastoral.

Read it all online HERE or read the PDF through academia.edu.

Oxford History of Anglicanism, Vol 3

I am happy to share with you all that volume 3 of the Oxford History of Anglicanism is now available. My own chapter is ‘Anglican Mission in the Middle East up to 1910’.

Volume 3 focuses on the partisan era and Anglicanism’s expansion into a global community up to 1910. Volume 4 concentrates on Anglicanism in the contemporary period and its history after the 1910 EdinburghWorld Missions Conference.

More info on volume 3 can be found at the OUP website and much of my own chapter can be read at books.google.

Al Fadi interviews Duane Miller, Pt 3

And here is the third and final interview where Al Fadi, a Christian from Saudi Arabia, interviews me on various topics. These include Christians in the Holy Land, that time I had an audience with the Pope, and yes, the controversial Insider Movements. Al Fadi is founder and president of CIRA International.

Enjoy! Check out Part 1 and Part 2 as well.

Roger Dixon on Insider Movements in SE Asia

Some time ago Dr. Roger Dixon and I published an article/interview (me interviewing him) on his experience and work in Indonesia. This was published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of Asian Mission (15:1). Here is a section on his experience of what are typically called ‘insider movements’:

DAM: One topic of great interest today are insider movements. Proponents of IM claim that these movements exist as a work of the Spirit and apart from the initiative of Western-based missions and missionaries. I have been looking everywhere for a ‘real’ insider movement, and can’t find one. Do you know of anything that matches up to the stories we hear of movements initiated by the Spirit without foreign involvement?

RD: I understand your concern for some verifiable facts. They are hard to find.

Either the foreigners who report these movements will not identify the persons involved, or if they do, ask that the researcher not contact them because it would insert a “foreign” element (whereas they have already been a foreign element themselves). My repeated statement/conclusion is that if these reports [of Insider Movements commenced by the Spirit independent of Western missions] cannot be verified by independent research, we can’t really accept them as confirmed results by the normal social-science standards.

None of those claiming great results will respond to this. They just claim that we have to accept the reports of these people who write under pseudonyms about unknown people groups in unknown countries. It is puzzling. I have not heard of any IM groups in Indonesia or elsewhere that were not started by foreigners—mainly Americans. Though there is a strong IM strain in Korea now and some reports coming from them. Again, I personally do not know of any successful insider movements.

This is not a categorical rejection that genuine IMs exist, of course, and I am grateful to Dr. Dixon for his precise choice of words.

Check out the PDF at my academia.edu site (link in the sidebar) or click here: Miller-Dixon Interview JAM.