During my time in Denmark I delivered this talk at St Nathaniel’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Copenhagen. More details can be found here.
This is the fourth of four Copenhagen lectures, all of which are now available at YouTube.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark and her Mission to Muslims
(Haga click aqui para leer el ensayo en español.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
What a wonderful surprise this morning to read Fred Farrokh‘s brief review of Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians over at Amazon.
Click HERE to check it out.
I would like to share with you all that my book Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians is now available for purchase.
Here is the ‘about’ summary from the publisher page:
Around the world people are leaving Islam for Christianity in unprecedented numbers. This book seeks to look into the world of some of these converts, trying to discern the shape of their newfound faith. Why do they convert? What challenges do they face? And ultimately, what do they in their own complex and sometimes difficult circumstances claim to have understood about God that, while in Islam, they had not? In other words, what is the content of their contextual theology? In seeking to answer these questions, Miller looks into the world of an unintentional church plant in the Arab world consisting of believers from a Muslim background, visits with groups of Iranian converts in the diaspora, and examines the written testimonies of still other converts. In a world where Muslim-Christian relations are increasingly important and sometimes tendentious, this book examines the lived faith and contextual theology of people who have chosen to leave Islam and embrace Christianity.
Over the years I have published a number of articles in St Francis Magazine. The online journal focused on Christianity and Christian witness in the context of the Arab world specifically, and the Muslim world more broadly.
I always felt the journal played a unique role. But word has reached me through the grapevine that the website became too costly to maintain. The PDFs of the articles will hopefully be made available some time down the road. But I’m not in charge of that.
But for now, I am able to make my own articles available. So, here are numerous links…
I am pleased to share that Patrick Johnstone and I have just published an article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. The title of the article is “Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census.” Here is the abstract:
Since the 1960s, there has been a substantial increase in the number of known conversions from Islam to Christianity. Most of these conversions have been to forms of evangelical or Pentecostal Christianity, but there have also been conversions to Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, and still other converts claim to remain in some way both Muslims and followers of Jesus. This article ex- plains how we obtained estimates of the number of converts, the complexities involved in this task, and an annotated list of countries by continent with the estimated number of believers in Christ from a Muslim background. The article includes charts with maximal, minimal, and medium estimates of this population from 1960 to the present.