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Leader: Attitudes to Muslims; Women Bishops delay

13 January 2010

Attitudes to Muslims

GOOD HUMOUR and entertainment are much neglected elements in the furtherance of religion. They might not make converts, but they help a great deal with the PR. It is dangerous to draw too many conclusions from the British Social Attitudes sur­vey, but the coolness towards Muslims (34 per cent of the sample) recorded in the survey suggests that the burgeoning Muslim stand-up scene has not yet penetrated the general popula­tion (Press). By contrast, only 13 per cent registered coolness towards Jews. This relative warmth is probably not all attributable to Lionel Blue, but his popularity certainly helped the cause. The clue to this is the unpopularity of those defined merely as “deeply religious”, who were regarded only marginally more warmly than Muslims. “Deep religion” was not defined, but in the public’s mind assumes such characteristics as earnestness, unreasonableness, and humourless­ness, none of which endears a group to its neighbours.

One thing is clear. The intentions of the Churches to forge closer relations with Muslims after 9/11 have not yet borne fruit, certainly in the eyes of the general public. The reasons are many, chief among them being diversity among Muslim groups and, it must be said, Christians. There are notable exceptions, but no national programme has been attempted, even at the level of cordiality. It might help if the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were now extended to include neighbours who follow other faiths.

Women bishops delay

THERE are two sorts of waiting. One is the wait while a family comes to a decision about whether it wants to journey to a par­­ticular place. Time can pass during consultations and preparation, but it is generally considered well spent in order to reach a proper agreement. The second sort of wait is when, having decided on its journey, the family stands on a snowy platform awaiting a scheduled train that the rail company has just taken out of service.

Churchpeople are entitled to feel irritated that the revision com­mittee charged with taking forward the draft women-bishops legislation has missed its February deadline. The next stage of the process must therefore be delayed till the General Synod meets again in July. It is, though, important that the Synod comes up with the best possible legislation to introduce women to the episcopate without reservation while, at the same time, seeking not to un­church those who object. This was the Synod’s express wish, and it cannot be any surprise that the revision committee has struggled to fulfil both sides of this task. Returning to the analogy above, there is no point in the train’s arriving in the station if the whole family is not on the platform. The committee now needs to be more open about its deliberations in order to curb the Synod’s impatience.

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