Thursday, September 14, 2006

All Ye Holy Martyrs, Pray For Us

Taking advantage of a quiet day here in Beirut last Saturday, I was surveying the blogosphere, only to find something that left my head spinning.

Regular readers will recall that, on August 27, I posted an item entitled Fox Journalists 'Convert' to Islam. In it, I raised some questions about the moral implications of 'conversion' at gunpoint, and received some very enlightening answers.

The bottom line was that, as Christians, we are commanded to stand firm in our faith, even to the point of death. But we are also assured that if we crack in the moment of testing, we can count on God's forgiveness.

But it appears that for Canon Andrew White, forced 'conversion' is not a matter of faith but one of political expediency.

An Anglican priest, Fr White is one of the leaders of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East. He has been accused of actually suggesting to the kidnappers that the release of American Steve Centanni and New Zealander Olaf Wiig might be granted in exchange for their forced conversion.

Over at Get Religion, I found the following, which purports to be a letter written by Canon White and included in an August 27 press release by the FRME. I could not find a link to the press release on the FRME web site, and contacted the organization to enquire. My email was addressed to Canon White, or to anyone at the FRME authorized to speak on his behalf. Having received no reply from anyone, I have decided to publish this post.

Here is the text of the letter, as provided to Get Religion by a commenter:

Dear Friends,

It has been an exhausting few days working flat out on getting hostages released from Gaza. These kinds of things always come at the wrong time. Last Christmas and now the very days we had chosen to have our holiday. Last week I was contacted by Roger Wiig. A Methodist minister from New Zealand who just happens to be working in Bromley. He is in New Zealand at the moment but his son was one of the people taken in Gaza.

I felt we had to become involved after this news.... We eventually made contact with the hostage takers. We then managed to form links between Hamas and the Hostage takers. We had to then find a way out and advising to convert at gunpoint to Islam was the only option. (My emphasis) As in all these cases we must have no publicity. Our work is always behind the scenes.

So my holiday in Disney Land Paris has been mainly hostages but that is part of our life. With the help of Mickey Mouse we succeeded and will return to the Middle East soon.



I truly hope that the letter is bogus, and that the accusations against Canon White are therefore unjustified.

It the letter is genuine, and Canon White indeed did propose to the kidnappers a forced conversion, I still welcome him to argue his case here.


poetreader said...

In the following, I'm working from memory, not being sure which long-ago-read sources to cite.

As I recall, one of the categories claimed by the Donatists as an unforgiveable sin, was that of a cleric who had counselled a Christian to avoid martyrdom by pretending to apostasize. As I also recall, the final decision in the condemnation of Donatism was that this, like the other sins of apostacy, could be forgiven, but that it was serious enough to require a considerable period of penance.

Thus, none of this is new. The precise situations and the precise faulty attempts at solution have been dealt with long since. To renounce Christ, even in pretence, is no light matter, but an extremely serious offense against God Himself. God forgives, but forgiveness does not come without sincere repentance.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

I trust Get Religion as a source. I am quite familiar with the work of Terry Mattingly, and I think we can safely treat the letter as genuine. The apostles said "it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us..." Now it is said, "with the help of Mickey Mouse."

This story makes me want to sing Faith of our Fathers.