The following is an interview with Anglican Compass author Duane Miller about his new book, I Will Give Them an Everlasting Name: Pastoral Care for Christ’s Converts from Islam.
How might this book help an Anglican pastor on the ground in ministry?
Anglican churches, schools, and ministries throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, and beyond are interacting with Muslim seekers and converts from Islam in unprecedented numbers in our days. The challenge used to be, how do we get Muslims to listen to us about the gospel? That has changed. Now there are pastors and leaders who never had any interest in the Church’s mission to Muslims and they are getting foreign students and refugees and expat professionals coming to them with questions.
I Will Give Them an Everlasting Name will help Anglican pastors (and other leaders) to get a sense of what has worked in other places.
The book is highly practical and not clinical. It’s also short—about 100 pages, so it won’t distract you very long from Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie by the Archbishop Richard Hooker (or whatever you’re reading these days).
You mention “what has worked in other places.” Tell us more about that.
I’ve been a cross-cultural minister for 15 years now. That included living in Jordan, Israel, Scotland, the States and now in Spain. It included research and ministry in places throughout Turkey, North Africa and Kenya, and also other places in Europe. While in those places I would often meet with leaders, including some who were themselves converts from Islam, and ask them about how they aproach the issues in this book. I’ve also read widely on the topic, going back to my PhD in Divinity (World Christianity, focus) at Edinburgh, which was on the contextual theologies of converts from Islam. (Shameless plug: that doctoral thesis was published if you want the academic, heavy lifting.) So I took my personal experience, my field research, reading about possible solutions—all of that mixed with a dose of Anglican heritage—and those are my sources for this book.
What’s the backstory to this book? What led you to write it?
After years in the Middle East, we were back in the USA for almost four years. During that time I did a lot of teaching and preaching at churches in Texas. I was happily surprised to find the number of pastors who would say things like, “Oh yes, we have a guy from Saudi attending our church now!” or “A refugee family from Iraq is now coming to our foodbank and they told us they converted from Islam.” Usually, the follow up would be something like, “We’re not really sure how to care for them, though…”
That’s why I wrote this book. You can have a seasoned and loving pastor with decades of experience, but this area of Christianity is so new that very few people have any experience in it.
Is there anything particularly Anglican about this book?
I believe that we Anglicans are at our best when we are writing for the whole Church, for anyone practicing mere Christianity. So my audience is anyone working with Muslim seekers or converts. But some of the practices in the book—the liturgical calendar, learning the creeds, an awareness of sacramentality—are foundational to our Anglican way.
I would note, however, that the foreword is written by the Rev. Dr. Fred Farrokh, a cross-cultural minister, scholar and author from the Assemblies of God. Of the endorsements on the back cover you will find a (retired) Anglican bishop but also an Egyptian Baptist professor.
We Anglicans know that we are not “the one, true Church”. And I think that is beautiful: It allows us to value our heritage while speaking to the people of God in all their catholicity.
What’s one thing you hope that a pastor would do differently after finishing this book?
I’d hope that they understand the title of the book!
“I will give them an everlasting name” is a phrase from Isaiah 56:5. Some eunuchs and other foreigners had come back to Palestine with the other returnees from the Persian Empire, and they were seeing Ezra’s rather ethnocentric reforms and, probably, were worried. They were asking: How do we fit into the people of God? What is our role here as converts? Are we really Israel after all?
The answer was yes, and YHWH says to them that he will give them an everlasting name, a name better than sons or daughters.
God desires this for new members of his Church coming from Islam. After reading this book, I would hope the reader has some practical ideas and tools to help that new convert live into that everlasting name.
Purchase a copy of I Will Give Them an Everlasting Name today!