The Church of England's two most senior bishops have called on fellow Anglicans to embrace the Christian mission and not "fight shy" of converting people from other faiths. In an uncharacteristically evangelical statement from a church that has tended to avoid overt proselytising in recent decades, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu said Christians should not feel "embarrassed or awkward" about bringing others towards Christianity.
The two leaders, who are the archbishops of Canterbury and York, said they recognised that conversions are a contentious subject which often had a "shadow side" that "led to actions in Christ's name which have been inconsistent with Christ's own teachings". But they also called on fellow believers to be "up front" about the fact that Christians are expected to spread their faith to non-believers.
"In a society fixated on personal choice it is sometimes, paradoxically, frowned upon to promote one's own choices as good for others," the two bishops wrote. "But the fear of getting it wrong should never obscure the Christian's commitment to the good of all and to making Christ the centrepiece of that good."
Their words may cause alarm among some secularists and non-Christian faiths. But it will be music to the ears of the church's evangelical wing.
They also began a fresh effort to find a compromise over the contentious issue of women bishops.
Next month the General Synod will meet to discuss legislation which would result in the Church of England having women bishops as early as 2014. Traditionalists and Anglo-Catholics bitterly opposed the deal and have threatened to leave the church.
The archbishops' new amendment would include a separate all-male class of bishops that could operate semi-independently of any female colleagues in a parish.