Religion: Convert on Conversion

In a letter to St. Augustine of Canterbury* in 601, Pope Gregory the Great laid down a general principle of conversion that overzealous missionaries have often forgotten. Its gist: adapt much, change little. Speaking of the pagan Anglo-Saxons, Gregory sagely observed: "If they can go to their old temples . . . they will feel more at home in the worship of the true God. . . . We must act as those climbing a high hill, proceeding by small steps rather than by long leaps."

This week a suave, slight Chinese Protestant prescribed the same rule for the conversion of his...