Comments: Muslim prayer in church building generates controversy

Simon you have missed my 'guest' posting here…

http://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/can-muslims-worship-allah-in-an-anglican-church/

Posted by Ian Paul at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 5:26pm GMT

I think it might be very helpful if you could post the Guidelines that the Bishop of Southwark is referring to, Simon.

Any chance?

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 5:39pm GMT

What utter tosh! If this admirable initiative the Vicar of Waterloo supported is 'against guidelines', then the guidelines ought to be changed.

Posted by DBD at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 5:42pm GMT

The official Southwark statement refers to "Church of England framework of legislation and guidance".
Does anyone know what this? Can we see a copy of this legislation and the guidance?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 6:00pm GMT

Instead of forcing Canon Goddard to apologise, perhaps it would be more to the point if the CoE pledged to fix whatever rules are getting between its buildings and the worship of God.

Posted by Tim at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 6:18pm GMT

If CofE canon law truly says that ONLY services that conform to CofE doctrine can be held in a CofE church, then that is one thing. Although, such a canon would appear to place a major barrier on ecumenical services.
But, what this really looks like is
1) Another front in the ongoing dispute between liberals and conservatives in this particular diocese, and
2) A chance to raise alarms over "Run for your lives! England is in peril! The Muslims are comong! The Muslims are within our gates! Where are the Crusaders when we need them!"

I realize different countries and different churches do things differently, but here across the Pond, I've known Jewish congregations to meet in protestant Christian churches without harm to either Judaism or Christianity.
If there is indeed one God, and if Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Baha'i, Sikhism, and any other monotheistic faiths all proclaim to believe in that God, then ultimately we are all praying to the same God.
It's a damn shame we let our differences far outweigh our similarities.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 6:30pm GMT

I wonder if the people denouncing this could please reference the Canon that has been broken?

The Canons regulating services with or of other Christian churches are labyrinthine, but there seems to be nothing about other faiths. The nearest is F15, "The churchwardens and their assistants shall not suffer the church or chapel to be profaned by any meeting therein for temporal objects inconsistent with the sanctity of the place" and F16 " When any church or chapel is to be used for a play, concert, or exhibition of films or pictures, the minister shall take care that the words, music, and pictures are such as befit the House of God, are consonant with sound doctrine, and make for the edifying of the people." Those don't really seem to apply to prayer meetings (by definition not temporal meetings) of other faiths.

Doubtless it's not actually a circumstance envisioned by those who wrote the Canons, but the fact remains that it doesn't appear to be illegal at present to have Muslim prayers in a church.

Posted by Matthew Duckett at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 6:36pm GMT

So what if any threats were made against GilesGoddard to produce this statement and who wrote it?

The whole business has been got up by a small clique of conservative evangelicals who are looking for any reason to bash the Inclusive and liberal Catholics in the diocese and cathedral and have fixed on this issue to vent their ire and cause as much trouble as possible. Following their threats against the diocese because it won't subscribe their homophobia this is yet another example of their semi detached 'loyalty' to the church to which they have given their allegiance. If the really don't like it why don't they go off and start their own pure sect.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 7:20pm GMT

I wonder what HRH the Prince of Wales would make of this, who was present at the first performance of the late Sir John Tavener's 'The beautiful names of Allah' in Westminster Cathedral. It caused a similar hoo-ha then with its Koranic references, but the Cardinal allowed it to be performed. If Deus, Yahweh and Jehovah are permitted in Church why not Allah? And people are cross that crosses and statues were covered out of respect? Traditionally many churches do the same during the season of Passiontide which starts on Sunday. Perhaps what most upsets people is the pushing of boundaries, not only between faiths but gender and sexuality too.

Posted by Andrew at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 7:32pm GMT

I agree it would be helpful if somebody could identify a specific CofE canon which applies to this situation.

The only "guidance" I have found so far is this 2008 document, which does not contain any such reference.

https://www.churchofengland.org/media/1732218/guidance%20on%20multi-faith%20worship.pdf

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 8:11pm GMT

For the past three years, Trinity Wall Street has allowed a local Jewish congregation, Tamid, to worship every week in St. Paul's Chapel.

Tamid's Ark remains at the front of the chapel throughout the week. When rolled into place for Tamid's services, the Ark is seen just below the tetragrammaton in the chapel's 18th-century Palladian window.

This ecumencial worshiping arrangement has been reported on favorably by the New York press, and even by the Wall Street Journal.

It's a shame that the Telegraph was willing to stir up a controversy where there should be none.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 8:24pm GMT

Someone on kiwianglo protests against this hospitable initiative towards our Abrahamic co-religionists as antithetical to the Christian faith and, like Ian Paul, wonders whether Allah should be addressed in worship in a Christian church. What seems not to be understood is that, for an Arab Christian, one of the titles for the Triune God is the word 'Allah'.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 8:24pm GMT

My own 'mite': our church (St Margaret's of Antioch, Durham, an infinitely greater church than Durham Cathedral, pace Father David) regularly 'guests' Hannah, daughter of English mother (roughly C of E) and Turkish father (fairly devout Muslim). She loves Jesus, also attends the mosque, both here and in Turkey. Only a fool or a purblind bigot would object - and in fact, in this case, no one does.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 8:36pm GMT

Well done Giles.There IS only one God for whom we search and to whom we pray. I am sure God rejoiced at the co- operation.

Posted by Jean Mayland (Revd) at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 8:41pm GMT

As a matter of interest when is the return leg taking place in the mosque. Perhaps the one in in Finsbury could be an option. Interfaith is a two way street.

Posted by henry dee at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 10:05pm GMT

Really? Giles had to apologise for this? I just don't get it at all.

Posted by Giles Fraser at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 10:44pm GMT

The Diocese of Southwark produced guidelines several years ago for multi-faith events etc, which are generally helpful.

Posted by RosalindR at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 10:58pm GMT

My colleague Peter Owen has drawn my attention to this 1966 GS paper (GS 1185)

http://www.presenceandengagement.org.uk/sites/default/files/Synod%20Report%20on%20Use%20of%20Church%20Buildings.pdf

Section 8, and in particular 8.142 may be relevant.

And also to a Southwark diocesan document
http://www.presenceandengagement.org.uk/sites/default/files/Worship%20-%20Civic%20%26%20Other%20Services%20Guidelines.pdf
which however doesn't seem to address the issue at hand.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 18 March 2015 at 11:17pm GMT

Allah, preserve us from the insanity. In Jesus' Name. }-/

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 2:05am GMT

John, I have the highest regard for St. Margaret of Antioch having once been Rector of a church sharing that great Virgin Martyr as the Patron Saint. In a wonderful prayer attributed to Margaret it is stated that whoever builds a church with the Virgin Martyr as its Patronal Dedication is guaranteed a place in the Kingdom of God. It is perhaps for that reason that churches dedicated to Margaret of Antioch are so abundant in East Anglia. As for your parish church being "infinitely greater" that the Mother Church of the diocese of Durham. Well, like beauty that must be in the eye of the beholder! I was sorry to hear of the impending retirement of Michael Sadgrove, surely one of the greatest and most respected of all the current cathedral deans. Maybe T A could create a separate item concerning the retirement of Dean Sadgove? His own blog "Wool gathering of a Northern Dean" is exceptionally good.
As for the topic of the current thread, does anyone know of a situation where this invitation has been reciprocated and Christians have been invited to worship in an Islamic mosque?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 8:10am GMT

Another comment article, from Jonathan Clatworthy:
http://www.clatworthy.org/2015/03/muslim-worship-waterloo/

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 8:56am GMT

I didn't know that Christian hospitality is dependent on reciprocation. I must have missed that bit in the gospels.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 8:57am GMT

A number of CofE canons are cited in this article by Andrew Symes

http://anglicanmainstream.org/inclusive-mosque-meets-to-pray-in-waterloo-church/

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 9:02am GMT

Reference the question. "As for the topic of the current thread, does anyone know of a situation where this invitation has been reciprocated and Christians have been invited to worship in an Islamic mosque?"

I can't speak for the UK situation, but I was once immensely moved by reading a William Dalrymple book, I think it was "From the Holy Mountain", in which he describes how for centuries in the Middle East the members of various religions lived alongside each other in relative harmony, and that harmony created a porosity between the practices of the various faiths. Whilst doctrine might describe differences between religions, wise priests at a pastoral level allowed and encouraged ambiguity, and sharing, and overlap.

But it seems that such ambiguity is not comfortable for those who need religious certainty, whether based in Syria or Southwark.

Simon.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 10:11am GMT

@JCF: well done! ;)

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 10:40am GMT

May I reciprocate Richard's comment by saying that I too have searched the Gospels in vain and have utterly failed to find any mention of Islam or Mohammed either!

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 10:53am GMT

It's clear rules have been broken in this case. It's either a service governed by Canons in parts A and B, or a temporal event governed by F16. The Southwark guidelines clearly forbid such an event (note especially para D26). And let's remember that Kelvin Holdsworth is not in the CofE, so his rules may be rather different.

As has been identified by several posters above, this is part of a wider conflict within the CofE, and Southwark Diocese in particular, but I think there are genuine concerns. Even if we all worship the same God (and God only knows about that), there are significant differences in the ways different faiths think and teach about that God, and personally I'm not happy with those being glossed over. The Trinity is either true doctrine or it isn't.

However, all that said, personally I'm open to hospitality. I'd have no problem with a Muslim group using a church hall. The consecrated part of a church itself has to be regarded a bit differently, but even here generous hospitality has a place. BUT, and for me this is the key, hospitality shouldn't mean self-denial. The covering of crosses etc "out of respect" was a mistake. Don't let anyone pretend that what is happening isn't really happening. Would you, if inviting a Muslim family to your home for a dinner, take down the cross inside the front door (or icon on the landing, etc etc) "out of respect"? And for a Christian minister to join in the service only confuses things (and lots of people were confused, hence his subsequent declaration of faith).

We can be hospitable and friendly to other faiths, but there's a lack of friendliness if we hide our differences. Only if we affirm our own faith can others really feel free to affirm theirs, after all - this, surely, is where the reciprocation some above have asked about really lies. True friendship has to be based on honesty about who we are.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 10:57am GMT

At its best, the Church tolerates and even nurtures, what may look to some like bold experiments in mission, but which look to others like heresy. At its worst, the Church seeks out, shames and punishes such experimentation. We need to get so much better at understanding what it is to be an organisation in love with God and with humanity, if we are to escape the trap of being what so many already perceive us to be, a miniscule, inward-looking sect. We need to understand that Anglican diversity is a gift to celebrate, rather than a weakness to be rooted out. One of my many vices is a weakness for the history of the 19th Century church in Liverpool. We thrived in the 1840's when a multiplicity of models and theologies was encouraged. We withered, later in the century when uniformity was the rule.

Posted by Guy Elsmore at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 11:02am GMT

Thanks for all the comments. I think it's true that Canon Law does not directly address this situation. Usually what's envisaged is a C of E led service with other faiths' involvement. In this case we were offering hospitality to another faith tradition, who were unable to use one of their own spaces because the prayers were to be for women and men worshipping together and led by a woman - the highly respected Dr Amina Wadud, for International Women's Day.

But it appears that Canons F15 and F16 may be deemed to apply, and the undertaking that I have given refers implicitly to those Canons. There are many who think that Islam and Christianity are theologically consonant - Miroslav Volf's book on this, 'Allah - A Christian Response' is excellent - but others take a very different view, and this didn't seem to be the right occasion to argue that out.

An interesting sub-note: the Malaysian Government has banned Christians from using the word Allah to refer to the Christian God - which is standard Christian practice there, and in Indonesia.

I don't see reciprocity as in any way relevant. But I do think that the event does raise questions about the use of church spaces which we need to answer if we're to be able to reach out to the whole nation.

What this whole controversy has pointed up is the startling levels of misunderstanding within Christianity of Islam and of our shared heritage. That's certainly something we're committed, at St John's, to trying to change.

Posted by Giles Goddard at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 2:45pm GMT

For details on the Malaysian Government's position see this article:
http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/news/malaysias-high-court-backs-a-ban-on-using-the-word-allah-in-bibles/

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 3:31pm GMT

"Really? Giles had to apologise for this? I just don't get it at all" @ Giles Fraser. I completely get it when Christopher Chessun is under siege (yet again) after appointing another openly gay priest to a senior post in recent months, with the conservative evangelical rump in Southwark spitting feathers and demanding that he sign on the dotted line of something resembling the Westminster Confession. When you have a noisy minority kicking-off, and (one can only imagine) pressure coming from another episcopal residence on the South bank of the Thames, you will not want to give the impression of barely concealed indifference to the conservative minority. They not only have money, but friends in high places. In any other sphere it would be called bullying. Of course, we know that sort of thing never happens in the Church of England, don't we?!

Posted by James A at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 4:58pm GMT

I am prompted to ask a couple of questions to those who have a problem with monotheism. Don't we recite the Nicene Creed on a regular basis? How does one define "We believe in one God." If we can't share worship space with those who believe in one God, we might as well remove the statement from the creed.

Posted by Dcn. Anthony Keller at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 7:25pm GMT

The only Muslims I fear are those who think and act as though non-one else can know God excepting the adherents of their own sectarian view of God. These are those who will kill others in the name of their God.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 19 March 2015 at 8:27pm GMT

Perhaps only those who adhere 100% to CofE Canon Law should be allowed to throw stones in this...

Posted by Alastair Newman at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 8:28am GMT

The Nicene Creed does indeed begin with a monotheistic assertion but it doesn't end there and goes on to define that One God in Trinitarian terms, something which Muslims simply cannot affirm. Hence the current difficulty in this present day Battle of Waterloo.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 10:13am GMT

Article 18 of the 39 Articles:
XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.
Canon A2 states that 'The Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England'.
Perhaps this is the official Anglican position?

Posted by Philip at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 11:56am GMT

I entirely agree with you about the Dean of Durham , Father David. He, incidentally, is as committed to justice for Jeffrey John as you or I.

Posted by John at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 11:59am GMT

But if the objection is to sharing worship with non-Trinitarians, does that mean that Giles would have been forbidden to have Unitarian and Quaker representatives in his services? Just asking because, inter alia, I was the Quaker representative at a millennium service in Christ Church Cathedral here. (The organiser, the Lord Lieutenant's office, had provided a prayer for the Quakers to say, which illustrated another problem, but that is for another thread).

Posted by iain mclean at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 12:01pm GMT

The late great Bishop Stephen Sykes wrote a wise paper related to this topic a few years ago, called 'Making Room for the Other: Hostility and Hospitality from a Christian Perspective.' I read it originally in a very expensive book called 'The Religious Other', ed by Alon Goshen-Gottlieb but I think I've found an online link to it here:

http://web.archive.org/web/20150320122229/http://www.elijah-interfaith.org/uploads/media/Hostility_and_Hospitality_in_a_Christian_Perspective.pdf

Posted by Jenny Petersen at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 12:39pm GMT

"goes on to define that One God in Trinitarian terms, something which Muslims simply cannot affirm"

So what? Why would we ask Muslims or Jews to recite the Nicene Creed?

Besides, should we really be reasoning from the premise that only those who can subscribe to every jot and tittle of the Nicene Creed may worship God in church?

For on that point, I have some news about ordinary Anglicans. Many do not know, and probably do not care, about the finer points of doctrine to which the Creed speaks.

"Of one being with the Father." Really? Doesn't this beg the question?

When we know what sort of being the Father is, then we might be able to determine whether we may recite this phrase in good faith (or not) -- if that is even the right goal.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 2:39pm GMT

Regarding The Bishop of Southwark and Canon Goddard, Goddard clearly chose the better part. While it may be unclear whether or not Goddard's initiative is a good example of Christian-Muslim interfaith dialogue, it does seem clear that it was a genuine prophetic act within the context of the Christian social tradition. The reaction of the Bishop, on the other hand, seems officious and provincial.

The comments here, and elsewhere, suggest we have a long we to go in advancing genuine inter-faith dialogue among the religions of Abraham. One of the first principles of inter-faith dialogue demands that we not define others in the first instance, but rather, allow them to define themselves.

Christians might exercise some humility with regard to deciding who is in and who is out with regards to a definition of god. First off, monotheism is a concept that evolved and has some degree of dynamism. See for example, André Lemaire, The Birth of Monotheism: The Rise and Disappearance of Yahwishm. Second, Christians, with our trinitarian theology, may find ourselves under scrutiny as monotheists by both Muslims and Jews. See for example, Peter Schaefer, The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other. Indeed, at a practical level, don't many Christian have a merely binary concept of the godhead? Don't evangelicals tend to marginalize both the father and the holy spirit?

Besides, Goddard is not the first to allow Muslim use of Christian space. It was done, for example, in a Roman Catholic Church in Belgium, where compromise around Christian images appears to have been successfully negotiated.

http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws.english/videozone_ENG/archive/1.775960

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 2:40pm GMT

Is the best way to reach out to Muslims really to step into the middle of a very fractious Muslim debate? I think we can rightly conclude there is more going on here than whats on the label. Dr Wadud has been systematically working to reinterpret sacred Muslim writings to support her views. The Telegraph was right to point out that St. John is at the centre of a similarly fractious debate within the CoE. Islam and Christianity are irreconcilably exclusive religions. This was obviously intended to be provocative and it has succeeded in that.

Finally, the Telegraph reports, "At the end Canon Goddard read part of Psalm 139, telling the congregation: “This is from the Hebrew scripture … we all share these great traditions, so let us celebrate our shared traditions, by giving thanks to the God that we love, Allah.” I wonder if any Hebrew people (Jews) would give their God that same name?

Posted by Andrew F. Pierce at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 4:13pm GMT

Let's just suppose this happened over the River in the Diocese of London. You would never had heard a thing about it. I remember Richard Chartres had a whole host of Buddhists and Baha'is in St Paul's Cathedral chanting their chants and sprinkling their water and doing other non-CofE liturgical things about a decade ago (I had arrived early for Evensong, as it happens). The Lord Prelate of London was presiding over this jamboree with great aplomb. He can get away with this sort of thing because (a) he is never fazed by complaints like this (he just doesn't respond to them!); (b) he is the darling of the conservative evangelicals, so they wouldn't complain anyway; and (c) he would not be making the sort of appointments which would raise the conservative ire in the first place. You've got to hand it to him, he is the strategist par excellence. Teflon to the core!

Posted by Tom Marshall at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 5:56pm GMT

Aside from feeling that any good church which doesn't break a few rules now and again isn't doing a very Christian job, my reaction is to think what utter, week-kneed rubbish this action is!

We have had Hebrew prayers at our church, uttered on one case by a real, live rabbi. No one fell over dead, objected, or abandoned Christianity, and most thought it a very good thing.

Isn't this really just knee-jerk reaction to Anything Islamic, or equally weak reaction to the inescapable, timid, or probably racist few who simply *had* to object?

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 7:37pm GMT

Andrew Pierce: is there any difference between Arabic 'Allah' and Hebrew 'El', meaning God? Pace the Malaysian courts, these are the same word.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Friday, 20 March 2015 at 9:32pm GMT

"I wonder if any Hebrew people (Jews) would give their God that same name?"

There are Arabic-speaking Jews (and Christians), yes.

Posted by Geoff at Saturday, 21 March 2015 at 1:54am GMT

One does wonder how much this is specifically a *Muslim* thing, as opposed to just a Non-Christian thing. As someone sometimes involved in Native American/First Nations ministries, would these liturgies have set off the fracas too? Or are the faith of indigenous peoples seen as non-threatening and "safe" in a way Islam is not?

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 21 March 2015 at 3:04am GMT

Grateful thanks to Jenny Petersen for the link to the Sykes article. This demonstrates, precisely, why a lack of theological weight in the current House of Bishops is turning the C of E into a toxic brand as far as thoughtful 'secular' society is concerned. If the Bishop of Southwark had a colleague of the calibre of, say, Sykes, Stevenson, Selby, Habgood or Rowell to consult when feeling the heat from Lambeth Palace, he would not only be able to counter the mindless knee-jerking: he would also have the confidence to tell someone with no jurisdiction in Southwark to keep his nose out of his Diocese!

Posted by Michael Chancellor at Saturday, 21 March 2015 at 9:40am GMT

I have attended two funerals in Salisbury Cathedral over the past decade when Ka'dish (the Jewish prayer for the dead) has been sung at the Commendation at the end of a Requiem Eucharist. To my knowledge neither of the deceased had any Jewish roots or connections. If this happened in Southwark, would it now be proscribed?

Posted by Simon R at Saturday, 21 March 2015 at 9:49am GMT

That's a fair point with regard to the Jewish Prayers for the departed being included in the Salisbury cathedral funeral services. I wonder also how many Brides and Grooms have included the Native American Apache Blessing as part of their Christian wedding ceremony? Also, in my opinion Henry Scott Holland's "Death is nothing at all" nonsense should be banned from funeral services in church along with Old Blue Eyes - "My Way" which totally contradicts the values we uphold as Christians. As far as I can see the rot really set in with Princess Diana's Funeral when Mr. Elton John was allowed to participate at her funeral in Westminster Abbey by singing "Candle in the Wind" - since then all sorts of none liturgical material finds its way into Aunt Nellie's send off.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 21 March 2015 at 9:52pm GMT

Yes, thank you for the article, Jenny. Precisely!

And underlying all this is a real question about how we, as the Church of England, can really support and encourage those of all faiths who are struggling with exactly the same sorts of exclusion and oppression in the name of God which we are struggling with.

The reaction to the Jummah at St John's hasn't helped. Now more than ever God needs to be known as generous and welcoming. How can we help to make that happen?

Posted by Giles Goddard at Sunday, 22 March 2015 at 8:47am GMT

Giles, I am with you. Everyday when I say the Benedictus:

Free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of my life.

I know that it feeds my commitment to the Multi Faith Chaplaincy at Heathrow.

You may have crossed a line, but I am completely with your conviction that it is part of our responsibility as the established church to help others to worship God without fear.

Posted by Susan Cooper at Sunday, 22 March 2015 at 4:17pm GMT

Yet again, the price for tolerating evangelicals in the church is inflicting their intolerance on everyone else.

Can any "liberals" hereabouts explain why it's so important to keep them on board? It'd be easy to understand if it were just the money, but bizarrely, it seems to be a point of principle. That being so, what on earth is this principle, and why is it so important?

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 23 March 2015 at 12:09am GMT

James, you seem to be asking - "Since we are so tolerant why don't we kick out the other lot who disagree with us?"

Which is a question scoring higher marks for passion than internal logic.

Posted by Peter K at Monday, 23 March 2015 at 12:35pm GMT

A propos Michael Chancellor's post, I understand that Peter Selby is an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Southwark, and so he could readily have been consulted, had + Christopher chosen to.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 23 March 2015 at 2:19pm GMT

No, Peter K, I'm asking exactly what I asked: what kind of "tolerance" requires the intolerance of others. Where's the internal logic of that position?

I didn't suggest kicking anyone out: refusing to impose intolerance on all to prevent a walkout is a clean different thing.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 23 March 2015 at 4:55pm GMT

It didn't read like that, James- your references to 'tolerating evangelicals' and the high price of 'keeping them on board ' suggests you have some sort of split in mind - with the liberals holding the whip hand over who should stay and who should go.

I don't think evangelicals are planning a mass walkout - why would we? If liberals want to change canon law over what type of worship events are allowed in consecrated space they can always take it to General Synod.

Posted by Peter K at Monday, 23 March 2015 at 7:09pm GMT

Peter K, most every time evangelicals need to exert pressure, tactics are threatening to walk, and to take money and numbers along for the trip. Threat was followed through in TEC.

I don't think liberals have the whip hand. Just the opposite: decades of appeasement have left them weak and divided. Disagree as I might, I respect evangelicals for having the courage of their convictions. Would that more liberals did likewise!

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 24 March 2015 at 1:01am GMT

The walk-outs may hit the headlines, but the culture in the TEC is pretty different to the C of E (for that matter Southwark has a pretty different culture to much of the C of E, too !). Most of the Anglican evangelical clergy, I'm sure, are committed to working within current church structures.

Posted by Peter K at Tuesday, 24 March 2015 at 9:42am GMT

I would like to comment on aspects in the use of the term "evangelical" to characterise a particular group identified as being conservative and possibly hostile, threatening and secessionist.

First, as a generalisation this is hugely inaccurate and imprecise.

Second, the labelling of "them" using a word implying "hostile other" and "not like us" is inimical to the gospel however we read it, and also hugely dangerous, as such labelling is also hospitable to violence - surely as we approach Easter we see the cost of breaking down that barrier in the very person and love of Jesus.

Third, many who would now be identified as "liberal" have an "evangelical" past - we do not know what they would have been without. It is potentially hugely damaging and distorting for people to deny their past - isn't it owning our past in the light of God's love which sets us free (I use we, because in many ways this is me, and I know there are others like me).

Finally. evangelicals, properly called, are not some small minority which has emerged as a reactionary tendency in the church in the last twenty years, but a substantial group who have been, and remain, part of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion - making a distinctive contribution to collective identity.

Gareth Bennett, in his memorable and tragic Crockford preface of 1987 wrote, "The various traditions or parties in the Church of England have always lived in a quite remarkable intellectual isolation from each other ..." - a feature of our common life which can easily make us unaware of the significance of the other in the overall ecology of faith, and may lead us to assume that every "other" is the same - which is far from true in my experience at least.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Tuesday, 24 March 2015 at 4:25pm GMT

Peter K, some things are constant. English evangelicals used the threat of withholding funds to drive Jeffrey John from his post in '03, and have participated enthusiastically in Gafcon. Not all, of course, but many. The underlying point remains: evangelicals demand that their beliefs are imposed on all. Witness the intransigence to adopting even a "two integrities" model on human sexuality.

Mark Bennet, are you saying that the church should continue to deny gay people equal rights and dignity in order to keep evangelicals onside? If you're not, we don't disagree in substance, merely in form; if you are, your position isn't "hospitable to violence" (whatever that means), but it's certainly hospitable to injustice and suffering.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 24 March 2015 at 7:09pm GMT

James,
what, precisely, are you proposing this group called liberals you pitch against evangelicals should do?
What is it they? or we? or you? are not doing that would completely change everything?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 24 March 2015 at 9:11pm GMT

James Byron - I'm simply saying what I'm saying and not what you construct from what I'm saying. You are using the term "evangelical" in a manner which I find profoundly unhelpful. If you want some indication why try investigating www.acceptingevangelicals.org as an example. In my context in England "evangelical" is a contested term. And a lot of those who engage with Thinking Anglicans come from an English context. Some, I know, would own both the descriptors "liberal" and "evangelical".

There is some deep theology around the language we use of those with whom we disagree. I don't propose to discuss that in detail, I just wanted to draw attention to deeper theological strands which resonate with the approach of Easter.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Tuesday, 24 March 2015 at 10:03pm GMT

Erika, in general, defend liberal values, and in particular, allow the service in Southwark to resume. The Bishop of Southwark can do this without risking his position or pension.

Mark, yes, I'm aware of accepting evangelicals. If the majority in that constituency have no desire to enforce their beliefs on others, I'm more than happy to distinguish them from their fellow evangelicals.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 25 March 2015 at 12:02am GMT

James,
so when you speak of "liberals" who have "allowed" evangelicals to dominate, you are referring to bishops only?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 25 March 2015 at 9:28am GMT

Erika, I'm referring to anyone who gives way to intolerance despite their position being secure. Bishops are, of course, serial offenders, but it occurs at every level of the church. See Michael Hampson's 'Last Rites' for examples of how this appeasement allowed homophobia to run wild.

Moreover, do you disagree with the withdrawal of the Islamic prayers, and do you agree with the principle that no group ought to be able to demand their intolerance be imposed on all? If so, we too agree in substance.

If evangelicals can just agree to live and let live, I welcome their presence in the church.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 25 March 2015 at 5:18pm GMT

The term 'Evangelical' has been traditionally high-jacked by those who believe the Gospel is Bad News for Sinners (whom they usually define as people different from themselves). However, I must say that, very recently, there is a branch of 'Evangelicalism' that describes its membership being inclusive of LGBT people as, intrinsically, part of the Body of Christ. Now these are evangelicals I can love and live with!

After all, the root of the Gospel message is 'Good News' - to all people, not just the high and holy among us.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 25 March 2015 at 11:09pm GMT

James,
I think what I'm trying to get at is that it is very easy to blame "liberals" for appeasing "evangelicals".
The real question is what we expect the individuals to do about it.
If you're only talking about bishops, then yes, there is a group of people who has the ability to be more proactive and outspoken.
If you're talking about clergy, there are many many who are already inclusive at all levels in their parishes, many others we hear online campaigning. And, yes, many who keep quiet.

But if we're talking about "everyone", and if we're then saying that liberals shouldn't have "allowed" evangelicals to dominate the church, then I really struggle to see what you propose in practice.
I have tried to have a small voice in this debate, but I have not been in a position to "allow" anyone anything.
Nor have many people on Thinking Anglicans or any other forum I can think of.

Handwringing is all well and good. What practical suggestions do you have for changing the status quo?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 26 March 2015 at 8:48am GMT

Erika, it was of course a generalization: some liberals are fearless; some evangelicals tolerant. Given the state of play in the church, I believe it's a fair generalization.

As for practical suggestions, drawing from what I've previously posted here:-
* liberal services become accessible by using contemporary music and cutting down on liturgy
* elect good liberal candidates to synods
* priests and bishops with secure positions stand up for justice
* liberal parishes withhold funds from dioceses that refuse to disobey homophobic and sexist commands from the center

Above all, recognition that some groups within the church can't be negotiated with: they must be fought.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 26 March 2015 at 5:39pm GMT

Thank you James.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 26 March 2015 at 7:40pm GMT

On the subject of the name of God in Arabic, I was once at a dialogue between Christians and Muslims where one of the Muslims asked whether the Christians knew what word Arabic Christians used for God. Lots of Muslims seemed very pleased to hear that most Christians used 'Allah'. So the sorts of Muslims who go to inter-faith events in the UK don't agree with the Indonesian government about this.

Posted by Leon Clarke at Friday, 27 March 2015 at 2:47pm GMT

As a transsexual woman and Christian who received warm welcome from the East London Mosque, was allowed to pray with the Muslim worshippers, attended Saturday women's circle meetings over many months, and was treated incredibly sensitively by the Imam... as well as being an occasional worshipper at St John's Waterloo... I want to affirm the quite obviously good intentions of Giles Goddard and the fellowship there.

We live in a world that is too often riven by fundamentalist dogma, and it seems to me that where religious people are trying to follow God / Allah with more contextual interpretation of scriptures - as was the case with both the Muslims and the Christians here - then this path of moderation and welcome should be praised, encouraged and seen as an expression of the openness of faiths to one another.

A church building is... a building. It is stones and mortar. There is nothing magic about the construction. What matters - as so many prophets pointed out - is the human heart, and our calling and ability to open our hearts to the love of God/Allah.

I have experienced that love both from Giles and St Johns; and from the Imam and Muslims at East London Mosque.

As a Lesbian woman, just engaged, I would love to be married at St John's, or whatever expression can be allowed, whether blessing or thanksgiving. I will also be travelling to Iceland for an equivalent ceremony in the traditions of my fiancée's Asatru values.

In the end, let love be enough. This love will clash with literalist dogma on a whole range of fronts. It was always the way. But it is the greatest commandment of all, and sums up the law and the prophets.

In other words, holy texts need to be read and interpreted in its great context. The imperative of the Love of God/Allah.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 3 April 2015 at 5:25pm BST
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