Con/Evos decry openness to Muslims in Southwark Church

Welcoming Muslims into church

by Kelvin


There’s currently a bit of a fuss going on in London because a vicar invited a group to have Muslim prayers inside his church.

This is a fuss blown out of all proportion. What the Rev Giles Goddard, the vicar of St John’s Waterloo has done is unremarkable and the trouble seems to be coming from those who are troubled by his offering to affirm gay couples as much as anything to do with the Muslims.

It seems important to state that I’ve offered Muslims the opportunity to hold worship in St Mary’s.

A couple of years ago one of the local mosques was being refurbished and they needed somewhere to meet for Friday prayers for six weeks. A group from the mosque committee came to me to ask whether there was any possibility of them using St Mary’s Cathedral.

I met with them and did indeed offer our space to them.

In the end, they didn’t take up the offer as they were worried that we didn’t have enough floorspace for them. (Not the first time I’ve cursed the immovable pews).

The things worth noting here are these:

  • Every Christian I spoke to about this wanted it to go ahead as part of the basic hospitality that we think is part of our faith.
  • Every Muslim I spoke to at the time spoke to me about precedents from history when Christians had been offered sanctuary in mosques and protection from Muslim communities whilst they worshipped there.
  • There was never controversy over this at all.

Related to this is the fact that I’ve twice asked Islamic Scholars to give a reading from the Qu’ran during our carol service here in St Mary’s. Being surrounded by members of different Islamic communities in this part of Glasgow, the diverse congregation gathered to celebrate Christ’s birth in St Mary’s seemed both delighted and entranced to discover that members of another faith held the birth of of Jesus to Mary in the highest honour. Again, on each occasion when this happened there was delight and joy all around and not the slightest hint of controversy.

It is worth noting in passing that the Islamic group that Giles Goddard invited into St John’s was unusual in that it welcomes men and women to pray together – something a lot of good Anglicans might be inclined to say was a good idea.

And another thing. I’ve heard on the grapevine that a mixed group of young people, Muslim and Christian was present in Liverpool Cathedral one year on Ash Wednesday when Justin Welby was the Dean. To some surprise, the Muslim young people came forward to receive the ashes on their foreheads along with everyone else.

I believe that the quick thinking Dean (now the Archbishop of Canterbury) said something like: “May the God of Abraham which is both my God and yours bless you and keep you safe this day” and firmly put the ash on all their heads. Such things are the everyday stuff of ministry. Entirely uncontroversial and a delight and a parable of the way things should be, to all involved.

Anyone wanting to throw stones at Giles Goddard over this might find that they bounce off and hit the Archbishop of Canterbury instead.

And those who want to stir up trouble between faiths, motivated by latent homophobia, should look deep into their souls before they next try to look the God of love in the eye.

Kelvin | March 14,


Kelvin’s blog – product of the Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, Fr. Kelvin Holdsworth, draws our attention to the fact that the vicar of a London Church. St. John’s, Waterloo, Fr. Giles Goddard, has offered hospitality to Muslims – allowing them to say their prayers in his parish church building.

In the present climate of ecumencial faith projects in the U.K., it is important to see this hospitality in the light of previous openness to other Abrahamic Faith believers. When the present archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby, for instance, was Dean of Liverpool, one Ash Wednesday, some Muslims came up to receive the Ashes. When the Dean noticed this, he graciously gave them a Blessing: in the Name of the God of Abraham “Who is both my God and yours”.

I notice that one of the stirrers in this contretemps is none other than our old friend, David Ould, of the Sydney Diocese, whose piece on ‘Stand Firm’ – an American conservative web-site – echoes the U.K. fundamentalists, whose intention seems to be to fight against any inclusivity in the Church that might offend their homophobic, xenophobic and sexist agenda for our Anglican Church family.

The word ‘phobia’ is, I believe, the correct term for those who seem to be very afraid of opening up the Church to any ‘outsiders’ they feel might bring defilement into their midst. The call of Jesus to All who would draw near to Him would seem to indicate a much more hospitable line of thinking/action.

Here is an instance of Muslims being welcomed to worship in a Roman Catholic Church in Belgium:

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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13 Responses to Con/Evos decry openness to Muslims in Southwark Church

  1. Peter Carrell says:

    Hi Ron
    The issue is not about hospitality to other faiths (and if it was, when do we find mosques offering hospitality to Trinitarian worship?).
    The issue is about whether the church has order and it is followed, rules and they are adhered to. If the church has neither order nor rules, let us know that and we will all do what is right in our own eyes.
    While the church has order and rules then we should adhere to them.
    That, incidentally, is what the Bishop of Southwark himself seems to think:

    • kiwianglo says:

      Dear Peter, the fact that you may not find mosques offering hospitality to Trinitarian worship does not necessarily nullify attempts by Christians to reach out to our Muslim neighbours – a mark of hospitality which is implicit in the gospel.

      Secondly, on your protest against not ‘following the Rules’; I wonder how many times Jesus drew protests from the Pharisees because of his blatant disregard for ‘The Rules’ – fasting on the Sabbath, having contact with a Samaritan who was also female; etc.

      I guess ‘flouting the rules’ might often lead to a more compassionate understanding of real needs – or at least, it seem that the Lord of The Church has provided adequate examples for His followers to emulate.

  2. Brian Ralph says:

    I have googled “Mosque open to Christian worship” and found many examples including that the prophet Mohammed invited Christians to pray at a mosque. I have worked with Moslems teaching in State schools and found great hsopitality from them.
    I am increasingly finding more love and hospitatlity among my non- believing friends than in most churches and bitterly regret my upbringing in the narrow twisted Evangelical diocese of Sydney so loved by Peter Carrell.

  3. Peter Carrell says:

    Hi Ron and Brian
    Ron: the point about rules in church is not so much whether they are broken or not (a la Jesus) but whether rule breakers are treated consistently. Otherwise the church harbours injustice.

    Brian: you may not be a reader of my blog, Anglican Down Under. If you were you might not be so quick to talk about my support for the Sydney Diocese!

  4. kiwianglo says:

    I suppose, Peter, that, the real crux of the matter here may be; for what reason the rules were broken. Certainly, in the case of Jesus, it was for the implementation of a more charitable and just situation. Like the current controversy in the C.of E., the rules Jesus was criticised for breaking, were often deeply held ‘religious’ rules. It may not have been noticed in N.Z., but the climate has changed – even in R.C. Europe – on matters of prayers offered in common with other faith groups.

  5. Peter Carrell says:

    Hi Ron
    I fail to see how offering a Christian place of worship to Muslims in the Britain of many Mosques is required in order for the church to offer justice.
    I also note that whatever Jesus said and did about the Temple, he never invited the Romans into to worship according to their understanding of the sacred.

    • kiwianglo says:

      Peter; the Romans of Jesus time did not share any inheritance with the Abrahamic worship of Yawheh. Their gods were idols, and their worship antithetical to Abrahamic religion. There also is clear evidence of JESUS’ displeasure at the Court of the Gentiles being defiled by the Jewish traders!

  6. Ian says:

    I cannot believe that you are being so hostile and inhospitable to my many pagan friends, who worship their various Gods in good faith. Who are you to claim that Christianity is superior to their faith? There are few buildings dedicated to pagan worship, and I think the only way to express the love of Jesus for them would be to invite them to worship as they wish in church buildings.

    • kiwianglo says:

      I really thought this was a hoax when I first read it. However, coming from a dedicated ‘Christian’ educator, I am very surprised at your tone. It should be obvious, from my blog, that I am a priest of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand. As such, my devotion is to the Christ of the Gospels, but I have to acknowledge that my Baptism has privileged me to be part of the Body of Christ – who died for ALL people – irrespective of their faith – or none.
      My belief is that, by being hospitable in our Churches, we can be co-hosts with Christ of all persons of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Make no mistake, it is Jesus who has redeemed all humanity.

      • Ian says:

        Not a hoax, but tongue in cheek. I am asking why you are drawing the line where you are. Kevin is mistaken; it is not ‘conservatives’ who are asking question, but Anglicans.

  7. kiwianglo says:

    Not all Anglicans. Merely those who are conservative. Few in number, fortunately for the outworking of justice and peace in the gospel. Have a good and fruitful Holy Week!

    • Ian says:

      I will do my best to enjoy Holy Week, in the knowledge that the fewer there are of me, the better it is for the gospel. Thanks.

  8. kiwianglo says:

    There is always hope, Dear Brother. The pilgrimage through Holy Week with Christ been known to work wonders!. Agape. Fr. Ron

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