A PRIEST in the diocese of Southwark who opened up his church
for Muslim prayers has apologised after being told that this was
not permitted within a consecrated building.
The Vicar of St John's, Waterloo, Canon Giles Goddard, said on
Tuesday that the event had caused "great consternation". He
apologised for "the offence caused and any infringement of the
Church of England's framework and guidelines".
The prayers were held on 6 March as part of the Inclusive Mosque
Initiative, in the run-up to International Women's Day. They were
led by Dr Amina Wadud, who campaigns for gender justice in Islam.
Men and women sat alongside one another in the church.
Canon Goddard read from Psalm 139, and concluded: "Allah, God,
is always with us and always around us, and is within us. And this
is from the Hebrew scripture, so it is our shared [tradition], we
all share these great traditions. So let us celebrate our shared
traditions by giving thanks to the God that we love, Allah,
It was announced last Friday that the Bishop of Southwark, the
Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, had asked the Bishop of Kingston, the
Rt Revd Richard Cheetham, to "investigate fully what happened". A
spokesperson said: "The Bishop of Southwark takes very seriously
his responsibility to uphold the teaching of the Church, and to
work within its framework of legislation and guidance."
On Tuesday, the spokesperson said: "While it is very important
to build good interfaith relations, it is clear that an act of
worship from a non-Christian faith tradition is not permitted
within a consecrated Church of England building."
Further clarification was provided on Wednesday: "Canon B1 sets
out what services can be used in the Church of England: these are
the Book of Common Prayer or those authorised or commended through
the appropriate processes. This does not include services from
another faith tradition."
Canon Goddard affirmed on Tuesday that he stood by the Church of
England's Declaration of Assent to "use only the forms of service
which are authorised or allowed by canon".
He continued: "It is in that context that I have tried to build
a better understanding between faiths. The Church of England is in
an especially responsible position as the Established Church, with
a duty to try to engage with all the people of England.
"Now, more than ever, it is essential that we are able to meet
in friendship across the boundaries of faith, and the event at St
John's was part of attempts to enable that to happen. . . I have
assured the Bishop of Southwark of my commitment to work to build
good interfaith relations, but to do so within the teaching and
guidelines of the Church of England."
The Provost of St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd
Kelvin Holdsworth, defended the event. On Saturday, he wrote on his
blog that, two years ago, he had offered Muslims the opportunity to
use the cathedral for Friday prayers while their mosque was being
refurbished. He had also invited Islamic scholars to give a reading
from the Qur'an during carol services.
In 2013, the BBC reported that Muslims and Christians shared St
John's Episcopal Church, Aberdeen. The Rector, the Revd Isaac
Poobalan, had made the invitation because the mosque lacked enough
space for its worshippers, who were outside in the cold.
The Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney, Dr Robert Gillies, told the
BBC: "We have demonstrated that Christians and Muslims do not have
to agree with one another."
In 2013, the Muslim call to prayer was issued at Southwark
Cathedral during an interfaith exhibition held there.
The diocesan spokesperson said on Wednesday that it was used "to
call Muslims at the event to leave the cathedral in order to say
prayers to end the fast of Ramadan. The call to prayer is literally
that: a call to prayer, and not prayers. Those who wished to pray
went into the Cathedral Education Centre to do so. This is not a
Question of the week: Should people
of other faiths be permitted to worship in C of E