A PRIEST in the diocese of
Southwark who opened us his church for Muslim prayers has
apologised after being told that this was not permitted within a
The Vicar of St John's,
Waterloo, the Canon Giles Goddard, said on Tuesday that the event
had caused "great consternation", and he apologised for "the
offence caused and any infringement of 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, we all share, these great traditions. So let us
celebrate our shared traditions by giving thanks to the God that we
love, Allah, Amen."
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: "Whilst 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
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 went on: "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 remain committed to finding
ways for Christians and Muslims to acknowledge our shared heritage
and history, without minimising the uniqueness of both our
"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
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."
Last year, Friday prayers were
said by Muslims at Washington National Cathedral.
In 2013, the Muslim call to
prayer was issued at Southwark Cathedral during an interfaith
A diocesan spokesperson said on Wednesday that the Call had been
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 consecrated space."