From the Revd Colin Midlane
Sir, - I'd like to congratulate Canon Giles Goddard on his
work in trying "to build a better understanding between faiths" -
in this case, Christianity and Islam (News, 20
I remember Bishop Trevor Huddleston, in one of his last sermons,
saying - prophetically, I think - that in the future a major
division in the world would be between those who believe in God,
and those who do not.
Since then, the world has become smaller, and most Western
countries have become increasingly multi-ethnic and multifaith. The
need for different faiths to co-exist in a true peace is paramount
in our day.
30 Damien Court, Damien Street
London E1 2HL
From the Revd Kenneth Cross
Sir, - Samaritans, who shared spiritual ancestry with the
Jews, were considered in Jesus's day to be a deviant group, never
to be allowed in Temple or synagogue. Jesus smashed the religious
taboos and welcomed them, causing great offence.
I wonder whether, in the light of Canon Goddard's hosting Muslim
prayers in church, and the ensuing controversy, it is time for us
to review how we welcome people of other faiths? If the good news
of God's love for the whole cosmos really is true, then what do we
have to fear? If we feel offended by the presence of praying
Muslims in church, then maybe - like the religious leaders of old -
offence had to be given.
Jesus is the friend of tax col-lectors, sinners, Samaritans, and
Somerset TA23 0QZ
From the Ven. John Barton
Sir, - David Bryant must have been overwhelmed when his
generous Muslim friend paid for a replacement church carpet (Comment, 20
March). Consequently, he would have us all read the Bible
through syncretistic spectacles.
However one reads the book of Jonah, it is not a promotion for
cross-cultural dialogue. A reluctant Jonah was sent by the loving
God with an ultimatum to the people of Nineveh: repent, or be
overthrown. They repented.
The policy of the Persian King Cyrus was to repatriate exiles
living in his country, and the monotheistic Jews interpreted this
as God's doing. Similarly, we recognise God's love in the kindness
of the Good Samaritan; we are to copy his example, but not his
creed. The Samaritan woman at the well had her religious claims
dismissed somewhat peremptorily by Jesus. She became an effective
Christian missionary to her own people.
None of this has any bearing on the use of churches for
non-Christian worship, unless, for quite different reasons, one
believes that there is nothing distinctive about the Christian
faith, or that Jesus is but one avatar among many, or that he was
not crucified. The observance of Passiontide should put that
7 The Spires
Canterbury CT2 8SD
From the Revd Jonathan Frais
Sir, - The basic issue regarding Canon Goddard's "Muslim
prayers in church" is surely the cross. Christians say Jesus died
for sins, while Islam denies both meaning and event.
To cite the seven marks of the atonement from the BCP Communion
prayer, it is a full (in quantity), perfect (in quality), and
sufficient (in reach) sacrifice (keeping God's law), oblation
(showing God's love), and satisfaction (appeasing God's wrath) for
the sins of the whole world (its remit). All of this was rendered
optional by events in Southwark.
11 Coverdale Avenue, Bexhill
East Sussex TN39 4TY
From the Revd Virginia Smith
Sir, - Maybe I am being completely obtuse, but could someone
please explain why it is perfectly acceptable to have Hindus and
Christians dancing together in a church (News, 20
March), while it is considered completely unacceptable to have
Muslims and Christians praying together in a church?
14 The Paddock, Westcott
Dorking RH4 3NT