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Welcoming other faiths into our churches

27 March 2015


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 March).

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 Muslims.

The Rectory
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 right.

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.

The Rectory
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

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