The diocese of Durham is offering their facility for Islamic prayers. However, Muslims are finding the cross strewn about the Christian facility to be offensive in their prayers to Allah. In response, leaders of the diocese are instructing that crosses be covered up. The Muslim prayers are a part of the Iftar meal, which many Christian churches are hosting for Muslims as a part of an “evangelism strategy.”
The Church of St Matthew and St Luke in Darlington also agreed to set apart two different worship spaces so Islamic men and women could worship separately.
In a very interesting fashion, minutes from the parish meeting in which they made these decisions have been made available to the public. The minutes reveal the group’s decision to “cover Christian crosses/photographs in small rooms for ladies to say prayers.”
There seems to have been one holdout with the diocese, a man named Rick Simpson who serves as Archdeacon of Auckland, who refused to give permission for Muslim prayer in the main body of the church. Instead, they would have to pray in other rooms where the crosses would be covered or removed.
However, even the archdeacon believed the event was good, saying, “Gathering with Muslims in a Christian Church is an important step in bringing communities together so we do hope that you can see the importance of this event for everyone and compromise a little by using what our church has to offer.”
A neighboring bishop, Gavin Ashenden, opposed the move, saying, “Jesus warned that one of the conditions of not being banished from eternity, was that we were not to “not be ashamed” of him. Covering the cross or any Christian symbol to placate those who reject Him is, in fact, a most serious betrayal.”
Ashenden continued, “Christians who out of a misplaced generosity are more faithful to Mohammed’s requirements than to Jesus’ claims risk being separated from God forever. They will have to choose between Mohammed and Jesus.”
The church will be participating in a gay pride parade on May 26.
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel.
[Editor’s Note Updated 5/20: A spokesperson for the Diocese of Durham said: “While it is vital 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. This is a legal position outlined in Canons B1/2/3 and B5 Section 3 where it states: ‘all forms of service used under this Canon shall be reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter’. “There seems initially to have been some misunderstanding locally of this, but that has been resolved now, with plans for Muslim Prayers to be held in a nearby building then the whole community coming together for a celebratory meal inside the church.”
Venerable Rick Simpson,
Archdeacon of Auckland,
Diocese of Durham]