Why Koran readings in Anglican churches preoccupy the mighty

IS IT appropriate to read from the Koran during worship in a Christian church? This month, people close to America’s new head of state, and spiritual advisers to Britain’s long-standing one, have been forced to consider that question.
It started on January 6th at an Episcopal cathedral in Glasgow when a Muslim student was invited to read from her faith’s sacred text, and duly chanted verses from the Sura or chapter devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The chapter has certain similarities with the Christian narrative and also some striking differences: it asserts that Jesus cannot be the son of God because the idea of God having progeny makes no sense.

Critics argued that the reading was supremely inappropriate at an important service marking the feast of Epiphany, which celebrates the appearance of the son of God to the world. Not all critics were polite. The cathedral’s provost, Kelvin Holdsworth, reported receiving a torrent of abusive emails, accusing him of betraying the faith; police said they were investigating a possible hate crime.

The Scottish Episcopalians’ senior prelate cautiously defended Mr Holdsworth’s freedom of action. But the bishop added that the church was “deeply distressed” both by the offence caused and by the abuse which the provost, who is also a leading gay-rights activist, received in response.

The Koran reading was denounced by Michael Nazir Ali, a retired, Pakistani-born bishop of the Church of England, and prompted, at least indirectly, the resignation of one of Queen Elizabeth’s personal chaplains, Gavin Ashenden. He said he wanted to be freer to speak out against such blurring of the boundaries between faiths.  Soon after stepping down he declared that the Church of England (historically the mother church of all Anglican churches, including the Scottish one) was “dying” demographically and financially. CONTINUE READING


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