Saturday 14 March 2015

Waterloo Sunset

Some concern has been expressed about a service held in an Anglican church in London which included Muslim prayers. You can read about it here.

I am not outraged by this, partly perhaps because I am not a "conservative evangelical" out of sympathy with my "liberal catholic" diocesan bishop and those who share his ecclesiological outlook; but also because I accept that it was done with the nicest possible (and thoroughly Christian) motives, including hospitality, reconciliation and love of neighbour.  Yet the outcome is yet another occasion on which the Church has made itself look rather silly, not least because it does not appear to have occurred to the vicar of the church in question that the service would be seen as in any sense controversial (if I did not dislike the expression so much, I would be tempted to exclaim, softly but patronisingly: "Ah, bless!")

But the Church is now rather an old hand at making itself look silly; and there are perhaps deeper reasons why this service (at which I should emphasise I was not present) should not have taken place.  These do not turn on its alleged illegality (so often the first port of call for outraged Anglo-Presbyterians) nor even of a possible - I would say more worrying if nonetheless commonplace - technical breach of canonical oaths. They refer to the principle that nothing must be proclaimed or preached within one of our churches which the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church does not believe to be True.  The claim that the Quran is the literal word of God whose last prophet is Mohammed is one which I understand and respect. But I do not believe it to be true, and neither does the Church.  The Church's belief ("uniquely revealed in Holy Scripture and set forth in the Catholic Creeds") is that Jesus Christ is the incarnate God who died for our sins, rose from the dead, sits at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us, and will come again as our Judge.  This is the Absolute Truth as far as it is concerned, and nothing that is incompatible with that can with integrity be proclaimed by or in it.

Another point, which I know has been made many times before, is this. While I have no doubt that the Muslims who attended the service were both grateful for and touched by it, I suspect such sentiment is fleeting.  A true and lasting meeting of hearts and minds takes place when those of (sometimes profoundly) differing creeds find brotherhood without needing to dilute or mingle their beliefs. Seriously religious human beings can look their differences in the eye without loss of integrity or (please God) love.