AN ATTEMPT TO foster greater understanding between the faiths in Kelvinbridge, Scotland has backfired.
The Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, invited local Muslims to attend Epiphany celebrations being held in the church. The epiphany, marked on 6th January, is the culmination of the feast of Christmas – it marks the day on which the three Kings presented their gifts to the infant Jesus, revealing to the world that the infant was the son of God.
As part of his ecumenical approach to this important occasion, the Very Rev Holdsworth included a reading from the Koran in the service. Unfortunately, his good intentions were misguided and several Muslims were offended and deeply upset by the reading of Muslim holy words in a Christian building. Some criticisms of the Church have been made on social media and some of these, in turn, have been condemned as offensive abuse.
Some Christians were also upset, not believing that verses from holy books of other faiths should be read in a church. The verses read during this year’s service gave the Islamic account of the birth of Jesus, which acknowledge him as a prophet but deny that he is the son of God – and some Christians in the congregation felt that these words were out of place in a service marking, for Christians, the revelation that the baby was the son of God.
The Most Reverend David Chillingworth, the Primus (head) of the Scottish Episcopalian Church, responded quickly, saying that the Church was “deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused.” He also criticised some of the abuse received in response, adding, “We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the cathedral community.”
The Primus stressed that the intention had been to promote better understanding between followers of the different faiths and that the Church would continue to follow this aim. He continued, “In response to what has happened at the cathedral, the Scottish Episcopalian Church will bring together all those who are involved in the development of interfaith reations. Our intention will be as a church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect. Our desire is that this should be a worthy expression of the reconciliation to which all Christians are called.”