Southwark vicar apologizes for hosting Muslim prayer service

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There will be no repetition of the March 2015 Muslim prayer service held at St John’s Waterloo in in the Diocese of Southwark, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Chessun said

There will be no repetition of the March 2015 Muslim prayer service held at St John’s Waterloo in in the Diocese of Southwark, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Chessun said in a statement released on 10 June 2015.

 

On 6 March 2015 the Rev. Canon Giles Goddard invited the Inclusive Mosque Initiative to celebrate an “Inclusive Jummah” in the church. A video of the service, released on YouTube shows Canon Goddard participating at the close of the service led by a woman imam, Dr. Amina Wadud. Reading from Psalm 139 he said: “This is from the Hebrew scripture – we all share these great traditions, so let us celebrate our shared traditions, by giving thanks to the God that we love, Allah.”

All Christian imagery and iconography, including pictures and statues of the saints, the Virgin Mary, Jesus as well as the stations of the cross appear to have been covered with sheets during the service at St John’s, the video of the proceedings appears to show.

Complaints about the service prompted a meeting on 10 March 2015 between Canon Goddard and the Bishop of Kingston-on-Thames, the Rt. Rev. Richard Cheetham — who also services as Anglican president of the Christian Muslim Forum. After the meeting Canon Goddard gave an interview to Ruth Gledhill of Christian Today stating everything his church did was legal and within bishops’ guidelines.

He added: ‘It is very much about St John’s being a place of welcome. We understand God as a generous God, a God who celebrates love and celebrates life.”

‘We try and make sure we live that out. In that sense we feel very properly Anglican.’

In March a spokesman for the Rt. Rev. Christopher Chessun, told AI that he “takes very seriously his responsibility to uphold the teaching of the Church and to work within its framework of legislation and guidance.”

“It is quite clear that Islamic prayer should not take place in a consecrated building.  This is why he has asked the Bishop of Kingston to investigate fully what happened. It is inappropriate to seek to make further public comments on this matter until this has happened.”

In the statement released today, Canon Goddard apologized for his actions and his exegesis of Psalm 139 and vowed to conform to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England.

The statement read:

Following the event at St John, Waterloo on 6 March 2015, the Bishop of Southwark has made it quite clear that acts of worship from a non-Christian tradition are not permitted in consecrated churches.This has been communicated in writing to the Vicar of St John, Waterloo by the Bishop along with a clear message about the seriousness of this matter, and the consequences should there be any repetition. He has received, in writing, a full apology for the breach which resulted from this event, together with a categorical assurance that there will be no repetition or similar event.

The Vicar also indicated in his letter his concern that his comments, at the end of that event, have been interpreted in a way that have suggested that he and St John’s do not conform to an orthodox interpretation of the Christian faith. He has made it very clear that he assents fully to “the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness”.

Bishop Christopher has made it clear that he is fully committed to promoting serious and constructive engagement between Christians and Muslims, but that clarity about boundaries is foundational for effective interfaith work.