Although he is joint patron of the living of St John’s Waterloo, Archbishop Justin Welby is not concerned with the day to day workings of the church his spokesman tells Anglican Ink. The comments came in the wake of a controversy surrounding the celebration of Muslim prayers in a Church of England parish — an incident that has sparked concern not only in the diocese, but across the wider Anglican Communion.
The archbishop’s role as joint patron of the living, giving him the authority to appoint the priest in charge in partnership with the Church Pastoral Aid Society, has been seized upon by critics of the archbishop in the global battle for the future of the Anglican Communion.
On 6 March 2015 the incumbent of St John’s, the Rev. Canon Giles Goddard invited the Inclusive Mosque Initiative to celebrate an “Inclusive Jummah” at his parish to mark international women’s day.. 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 were covered with sheets during the service at St John’s, the video of the proceedings appears to show. The incident has prompted questions from Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical clergy and led the Bishop of Southwark to ask his assistant Bishop of Kingston-on-Thames, the Rt. Rev. Richard Cheetham to discuss the issue with Canon Goddard.
Asked to comment on the incident a spokesman for Archbishop Welby said: “The current Archbishop has almost 130 connections to a variety of organisations (some ex-officio). As Patron he is not involved in the day to day work and activities of these charities/organisations.”
“We are not commenting on the St John’s Waterloo story but referring all media calls to Southwark Diocese,” she explained.
The Rev John Dunnett, General Director of CPAS, the joint patron of St John’s with the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “We were obviously concerned to see recent media reports about the event at St John’s Waterloo on 6 March, and we await the outcome of the investigation being conducted by the diocese.”
Writing in Christian Today, Journalist Ruth Gledhill reported the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Chessun said: “The Bishop of Kingston has, at my request, now met with the Vicar of St John, Waterloo to discuss the Inclusive Mosque event which took place at St John, Waterloo on 6 March. Whilst it is very important 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.”
“The Vicar has issued a statement expressing his sorrow at the offence this has caused and any infringement of Church of England guidelines. He has assured me of his intention to work within these guidelines in the future,” the bishop said.