Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Christians Sharing Worship Space With Muslims: When Is It Too Much?

Apparently, at an Episcopalian Church in Washington D.C., there are two congregations sharing the same worship space at different times: Christians and Muslims. My curiosity was piqued when I saw the lede for the article on the story, and after reading it, I have to say I'm thoroughly disappointed in the leaders of this church, and in some Episcopalians who proclaimed they were "proud" of this church and pastor for what they did. I'm all for tolerating other people's religion, but not in the sense that the buzzword of "tolerance" has in the modern-day lexicon. Instead, what I see, is that at one service at this Christian church, the God-Man is not being worshiped as He should be.

While it's nice that this church lent it's worship space to these Muslims 8 years ago because they didn't have a place to go (is that still the case today?) I wouldn't call this either a good or bad thing, much less be proud of the church for doing so. I'd be proud of them if the church was bringing souls to Christ. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

The article states that it started off with 50 Muslims worshiping. Today, that number is over 300 each Friday for this prayer service. This is the extremely disconcerting part: "I don't know if they ever thought that Muslims would come here and pray, and become one of the biggest congregations of Church of the Epiphany," Syed said. "This is the biggest congregation that Church of the Epiphany has, the Muslim prayers."

Why is this disconcerting? Because that's 300 souls that have rejected Christ as God, worshiping not in a space that was specifically created for interfaith worship like an airport, but a building that was consecrated to our Lord and our God, Jesus Christ. It is truly disheartening that the leadership at the Church of the Epiphany is unable to have Christians make up the dominant congregation at a church dedicated to Jesus Christ. I challenge Rev. Gardner: what does it mean to truly love people? Allowing a group of people who do not worship our Lord by tolerating their worship in Christ's church? Or is it preaching the Gospel in a heroic way to win souls for Christ? If they thought that allowing the Muslims to come inside and worship would lead to their conversion, it obviously hasn't worked as the Muslim congregation has tripled in size, so it might be better to try and switch to another more effective way of evangelizing.

Christ Enthroned
That's not to say there's anything wrong with two different religions sharing a space out of charity. A Presbyterian church just recently did this for the Catholics in Chicago who lost their parish to a fire, and welcomed them in for Sunday Mass. The difference here, is that we hold many things in common. They are both Christian, both adopted sons and daughters of God by virtue of their common baptism, both in the same Body of Christ. This is not so with our Muslim friends. The differences between us are real and much more stark. I acknowledge Christians and Muslims worship the same God, as several Christians do not feel this way. But they are sadly very far from the Truth, the Way, and the Life. Perhaps it's time to focus on an outreach to fallen away Episcopalians and other Christians instead on Friday nights, as a re-evangelization seems to be sorely needed if the church can't get more than 300 Christians to gather for Sunday liturgy.

I figured I'd take a look on Google Maps, and it turns out the Masjid Muhammad Mosque is only 1.5 miles from the Church of the Epiphany, a 9 minute drive. While it could be possible these two groups have differing beliefs as the various Christian denominations do, please note that the Masjid Mosque is pretty open about ecumenism, so I don't see why all Muslims wouldn't be welcome there.

One Episcopalian commenter on the story wrote, "...it's sacred space. That's what makes it a church. Are all faiths respected there? One would hope so."

Actually, one would hope not. I respect people's decisions to believe in what ever religion (or lack thereof) that they want, but as a Christian, I do not respect Islam, nor do I respect Hinduism or atheism. Why don't I respect Islam? Because it denies Jesus Christ the worship that is due to Him. Muslims see "through a mirror darkly." Very darkly. They don't even acknowledge that God is a person. And to deny the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit... that is untenable. The only faith that should be respected in a Christian church is Christianity.

The very definition of "respect" demands it:

-an act of giving particular attention : consideration

-high or special regard

Shouldn't all of our attention, as Christians, be focusing completely on Christ in glorifying His Name? Shouldn't we hold Jesus in the highest regard possible in a church consecrated to him? Especially when resources should be used on bringing Christ to others? Friday is a happening night in America; you would think there'd be something the various ministries at the Church of the Epiphany could come up with to bring souls to Christ in a crowded metropolis on a Friday evening. I think it says something that there are more Muslims ready and willing to worship at the start of the weekend than Christians.

Another disconcerting part of the article is the end:

"It's amazing, you know, it's amazing to see two things together," Syed said. "Who can imagine, you know, church bells ringing and a Muslim giving the sermon. It's a moment of reflection for people who think we are different. We are all the same. We are all the same."

No, sadly, we are not all the same. Are we all human beings? Yes.Are we all made in the image and likeness of God? Yes. But this man's statements sound a lot like universalism. There are major differences between Christianity and Islam that cannot be overlooked. And I'll say it straight up:

Christianity is superior to Islam.

Why? Because we are saved by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. And we need to lead people to Him. Can we all admit to this here, that Christianity is superior to Islam since no one comes to the Father except through Jesus? Or will we follow Syed's lead into this pseudo-universalism? I can't be proud of what this church is doing. It was a nice gesture, that's for sure, but 8 years on, it might be time to re-evaluate the mission of this particular church in light of the dearth of Christians in this congregation, and in light of what we're called to do as Christians... to set the world on fire with the Word.

See my addendum to this article HERE.

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