Muslims In Your Pulpit And A Question Of Context

When we meet with our Muslim friends, it is for the expressed purpose of sharing our faith with them and learning about theirs.

But there is something of a problem if, amid a service of worship to the one true God, centred on the glory of Jesus Christ who is himself God – who attained for us our righteousness at the cross and our justification in his resurrection – we invite someone to preach who manifestly does not believe that to be true. Indeed, it gets worse because we would be asking him to proclaim his belief that such is not true.

 

I was intrigued by this story reported at the Archbishop Cranmer blog. The story is ostensibly about an imam being invited to preach the 10:30am Eucharist sermon at The University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford.

I purposefully say ‘intrigued’ because I am not particularly surprised. I am astonished by His Grace’s astonishment, to be honest. As a communicant of the established church, I know he has more of a vested interest in its affairs than me. But both of us, for probably slightly different reasons (at least differently ordered in priority) would like to see it adhere more faithfully to Biblical and theological verity.

But the last 150 years or so have marked nothing if not a growing tendency, one that increased with troubling speed during the 70s, toward a greater liberalism within its ranks. So much so, that one hardly bats and eyelid now when reading of an imam being invited to preach in a Eucharist worship service in one of its churches. One can’t help but roll one’s eyes and think and long for the days when that might have been their worst problem.

Like Cranmer, I have no problem with the idea of a Muslim leader coming into a church and telling us all about what they think. In fact, not only do I have no problem with it, I have actively encouraged it in my own church. Each month we invite an imam to come and tell us about what Muslims believe on a given topic. Naturally, we tell them all about what we think too. It has proven to be a very helpful time sharing respective beliefs, understanding one another better and allowing room for all kinds of questions that simply wouldn’t ever get a hearing. You can see some examples hereherehere and here and you can search this blog for videos and other such insights into these events. Needless to say, it has been a great gospel opportunity for us.

The difference, of course, relates to the purpose of our meeting. When we meet with our Muslim friends, it is for the expressed purpose of sharing our faith with them and learning about theirs. Though we may read the Bible and our Muslim friends may read their Qur’an, and we may pray and they might pray too, there is most definitely no joint act of worship. Nobody in the room is pretending that we are reading God’s Word from the same book nor that we are praying to the same God. We are notably different yet we are glad to learn from and about each other. We all know essentially why we are there.

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