Is Jesus begotten of the Father?

Peter Ould writes: Harry Farley at Christian Today has reported the response to the reading of the Qu’ran at a Communion service (Eucharist) in St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow on the 6th of January. You can watch the reading yourself here:

The passage being recited is from Surah 19, ‘Mary’ and includes some apocryphal material about Jesus speaking as a baby from the cradle. This is pretty docetic stuff and a little infant speaking adult words is a kind of ‘superhuman’ Jesus that is miles away from the Biblical view. The source of this material is from the Syriac Infancy Gospel, an apocryphal document from the fifth or sixth century. Needless to say, it’s not even vaguely ‘Scripture’ and Michael Nazir-Ali is right to condemn the use of it in a church service by Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of Glasgow.

There is, however, another dimension to this service that hasn’t yet been picked up in commentary, which should disturb Anglicans everywhere far more than simply telling fairy tales about Jesus in a church. The liturgy for the service includes an English language copy of what is being recited in Arabic. Here it is.

The text in the service sheet stops at Ayah 33 (the equivalent of a Bible verse) but this is not where Miss Javed stops. She continues to recite from the Qu’ran and includes the following verses that follow straight after the text above.

34 That is Jesus, the son of Mary – the word of truth about which they are in dispute.
35 It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.
36 [Jesus said], “And indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path.”

The recitation finishes with the words, ‘Allah, the Almighty, has spoken the truth’. This a standard liturgical suffix to a reading, the equivalent of saying, ‘This is the Word of the Lord’. The reading is being offered as a proclamation of God’s word, his truth.

These extra Ayah teach two clear things. First, Jesus is not the son of God and is not divine. Second, Jesus should not be worshipped. These are the two doctrines that were proclaimed from the pulpit in Glasgow Cathedral on the Feast of the Epiphany, the celebration of Jesus being revealed to the nations. What kind of revelation is that?

There are a few options as to what is going on here. The first is that Kelvin Holdsworth is very naive and didn’t realise the context of Surah 19 when he invited Miss Javed to speak. Do we really expect that kind of ignorance from a Cathedral Provost? What a mistake to make. The second option is that the Provost did know the context of Surah 19, was aware of what Ayah 34 to 36 taught but didn’t bother to highlight to Miss Javed the problems that might be caused by including those verses in her recitation. That seems to me to be incredibly negligent, allowing a potentially blasphemous reading to be used on a major Christian festival.

Of course, there is a third option that is even more disturbing and that is that the Provost of Glasgow Cathedral knows what the issues are around the use of these three verses but simply doesn’t care. He’s not in the slightest bit bothered if a denial of the deity of Christ and all that follows from that (his worship for example) is made in the house of the seat of the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. He might even revel in the controversy it causes. Perhaps he is a syncretist and believes that Muslims will be saved by the amount of good works they perform, a denial of the need for grace and faith in Christ.

Whatever the explanation is, this is an issue that goes way beyond inter-faith hospitality, respect or education. It’s one thing to share examples of Muslim scriptures in a non divine service context, it’s another to specifically incorporate them into Anglican liturgy. What we pray is what we believe after all. Giles Goddard, the vicar of St John’s Waterloo, got a firm slap over his hands for allowing Islamic Friday Prayers to happen in his church, especially with the covering up of Christian icons. Southwark Diocese is notoriously liberal yet even this was a step too far for Bishop Christopher Chessun.

As a contrast, despite being asked for comment 48 hours ago, neither the Provost or the Bishop of Glasgow have made any public comment despite requests by journalists like Farley for one. When—if—they eventually do comment, the key will be to see if they obfuscate around claims of ‘inter-faith friendship’ or whether they actually engage with the key theological issues themselves of what doctrines shouldn’t be expressed in an Anglican liturgy and what the response is if a liturgy, whether accidentally or purposefully, expresses a heresy.

We await with anticipation the response from north of the border.

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56 thoughts on “Is Jesus begotten of the Father?”

  1. Thanks Ian – I agree with what you said and I think this is inappropriate in that particular context (i.e. in the cathedral service). I am doing an essay on Jesus in the Qur’an and read something from a Muslim academic (Musstansir Mir) and I think he sums up quite nicely the issue. Here it is: “the figure of Jesus both builds a bridge and creates a gulf between Islam and Christianity. One might add that a bridge, by definition, affirms both connectedness and separateness, that it is inclusive of gulf….it all depends on which of the two aspects of the bridge to emphasized over against the other.” If this is in the context of scriptural reasoning or interfaith dialogue (e.g. in meetings of better understanding) to explore what different scriptures saying about Jesus, it can be a bridge for good interfaith conversatiosn. However, not in a cathedral service, I am afraid!

    (P.S. Good to meet you on Monday and thanks for your advice!)

  2. There is one further option…
    The provost did know and was aware of the dangers but naively thought it would be safe if the reader stayed within the confines of the printed text and explained that boundary to the reader … the reader though took it upon herself for whatever reason to continue beyond the English version and carried on with the extra verses perhaps thinking that since she was reciting in Arabic no one would notice.

    I confess that whenever I enter a place of worship of another faith I always take the opportunity to proclaim under my breath the lordship and sovereignty of Christ and pray for the conversion of all who worship in that place. Maybe this reader was surreptitiously doing a similar thing?

  3. One only has to read the SEC’s publication, The Inter-Faith Encounter (Grosvenor Essay No. 3) to understand how this Koran reading was permitted and, in fact, encouraged as a symbolic act of inclusion.

    It states: ‘It is important for the Christian Churches to respond to this new diverse context that is Scotland. We need to recognise that current forms of institutional Christianity are in decline, and that inter-faith encounters occur in the contexts of a diverse religious landscape and the myriad spiritual quests of individuals. Increasingly, some see religious identity not just in terms of belonging to one denomination or faith tradition: rather, it is discovered through the process of engagement with different faiths, ‘picking and mixing’ in ways that have not previously been seen.

    Such a pluralist environment presents a serious challenge to institutional religion: a widespread fear of the meaninglessness implicit in such relativism (if all religions are equally valid, then none can be considered to be absolutely true) can lead to the need to demarcate and define more tightly the place of religion. In extreme situations, such identity-formation leads to forms of fundamentalism, as members of faith communities turn away from dialogical engagement with the secular world and with other religions.

    To avoid this, it is necessary to hold together a sense of identity, shaped by faith, alongside a willingness to engage with others. Tolerance, a virtue lauded by secular commentators, is not enough, since it can so easily mask indifference. This is true at a personal level as well as a civic or institutional level. We should not be satisfied with an easy tolerance: the imperative for Christians is to go beyond such a laissez faire attitude, and to see the enriching encounter with others as central to the Gospel.’

    In citing early Church examples of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ understandings of Christianity, the paper then attempts to provide a biblical rationale for the former:

    More striking still, perhaps, is the way in which the New Testament authors on three occasions quote ‘pagan’ writers in a way which suggests that their thoughts are worthy of consideration by Christians (Acts 17:28, 1 Cor 15:33, Titus 1:12-13). The practice of commending Christianity to those outwith the Church, and outwith the Jewish context from which it sprang, through demonstrating its compatibility with those authors which were held in high regard by ‘pagan’ society, was continued by the so-called ‘apologetic’ writers of the early Church: these included Justin Martyr, Athenagoras of Athens, and Theophilus of Antioch, all of whose writings are peppered with references to Plato, Homer, Euripides, Herodotus, and others. For such early Christian commentators, Christianity may have been something which was set over against the world in which it was located, but that world was by no means valueless in the opportunities it presented for developing Christian theological thinking. Here, we may see a more positive attitude towards the world outside the Church: an attitude which values dialogue with that world, and which desires to develop Christian thinking in the light of insights it affords. This would suggest that the development of Christian identity and an openness to others are by no means mutually exclusive. Indeed, such openness has been central to the construction of Christian identity.

    Yet, it makes no sense for the SEC to highlight the church’s apologetic tradition of critically reflecting on non-Christian writings as the basis for justifying the uncritical proclamation of non-Christian religious writings.

    Perhaps, the most significant scriptural omission from the paper is Christ’s inter-faith dialogue with the Woman at the Well.

    While He pointed to a level of inward total devotion to God which transcended disputes over externalism, He was candid in explaining that Samaritans worshipped in ignorance of the God who is revealed through his prophetically promised and fulfilled covenant faithfulness to the Jews: You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22)

    For the SEC, what Christ states as incontrovertible truth is simply a matter of personal and comparative religious preference:

    So an engagement with Islam brings me face to face with the irreducible aspects of Christianity that for me, are not negotiable. I respect the Qur’an for being uncompromisingly monotheistic, but I miss the warmth of the reciprocal love of the Trinity. I respect the Qur’an for protecting the person of Jesus as a prophet next to Mohammed and dear to God, but I miss Christ’s unconditional, vulnerable, self-giving risk of Calvary. I respect the Qur’an for preserving each soul’s responsibility for standing alone before God, but I miss the fellowship of bearing one another’s burdens and in that way fulfilling the law of Christ.

    Of course, such a laissez-faire abdication of the SEC’s priestly responsibility to declare the divine truth for which Christ was crucified is explained away by the belief that permitting the act of proclaiming the Koran in Church uncritically is just the sort of ‘risky love’ that Christ exemplified.

    And you can’t really reason with such embedded obdurate rationalism in ecclesiastical circles.

  4. Paul would have had a fit. It’s the equivalent of his standing up at the Areopagus and saying ‘it’s OK really – we all worship the same thing in the end.’
    But the church in Scotland is notoriously ‘liberal’, so not a surprise. And, quite possibly, egregiously ignorant.

  5. Even the stuff printed on the service sheet about a docetic Jesus who could speak as a new born is incredibly harmful. I’ve done a lot of Bible studies here with Iranian ex-Muslim refugees. One of the questions they ask is if Jesus really did miracles as a child, as they’ve been taught. I answer “no” and point to the 4 canonical Gospels as the only reliable source. To have this read in a cathedral is very confusing and disheartening for ex-Muslim converts. This should be resigning matter for whoever is responsible.

    • How do you discuss with them God the Son Incarnate as the Child Jesus in the womb in His involvement with the miraculous events related by Luke (1:40-45)?

  6. ‘Jesus and the Muslim’ by Kenneth Cragg is a must-read on the subject of Jesus as God’s Son and whether or not the Qur’an denies the Cross of Christ.

    My last-but-one ‘parish’ was the Sultanate of Oman, or at least I was then the only Anglican licensed by the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf for ministry there. Oman is predominately Ibadi Muslim, which interprets the Qur’an as a whole and does not put undue emphasis on individual Surahs (and therefore interprets the violent Surahs as applying only to the first century of Islam). I would much value prayer in encouraging ongoing conversation between Ibadis and orthodox Christians.

  7. I am not altogether sure what all the fuss is about. Since Michael Ramsey ‘ascended the throne of St Augustine’ much has been done to encourage exactly what the Provost did in the cathedral, and in my mind it should be further encouraged. If we Christians are so afraid of the proclamation of our won faith then some serious soul searching is required. And I agree with Ray’s final words – “I would much value prayer in encouraging ongoing conversation between Ibadis and orthodox Christians.” – between all faiths!

    • Ah, so you agree with the Qu’ran that Jesus is NOT the Son of God, not God from God, not Light from Light, not Very God from Very God and therefore not to be worshipped?

      Glad we sorted that out.

    • If we Christians are so afraid of the proclamation of our won faith then some serious soul searching is required.

      Yep, just label as fear any response short of wholesale approval for uncritically proclaiming the Muslim denial of Christ’s deity (masquerading as in inter-faith dialogue) into a Christian worship service.

      Well, I recognise that some would have us believe that, in pursuit of the so-called ‘greater good’ of inter-faith harmony, upholding the deity of Christ throughout an act of Christian worship is dispensable.

      Strange then that, in talking to the Woman at the Well, Jesus so candidly and so promptly contrasted the relative ignorance of Samaritan worship with that of the Jews (John 4:22).

      By the Provost’s inter-faith policy, His blunt response must have done nothing to encourage ongoing conversation between Samaritans and Jews!

      • Well if he says “no” he admits ignorance and naivety. If he says “yes” he admits allowing false doctrine in the Cathedral.

        I am currently finalising the shipping of a rock and a hard place to St Mary’s to be placed at the West and East end of the chancel respectively.

        • First, ‘No comment’ is an abuse of power. He is saying that he has the right to pick and choose which questions he addresses. That would place him above other people.

          Second, ‘No comment’ is the phrase of someone who does not care about truth. If you don’t care about truth, no-one should follow you.

          Third, ‘No comment’ means you lose the debate. Your position has shown its inadequacy. An accurate stance would be able to give good answers to questions, because it was the correct theory. This stance not only fails to give an adequate answer, it is worse – it fails to be able to give any answer at all, Because if it did it would expose its inherent self-contradiction.

          To summarise: if KH is a ‘No comment’ merchant there are 3 separate and strong reasons why people should neither listen to him nor follow him.

      • Happy Jack posted the following question on Kelvin Holdsworth’s blog:

        “Hi Kelvin,

        Can you please explain why the printed order of service stops at verse 33, and yet the actual recital included verses 34-6 of Sura 19 which include denial that the Creator God has a son? How did this discrepancy arise between the printed order of service and what actually happened?

        Many thanks.”

        He received this response:

        “Thanks for your question. I can’t explain that as I don’t know the answer and it might not be possible for me to get an answer to that question. However, I don’t think anyone was being malicious or trying to get one over the Christians.

        Indeed, I have found all involved in this service to have been gracious and kind to one another throughout all this.

        The text that was printed in the service sheet is what we expected to be read- Sura Maryam 19 verses 16-33. I don’t have Arabic and given how difficult it was for me to acquire appalling Hebrew, I am unlikely ever to attempt to learn.

        I won’t be publishing any further questions or responses in connection with this as I’ve said above all that I know and am likely to know.”

        So Jack followed up with:


        Thank you for your gracious and open response. Without wishing to labour the point, can you clarify the basis for you expectation that the reading of Sura Maryam 19 would be verses 16-33 and not include 34 – 36?

        Many thanks.”

        Really, he can’t answer. He’ll either be shown as incompetent for not identifying the blasphemous verses and ensuring their exclusion, or he’ll have to conceed he was deceived.

  8. Why is it “notorious” to be a liberal? “Notorious” is a pejorative word. (I do share some of Mr Ould’s concerns.)

    • It is notorious to be a liberal. Being a liberal is being one kind of ideologue, rather than being an eclectic truth seeker who is led by the evidence.

  9. By conflating practices which must be distinguished, the cathedral’s provost singularly fails to address any of the concerns raised. There is, on the hand, the practice of Muslims and Christians reading the Bible and the Koran together. This is indeed likely to deepen friendships and to lead to a “greater awareness of the things we hold in common and to dialogue about the ways in which we differ.” Reciting the Koran as Scripture during a Eucharistic service, on the other hand, is an altogether different matter. It betrays a failure to appreciate what this Christian act of worship is about.

    There seems to be a twofold defence here. One is that such a recitation is educational. The final sentence of the BBC report gives the lie to this claim. “Asked if he had known what the Koran verse specifically said about Jesus, Mr Holdsworth declined to comment further.” It seems that this is not, after all, an opportunity to become more aware of “the things we hold in common and to dialogue about the ways in which we differ.”

    Secondly, assuming that we agree that mutual respect is an important factor in relationship building, there is the implicit claim that allowing the Koran to be recited in this context and in this way shows respect for Muslims and so strengthens relationships. On the face of it, to honour the Koran in this way does indeed show respect to all those who consider the Koran to be God’s Word (although I do not know what Muslims who consider it inappropriate for a woman to recite the Koran in public make of this). But such respect is then either built on agreement (about the Koran being God’s Word in some sense) or on the view that it does not matter much whether the claims made in the Koran are true or not. The former raises the question whether it is ever possible to disagree respectfully. The latter does not truly show respect, as it declares something that is at the heart of one community to be irrelevant.

  10. I am not an Anglican, and have often in the past spent significant time and effort being dismissive, or sarcastic, about Anglican thought and practice.This is to my shame, and in the past few years I have abandoned my petty and ill-informed teenage prejudices. I do not mind saying that I now find a great deal of Anglicanism far more appealing than some of the Evangelicalism within which I was raised, to the point where I am seriously considering pursuing ministry within the CofE in the future.

    When I read of situations like this however, I despair, and I worry, not unjustifiably, that perhaps some of my prejudices may well have been rooted in reality. I hasten to add that I do not think for second that this action/activity is representative of all Anglicans, or all cathedral provosts (though cathedrals do seem uniquely capable of putting their foot in it!), but you should know that in addition to the dangers both Ian and Peter highlight, this is also yet another example of something that turns genuinely valuable/motivated people away from an area of ministry that very much needs them.

  11. Unbelievable. Or perhaps not. In my recent experience at two cathedrals (in England), the reading of the Epistle at Holy Communion was followed by the rather feeble versicle and response (which I can’t locate anywhere in the authorised texts of Common Worship), ‘For the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.’ Rather than the more confident, ‘This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.’ This tiny sample leads me to conclude that perhaps confidence in the Christian Scriptures is already low in some cathedrals, so the allowing of a reading from the Quran denying one of the fundamental truths about Jesus shouldn’t be a surprise.

  12. Statement regarding Epiphany Service 2017

    Following media enquiries in connection with a service held in St Mary’s at Epiphany, the Provost has issued this comment:

    “Over the Christmas season, we invited local Muslim friends into St Mary’s Cathedral to join us for the Feast of the Epiphany – we often get similar invitations to join them for their own festivals. In the course of our celebrations of the birth of the Saviour, we listened with interest to the story that Muslims tell of the annunciation of Jesus in the Qur’an. Such readings have happened a number of times in the past in this and in other churches and have led to deepening friendships locally, to greater awareness of the things we hold in common and to dialogue about the ways in which we differ.

    “I have commented in the past on such readings and those comments are still available online:“

    • In terms of the potential responses which concluded Peter’s post, it’s clear that Kevin Holdsworth has opted to obfuscate around claims of ‘inter-faith friendship’

      Pity that he couldn’t ‘engage with the key theological issues themselves of what doctrines shouldn’t be expressed in an Anglican liturgy and what the response is if a liturgy, whether accidentally or purposefully, expresses a heresy.’

      As I said in respect of the SEC’s publication, The Inter-Faith Encounter: Yet, it makes no sense for the SEC to highlight the church’s apologetic tradition of critically reflecting on non-Christian writings as the basis for justifying the uncritical proclamation of non-Christian religious writings.

    • For some reason, trying the link leads me to “Not found, error 404” – but not when I try it on the St. Mary’s site: the linked article can also be found at the date given in the archive. I cannot but conclude that the “comments” suggest the author should have be removed from his office in March 2015, if not sooner.

  13. Hi Ian,

    Yes, this is troublesome. Very much so.

    On the other hand, may I note that unprecedented numbers of Muslims are converting to Christianity? I recently published a book on the topic, Living among the Breakage.

    Would love to explore doing a guest post for your excellent blog here on the topic if you are interested. Check out my blog for more info on the book (including an excerpt) and my research.


    Duane Miller, PhD

  14. I don’t have a problem with this: for those who hold to creedal Christianity, it’s clear that the Koran reading isn’t Christian, and hasn’t been officially endorsed by the SEC; and for those who don’t, it’s a non-issue.

  15. Fast forward another 5 years to find that the Far Right have gained political ascendancy.

    In the aftermath of the ensuing public protests, riots and widespread chaos, an ultra-conservative vicar addresses his Sunday congregation:

    ‘Some of you may be aware of the recent arson attack on the local BNP constituency office. As a token of friendship and solidarity towards those affected by this act of wanton destruction, some of whom are Christian, we have invited them to participate in our Communion service.’

    ‘We will follow the reading of the gospel with an excerpt from David Irving’s book, Hitler’s War. Of course, although it contains denial the holocaust, you should not be offended, since it should be clear to you that this excerpt does not itself purport to be Christian.’

    Lex orandi, lex credendi

  16. Bishop Michael has been quoted as saying, “the passage also denies that God can have a son — although the verb used, yattakhida, suggests God taking to himself a son.This seems to have the heresy of adoptionism in the background and is not what Christians believe.” Does this mean that the passage is in fact (and perhaps in intention) rejecting a heretical Christology? Does that further suggest that it in does not clearly in fact exclude an orthodox Christological reading – however surprising that would presumably be to innumerable Muslims?

    • A charitably reading, but there is no question that Islam rejects Orthodox i.e. Nicene Christianity. To them, Jesus is not the Son of God, not crucified, the the New Testament is corrupted are – standard beliefs. And the individual Quranic passages or Arabic phrases, sometimes, piked up upon to arguer that the Quran simply rejected teaching which was deemed heretical to orthodox Christians, does not, at all, mean that Islam condone christians’s Nicene Creed.

      PS. I should add, that I was born to a Muslim family and I do speak Arabic, so I have a bit of understanding of basic Islamic beliefs.

  17. Engaging with our Muslim neighbours is very rewarding but can also face quite a few pitfalls. The ins and outs of how this particular situation arose aren’t clear but it raises a lot of issues.

    [Shameless plug follows]
    At Redcliffe college we run a weeks symposium on Ministry in Muslim Contexts which is open to people actively engaged in this area. It is part of our MA course but is also designed as a stand alone week. For more information see

  18. Oh dear, oh dear. On his blog profile, Kelvin Holdsworth states:

    “I’m unashamed of having learned more about liturgy from the theatre than from the church.”

    Someone needs to remind him that sacred liturgy isn’t an operatic performance!

  19. Ian, could you please edit the main post to give a link to Kelvin’s response to this (now on his blog). For the record, he explains this was hospitality not syncretism, and that he fully upholds the Nicene creed (which was recited as part of the service).

    Storm in teacup.

    • Agreed. From a credal POV, the congregation weren’t praying to Allah; they hosted a reading from Koran, which is hospitality, not agreement. The cathedral hasn’t endorsed Islamic theology.

    • Jonathan,

      You should really read the publication, The Inter-Faith Encounter, which the SEC describes as ‘intended to offer a contribution, from the perspective of one Christian denomination, to understanding both the central importance of the inter-faith encounter and the resources that we might bring to it.

      It gives the fuller context of the SEC’s Inter-Faith initiatives, such as these. For example, the section entitled issues and challenges in the encounter of Christianity and Buddhism describes the scandal aroused by the cross of Christ in this way:
      Many Buddhists are alarmed by the sight of the crucified Jesus. How can such a violent image be a symbol of salvation, they ask, especially when they compare it to the serene figure of the Buddha seated in perfect tranquillity under the Bodhi tree?

      Yet, in the name of hospitality and despite acknowledging this clear lack of discernment regarding the spiritual significance of Jesus’ sacrifice and the Communion of believers with it, we read:

      (c) The Dialogue of Religious Experience

      In the past, monastic orders have led the dialogue of religious
      experience between Buddhists and Christians. I recall being part of a small group of Buddhist monks receiving hospitality in a Catholic monastery. The senior monk of the group had a great desire, built up over years of dialogue, to take part in the Christian liturgy. He asked if we could receive communion. The abbot agreed and very early the following morning we joined our Christian counterparts in the chapel for Mass. We lined up to receive communion, with the senior monk at the front. He ate the bread he was given and then, when handed the chalice, he drank the entire contents in one! In a very solemn fashion he returned the cup to the astonished Christian monk. I look back now and chuckle, but I also remember his face as he returned the chalice – there was an intensity of commitment and deep respect for the liturgy which was humbling.

      The piece goes on to explain:

      In the West also there are people, without the Asian cultural background, who have chosen a dual identity. At a recent conference I attended there were participants who felt comfortable and sincere in describing themselves as Buddhist-Christian. As increasing numbers of Christians have experienced an ecumenical shaping to their Christian identity, taking them beyond the confines of a particular denomination, I suspect that more and more people will begin to define their religious identity in inter-religious terms. This may have positive benefits and lead us to reformulate what it means to be ecumenical.

      It clearly sees potential benefits to the syncretism which it euphemises as inter-religious identity.

      The service at St.Mary’s is a prime example of how to insinuate this inter-religious approach into a service in the name of hospitality.

      What’s pitiful is when some here seek to cast Holdsworth as a saint in the making, martyred to a parody of the ‘risky love’ which exemplified Christ’s ministry.

      In fact, the service was nothing more than a self-promoting publicity stunt!

      • Hi All,

        I re-post the above concerns to Kelvin Holdsworth’s blog.

        Here’s his response:

        Be assured that the Grosvernor essay number 3 has nothing particularly to do with anything at St Mary’s as I’ve never read it.

        I don’t count myself amongst those who might chose a dual identity either.

        There may well be people who would advocate syncretism in the main-stream churches. I happen not to be one of them.

        One of the problems with the Grosvenor essays is that every paragraph is anonymous. The authorship changes through the publication. One never knows who said what. I tend to prefer to deal with people who are prepared to put their own names on arguments and for that reason, I struggle to feel terribly interested in what any of the Grosvenor essays say.

        Of course, you don’t need to read a publication to take an approach which is unwittingly consonant with it.

        And even if the Provost doesn’t favour syncretism, its clear from scripture that Christ had no hesitation in highlighting the sort of religious differences, which (in the name of hospitality) the Cathedral sought to set aside during their Communion liturgy.

  20. In his comment on the Provost’s 13 January “response”, Ian Paul says, “You now appear to be apportioning blame for abuse to those of us who reported and asked questions, which seems to me to be disingenuous.”

    As far as I can see, ‘disingenuous’ would be a fairly apt description not only of the whole of that response and the Provost’s further replies to comments there, and of his 14 March 2015 post linked at the St. Mary’s site, but also of the “Statement” there in which it is linked, and of the 14 January post by the Primus on his blog.


  21. Given that the Athanasian Creed was recited communally and assuming that Muslims were not invited to partake of Holy Communion, it is maybe more a case of the trumpet giving an uncertain sound than an instance of or invitation to syncretism. I am glad to hear that Kelvin Holdsworth says the Creed without his fingers crossed but does he pray and hope for Muslims to see the error of their confession and come to an affirmation of the wonderful truth we confess in the creed?

    Surely no-one with a stake in the truth claims of either religion can think that there is ultimately space for both confessions in an act of worship. If the Qu’ran states the truth, the Athanasian creed is a lie. If the Athanasian creed states the truth, the Qu’ran teaches falsehood. This does not mean that we have to reject, hate or kill each other. But it does mean that you cannot affirm both in a single act of worship, not if you worship with your mind and heart as well as your lips. To think otherwise is presumably the result of an ideology of inclusion which believes that hospitality is only extended when others are fully affirmed in (their perception of) their identity.

  22. I posted this response on the Energise Page in Western Australia, but thought this community might engage with it, too.

    I am not sure it is as dark and gloomy as you suggest Ian. The provost in the context of inter-faith hospitality and in recognition that Jesus and Mary are both revered in Islam, chose a selection from the Qu’ran that in its own way speaks of the divine agency of Mary’s pregnancy, and of the holiness and chastity of Mary and her family. These are things affirmed in Christianity.

    That the baby Jesus speaks as an adult in the fable is no more extraordinary for the genre than the one story we have of Jesus’ childhood where he is shown with wisdom beyond his years as he speaks of God to the old men at the Temple.

    What the Provost had no control over was the decision the reader made to continue past the selected verses in order to make her own theological statement in the situation.

    In my experience of interfaith services, it is unusual for these to happen in the context of a eucharist. It is indeed at this point that Christianity ventures into its own unique proclamation of the revelation of God. Despite the “error” that was proclaimed by the reading of those three verses (as you put it) the rest of the liturgy unapologetically proclaimed the divinity of Jesus, the Christ of faith whom we worship. I don’t think those few words undid any of that.

    • That the baby Jesus speaks as an adult in the fable is no more extraordinary for the genre than the one story we have of Jesus’ childhood where he is shown with wisdom beyond his years as he speaks of God to the old men at the Temple.

      Not unlike the actual service, this is an attempt to belittle religious differences in the name of hospitality.

      However, there’s a vast difference between the Koran magically circumventing the incarnation reality of Christ’s development of speech as a baby and the gospels testifying that Jesus was a spiritual child prodigy.

      Child prodigies exist, whereas the the notion of the baby Jesus speaking is a baseless fantasy which lacks the eye-witness corroboration from the very first-century sources which could have provided it.

      Had the Cathedral extended this kind of hospitality to a known Jewish Zionist, who read excerpts from the Torah commanding the annihilation of Israel’s enemies, it would have doubtless provoked these self-same apologists to ‘righteous’ indignation and calls for resignation.

      • On the contrary, David, the comment was attempting to do justice to the genre. The childhood stories of Jesus have very much the style and likeness to the stories that grow up around other revered persons. They are expressions of people of faith, speaking of the Jesus they believe in in the light of the resurrection, rather than a narrative of family history. There are other non-canonical infancy narratives that tell similar stories to this one that Luke has picked up and included in his Gospel. Matthew did not gather it as worthy of inclusion. Mark and John did not consider the Birth narratives as worthy inclusions in their Gospels.

        • John,

          Yet, style and likeness is not evidence.

          Without debating the miraculous and given the evidence of child prodigies, it’s very plausible that Jesus was capable at an early age of confounding the teachers of the Law with the kind of challenging conundrums similar to those which he posed in later life (Matt. 22:42)

          Whatever the so-called genre similarities, there’s considerable difference between the gospel relaying witness to Jesus being a spiritual child prodigy and a completely groundless fable that he spoke at birth.

          What isn’t plausible is your thesis, on the basis of genre, that the respective claims about Jesus are not much different, so no harm done.

        • You several times say that different gospel-authors did not consider something worthy of inclusion, when in fact we do not know whether they had even heard of the stories in question.

    • Yet, his response is at odds with Christ’s radical hospitality towards the Samaritan woman (John 4:22) and St. Paul’s outspoken estmoation of Athenian worship as ignorant: (Acts 17:23)

      Jesus was full of grace and truth!

  23. Just some things come to mind here.Interfaith services have always been tricky ( albeit very one sided) Maybe alpha in a local mosque would not go amiss then in the spirit of interfaith diologue? Knowing that the church is already beset by trying to shore up its christian faith and to communicate to a by and large uninterested public what being a christian means and what that entails in disciplehip and commitment to Christ then this is very ill timed and I have to say to me seeks to undermine whats is being built.I really can not think that such an intelligent man would not understand the implications of what this means and how people are offended. If not he obviously is not interested in the people in that generous orthodoxy?I myself would not have been comfortable with this in the slightest.( But hey ho right?)Secondly doesn’t anyone know about community halls. They have loads of them all up and down the country where building of friendships can happen with other faiths over meals and talks and sharing of values without offending loads of people and putting others in compromising positions and making lots of people uncomfortable. Community halls! Great way forward that does not tick off a huge proportion of the christian church.


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