Recently, a church in Scotland invited a Muslim woman to perform a song during a worship service intended to celebrate Epiphany. The wisdom of the decision has been questioned because the content of the song, which is based in the Quran, contradicted Jesus’ lordship.
From Tyler O’Neil at PJ Media:
[St. Mary’s] Episcopal church in [Glasgow] Scotland celebrated Epiphany this year by letting a Muslim sing a song — which denied the very basis of the Christian holiday. In fact, the song, taken from Surah 19 of the Quran, explicitly rejected a doctrine fundamental to the Christian faith.
On Epiphany Sunday, January 8, 2017, Muslim singer Madinah Javed sang a portion of Surah 19 — including a section which flatly states that Jesus is not the Son of God — during a Eucharistic service at St. Mary’s Episcopal [Anglican] Cathedral in Glasgow.
A post on the cathedral’s Facebook page (now removed) described the service as a “wonderful event,” hailing the Muslim portion specifically. “The congregation was also reminded during the service that it is not only Christians who give honour to Jesus. We were joined by friends from two local Muslim communities,” read the post, according to ChristianToday.
Surah 19, the Quranic passage sung in the service, details the Muslim account of Jesus’s birth. While the story agrees with Christians that Jesus’s mother Mary was a virgin, it portrays her as becoming ashamed at the birth of Christ! “Oh, would that I had died ere this and had become a thing of naught, forgotten,” Mary declares in verse 23.
After Jesus’s birth, the baby speaks aloud (something never described in Christian versions of the nativity), and the narrator goes on to declare that while Jesus was a prophet, he was emphatically not the Son of God.
At the service, the Muslim singer concluded with verse 35 —”It befitteth not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him!”
To clarify, the Feast of Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God’s incarnation to the gentiles. This is based on the biblical story of the visitation by the wise men (or kings) that come to worship the young Jesus.
So why would St. Mary’s Cathedral invite someone into the church during this celebration to perform a song from a scriptural tradition and religion that directly refutes Jesus’ divinity?
If St. Mary’s consents to having Jesus’ divinity challenged or refuted, why take the time to celebrate Epiphany? For that matter, if Jesus isn’t who he claimed to be, why celebrate Christmas? or Easter? If Jesus isn’t divine, St. Mary’s should change its name since Mary’s sanctification lies, in part, in being chosen by God to miraculously give birth to his Son.
It appears that permitting a song that rejects Jesus’ divinity wasn’t enough. Local church leadership doubled down on the offense.
According to the BBC, cathedral Provost Kelvin Holdsworth defended the incongruity of Quranic readings that negate Jesus’ divinity in the cathedral as necessary efforts to build relationships between Christians and Muslims in Glasgow. Holdsworth rationalized the incident by claiming, “Such readings have happened a number of times in the past in this and in other churches and have led to deepening friendships locally,” rationalizing the goal of “dialogues” that increase awareness with respect to religious commonalities and differences.
Jesus’ asked, “Who do the crowds say I am?” and this is how St. Mary’s answers.
The lack of awareness regarding this decision – in addition to the poor excuses justifying it – should grieve Christians everywhere.
I wonder if mosques in Scotland have invited members of St. Mary’s Cathedral under the same interfaith enthusiasm to read biblical passages that undermine the Quran and the importance of its prophet – particularly during the commemoration of one of its holy days.
Endeavoring to find common religious ground on various issues is commendable. Interfaith dialogue has and will continue to accomplish a great many things.
However, prioritizing interfaith efforts that compromise fundamental Christian doctrines, and not conceding the clear error in judgment, is indefensible. The significance of salvation and other theological issues is at stake. If Protestant churches and corresponding denominations can no longer defend the foundational tenets of Christianity, they should no longer identify themselves as Christians.
Church activity that prioritizes religious pluralism, and subordinates Jesus’ divinity for the sake of a non-judgmental spiritual universalism, is wrong. It’s also counterproductive.