Among the holiest days in the Christian calendar, Christmas celebrates the nativity of Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God. But that didn’t stop one of the most prominent revisionist parishes in the Episcopal Church from re-styling it with Islamic reading and a liturgy that aimed as much as possible to employ gender-inclusive language.
All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California routinely modifies language from both the Book of Common Prayer and the biblical text in order to better accommodate revisionist ideology. The liturgical innovations point to a trajectory rocketing past redefinition of sexual ethics and on to the proclamation of a “coexist” bumper sticker god.
This year, All Saints’ online-only Christmas service included a reading of Psalm 103:1–17 in which “The Lord” is substituted with a female “Fount of Wisdom” in which “WISDOM’S womb is full of love and faithfulness.”
“SHE WHO IS WISDOM executes righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed,” parish Junior Warden Monique Thomas read in the service. “But the faithful love of SHE WHO IS WISDOM endures forever on those who revere her.”
Readings recasting “Father” as “Sophia” (Holy Wisdom) are sometimes employed by feminist theologians seeking to portray the Lord as a female goddess. In the Christmas service, All Saints’ biblical readings are from The Women’s Lectionary, credited to the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, a womanist (black feminist) scholar and Episcopal Priest from the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Even Gloria in Excelsis Deo, sung by the church’s Canterbury choir, was translated in the service leaflet from the Latin Patris (Father) into the gender-neutral “Creator,” insinuating that the Son and Holy Spirit were created, a substitution that accommodates the heresy of Arianism. In contrast, the church has historically understood a Trinitarian creation of the world described in John 1:3: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Also in Colossians 1:16: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
An excerpt from the Quran (Surah 3:45–48), read in Arabic by an Associate Professor of Muslim and Interreligious Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary, was featured in the liturgical readings after verses from the prophet Isaiah and Psalms, and before the nativity story in Luke’s gospel.
Najeeba Syeed, director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding, chanted in Arabic:
“When the angels said, ‘O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Allah, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary –distinguished in this world and the hereafter and among those brought near to Allah. Jesus will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.’ Mary said, ‘My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?’ The angel said, ‘Such is Allah; Allah creates what Allah wills. When Allah decrees a matter, Allah only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. And Allah will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel.’”
The reading concluded with the statement “Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people,” placing it in the same context as Hebrew and Christian scriptures that are both understood by Christians to be the inspired word of God.
“Thanks be to God,” the congregation replied.
Syeed previously participated in a 2017 Christmas service at All Saints, part of which was used for the 2020 broadcast. The California parish is not the first Episcopal/Anglican church to offer Christmas service Muslim prayers or readings from the Quran within a worship service. In 2017, BBC News reported that St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland came under criticism for a Quran reading from the lectern in an Epiphany service. That chapter included Islamic teaching that Jesus is not the son of God and shouldn’t be worshipped.
Former Bishop of Rochester the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali was among the critics, telling BBC News that: “Christians should know what their fellow citizens believe and this can include reading the Koran for themselves, whether in the original or in translation. This is not, however, the same thing as having it read in Church in the context of public worship.”
In 2020, on the same night as the All Saints’ service, Episcopal Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (known for the 2018 Beyoncé Mass and an interfaith service the same year featuring participants on stilts dressed as trees) featured as part of its televised worship service a Muslim prayer offered by a member of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.
It is understandable that in an interfaith context representatives of religious traditions would offer prayers or readings that Christians could respectfully observe. But Christmas is, as Grace Cathedral Dean Malcolm Clemens Young noted in the broadcast, “one of the holiest days of the year” for Christians. A decision to elevate the holy text or prayers of another religion on Christmas, especially a tradition that specifically contradicts Christian teaching on the divinity of Christ, alongside Christian scriptures and prayers is puzzling.
Comment by David Stewart on January 1, 2021 at 6:42 am
I will dare to ask it, because it should be asked. Coukd it be that the individuals, who authorized these things, are not really Christians, and are more or less modern day false prophets and priests much like those of ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah?
Comment by N. Thomas on January 1, 2021 at 8:21 am
How is this allowed? Bishop Love essentially gets kicked out, but this is tolerated not only at a parish but at a cathedral. This is far worse than the stuff former Bishop Spong used to do. Or even another infamous California bishop, James Pike. Even the “progressive” Episcopalians don’t do this.
Comment by Dan W on January 1, 2021 at 11:13 am
David Stewart – or they are Christians who have been deceived by the enemy they do not believe exists. Either way will it be Asherah poles next Christmas? Ba’al worship soon after?
Comment by Loren J Golden on January 1, 2021 at 4:59 pm
“But in vain do they worship me. The words of the prophet run literally thus: their fear toward me has been taught by the precept of men. But Christ has faithfully and accurately given the meaning, that in vain is God worshipped, when the will of men is substituted in the room of doctrine. By these words, all kinds of will-worship (ἑθελοθρησκεία), as Paul calls it (Col. 2.23), are plainly condemned. For as we have said, since God chooses to be worshipped in no other way than according to his own appointment, he cannot endure new modes of worship to be devised. As soon as men allow themselves to wander beyond the limits of the Word of God, the more labour and anxiety they display in worshipping him, the heavier is the condemnation which they draw down upon themselves; for by such invention religion is dishonoured.”
—John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 15.9, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Vol. II, ed. by Rev. William Pringle, in Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. XVI (Reprinted Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), pp. 253-254.
Comment by Diane on January 2, 2021 at 2:19 am
In a nutshell: some folks think and believe differently than the conservative theological scholars who write for this site. The favorite game here seems to be who’s a real Christian and who’s not. Seems a bit supremacist to me. Move on, be humble. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Give drink to the thirsty. Visit those who are sick or who are in prison.
Comment by David on January 2, 2021 at 6:15 am
In the same way an educated person should have some knowledge of the writings of Homer, they should also know something of the Quran. Several years ago, I listened to the entire audio version and found it instructive. Unlike the Bible, the Quran has little in the way of “bible stories” or history. Moses before Pharaoh appears a surprising number of times. For the most part, there is nothing that would be objectionable to Christians. There are parts such as not making friends with Jews and Christians, but also those mentioning that people of the book, including these, will have nothing to fear on Judgment Day. There are inconsistencies like those found in the Judeo-Christian writings.
Comment by Mike on January 2, 2021 at 8:20 am
Diane, “1Cor. 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. ” That kind of love referred to in this verse is “agape”, the kind that can only be produced by Christians under the control of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul was saying that you can do all sorts of good works, and in the end be rejected by God, because you did not do it in the right spirit of love.
Likewise, Jesus had very harsh words for those who claimed to do good works in His name without the right motivation: “Mat 7:22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
Mat 7:23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ “
Comment by Steve on January 2, 2021 at 5:23 pm
Diane, if Episcopal churches did any charity work in any meaningful amounts such as you suggest, I’d probably cut them some more slack.
But Episcopal churches generally fail to provide the most basic financial figures that one expects from a charity, including, how much money they actually donate to charitable purposes, how much they pay their elitist self centered clergy, how much they spend in the unnecessary acquisition of real estate and other assets and funding their exorbitant pensions. I’m sure if they reported their numbers like a proper charity to an outfit like Charity Watch, they’d get a failing grade. If they’re so proud of what they give, why are they not transparent about this?
Beyond which, when Christ was asked to summarize the law and the prophets, he said nothing like what you have suggest. Instead, he said:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Jesus didn’t hesitate to call out false prophets and teachers either, he fought them in their time and predicted there would be more. “he Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
Comment by Diane on January 2, 2021 at 9:06 pm
The Episcopal church in my small southern community sponsored the first HIV/AIDS service agency more than three decades ago. They instituted the first community soup kitchen long before that. They are chief contributors (money and volunteers) to the community food pantry and shelters for the homeless. We have an active Episcopalian community that is racially diverse (Hispanic, African American, and White). They’re the only church in town that uses two hymnals – the authorized Episcopalian one and the African American Heritage hymnal. The organist/choir director is a Black man. They provide college scholarships to underserved young people from marginalized communities.
Yes, Jesus gave us two commandments. He also gave us a parable about the judgment day that speaks nothing of creed, race, gender, sexuality, age, class, theological mooring, education, family status, reproductive behavior or status, marital status, political persuasion, nationality, ethnicity or ability. Jesus’ way was radical.
God is Spirit. Many assign gender-specific maleness or male-specific terminology to God because that’s biblical. In biblical times, that made sense, as males were understood as having the seed of life…women were essentially flowerpots in which the male seed might germinate; note, only women were spoken of as barren in the Bible. We know more now…in the late 1800s, science uncovered a new reality: women were equal to men in life-giving reproductive capacity. That women produce an egg was discovered in the late 19th century. Women, just as men, Men can no longer be equated with the gender or sex that alone bears the seed of life. We now know that if a couple fails to conceive, it’s not necessarily the woman’s fault (in the Bible, childless married women were shamed as barren – there was no understanding that her husband might have a low or non-existent sperm count). I am not comfortable, given the knowledge we have now, in idolizing the use of male-specific language when speaking of God. I find it expansive, illuminating, and as a woman, liberating, to use a variety of characterizations when referring to God, including both male and female specific characterizations. I’m not living in another era when the knowledge we have now was not known then.
My opinion. Feel free to differ. Neither your understanding or mine lessens our respective faith.
Comment by Steve on January 2, 2021 at 9:16 pm
Diane, you have not answered any questions as to how much of the money they take in they actually share. The Episcopal way of putting that has been, time, talent, treasure. In everything you post, you always dismiss treasure, as if your alleged anecdotal offerings of time and talent matter. This is why in cases of natural disasters, it is a never ending source of dismay that people insist on moving their useless bodies to the scene instead of giving money. But continue to kid yourself that they and you are providing anything anybody wants. The one thing they won’t give is treasure, and neither will you apparently, and I can’t help but think less of the alleged faith of a person or organization that takes but will not give treasure.
Comment by Mike on January 3, 2021 at 8:15 am
David, I am reminded of the old saying that the best way to detect counterfeit money is to handle enough of the real thing that you will instantly spot the difference in feel of the counterfeit. The same is true in spiritual things.
The Koran has nothing to add to the words of the Bible. It may have some of the same teachings, but it also has a lot of spiritual “junk”. I briefly examined the reference you gave ( and bear in mind that it is considered wrong to read the Koran in any translation from the original language!) and found it not worthy of even a perusal. It certainly does not have the dignity of the Bible, and there is no sense that it is inspired like the Bible in any way.
Comment by Loren J Golden on January 3, 2021 at 1:52 pm
“For the most part, there is nothing (in the Quran) that would be objectionable to Christians.”
That is, if Christians can bear to see their Lord and Savior emptied of much of His Biblical content (including His deity and oneness with His Father, along with His substitutionary atoning death and bodily resurrection from the dead—the whole purpose for His Incarnation) and then made over into a puppet with a false prophet’s words put into His mouth. And if Christians could agree with Muslims that we do not need a Savior to save us from sin and death, that if our good works outweigh our evil deeds, then we will go to paradise. And if Christians could agree with Muslims that we must refrain from sexual immorality in this world, but that we can enjoy it all in the next—provided that we would all be good little Muslims, of course.
“Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”
Comment by Lee on January 3, 2021 at 9:36 pm
David, you indicated that you felt the quran ” For the most part, there is nothing that would be objectionable to Christians. ” I’m afraid I strongly disagree. It should be objectionable to any Christian that the quran denies both the divinity of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross and resurrection. Islam teaches that Jesus was nothing more than a prophet of the Arab god, “Allah,” who will return to earth in end times to convert all non-muslims to Islam.
And there’s also that small issue of the quran demanding the worship of a false god….
Comment by David F Miller on January 3, 2021 at 9:58 pm
“Puzzling” This is how you describe heresy. I have read stronger condemnation of Evangelical supporters of Trump in this publication. I think you need to evaluate what it is you believe.
Comment by Loren J Golden on January 4, 2021 at 1:03 am
Mr. Miller, I believe the Bible in everything that it says, for it is the inerrant Word of God (i.e., it is the Word of God [II Tim. 3.14-17, II Pet. 1.19-21], God wants not for knowledge [I Sam. 2.3, 16.7, Job 37.16, Ps. 94.9, 139.1-6, Is. 29.15-16, 40.27-28, Jer. 17.10, Jn. 2.25, Rom. 11.33], wisdom [I Kg. 3.9-12, Job 12.13, Prov. 8, Dan. 2.20-23, Rom. 11.33-35, I Cor. 1.18-25, 2.6-13], veracity [Num. 23.19, Is. 65.16, Jn. 14.6, 17.3,17, Tit. 1.2, Heb. 6.18, I Jn. 5.20], or power [Gen. 17.1, Job 12.13, Ps. 115.3, Jer. 32.17, Dan. 2.20, Mt. 19.26, Lk. 1.37, Rom. 1.20, Eph. 1.19-20, 3.20, Rev. 4.8], and therefore neither does His Word), and I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ should be beholden to no man and to no political party or philosophy; after all, the Lord Jesus sided with neither the Pharisees nor the Sadducees during His earthly ministry (Mt. 22.15-23.36). (In this, He was represented by Treebeard, who said, “I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side”; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings III.4, emphasis original.)
I believe to be sin both abortion (i.e., all human beings are made in the image of God [Gen. 1.26-27, 5.1, I Cor. 11.7, Jas. 3.9], human life begins at conception [Ps. 51.5, 139.13-16, Is. 49.5, Jer. 1.5, Mt. 1.18, Lk. 1.13-15,31-36], and the taking of the life of an image-bearer of God is sin [Gen. 9.5-6, Ex. 20.13, 21.14,22-24]) and homosexuality (Gen. 19.4-7, Lev. 18.22, 20.13, Dt. 23.17-18, Judg. 19.22-25, I Kg. 14.24, 15.12, 22.46, II Kg. 23.7, Rom. 1.24-28, I Cor. 6.9-11, I Tim. 1.8-11, Jude 7).
Likewise, I believe to be sin the failure to love one’s enemies (Mt. 5.43-48, Lk. 6.32-36) and the intemperate use of one’s tongue (Mt. 5.22, 12.36-37, Mk. 7.20, Jas. 3.1-12), especially when one misrepresents one’s enemy and thereby commits a violation of the Ninth Commandment (Ex. 20.16). Besides, the Lord Jesus commanded, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (Jn. 7.24), and the Apostle Paul likewise commanded, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” (I Cor. 5.12-13)
Further, I believe it to be an egregious mistake to seek secular political solutions for the sins of society, rather than to implore the Sovereign Lord to intervene and to trust in Him to make things right in this land. The majority of people in this land do not trust in the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, they should not be expected to act as if they did, even if by their political policies, which they intend for the benefit of society, should end up wreaking great evil therein. Calling them names, as at least one poster in the Comments Sections on this site has done, will not get them to change their ways. They are like the people of Nineveh, “who do not know their right hand from their left,” on whom the Lord had pity when He granted them repentance after the Prophet Jonah preached to them (Jon. 4.11). Should not the Church of Jesus Christ likewise have pity on the unbelievers of this land who sin against God in their ignorance, while remaining resolute in the truth of Jesus Christ and His inerrant Word, and speak of and to them accordingly? Or is it not written that, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15.1)?
So then, I fail to see why you think of my ironic reply to David’s comment as “puzzling”, or why it is you think that I “need to evaluate what it is (I) believe.”
Comment by Fr William Bauer PhD on January 4, 2021 at 11:20 am
I was once a member of the Episcopal Church and saw its demise. I am now a priest in the oldest Church there is – Orthodoxy. There are and have been no dogma changes ever in the Church.
Comment by Byron on January 4, 2021 at 12:06 pm
Diane, how many invites do Episcopalians get from Muslims to preach at Ramadan?
How can a book written 600 years after years know anything about Jesus? It even gets the Trinity wrong, thinking it include God the father, Jesus and his mother Mary.
Comment by Barbara on January 4, 2021 at 3:15 pm
The last time I read the Koran, it had nothing good to say about Christians or Jews- to put it mildly- or people in any other religion than Muslim. And, it should be obvious to all that we are living in the days of Jude. “Certain persons have crept in,” and “these men (and women) …defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.” Jude 11: Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong in to the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah…. And Jude 18: that they were saying to you, “In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”
Comment by Jess Leonidas Reeves on January 4, 2021 at 3:48 pm
This perverted, puerile nonsense that any priest or bishop worth two cents would have banned as laughable and so totally inappropriate as to be shameful, finds a home in TED (the episcopal denomination – hardly a “church”) these days. It is amazing there are enough dullards or deluded to finance these shenanigans. Shame on all the past “members” of those congregations for abandoning the Faith and those who are being grossly misguided.
Comment by Paul Zesewitz on January 4, 2021 at 5:11 pm
Let me get this straight. Episcopalians are quoting from a holy book that tells its adherents to ‘kill the infidel’. That alone is contradictory to Scripture: thou shalt not kill. Ring a bell? Maybe those folks in California should just get it out of the way and change the name of their church to the First Quranic Episcopal Church next.
Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) on January 5, 2021 at 10:40 am
“A decision to elevate the holy text or prayers of another religion on Christmas, especially a tradition that specifically contradicts Christian teaching on the divinity of Christ, alongside Christian scriptures and prayers is puzzling.”
“Puzzling!” is an understatement.
The Episcopal persons stole the idea from the Cao Dai’s. To this I can prove with personal experience.
In 1970, I accepted an invitation from my S. Vietnamese interpreter to attend a midnight Christmas Eve event at his local Cao Dia place of worship. Small, non-descript building made of cinder blocks. Maybe 12 people there. Harmless looking.
Cao Dai (AKA Caodaism or Caodaiism) is a religious movement founded in Vietnam (1926) that mixed ideas and personalities from several other religions as it combined persons and principles from Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism, and Islam. (I’m not making this up, Jeff.)
I remember seeing small statues/photos of a mix of persons that included Lincoln and Churchill in a display case near the entry.
So the fraudulent, virtue-signaling Episcapols are ripping off the Cao Dia’s – for whom I retain respect today.
Comment by David Miller on January 5, 2021 at 1:37 pm
Ms Golden, I apologize for appearing to criticize you. I was taking issue with how Mr Walton found the reading of Islam during Christmas services to be puzzling.. I believe we probably have much in agreement.
Comment by Loren J Golden on January 5, 2021 at 2:49 pm
Mr. Miller, apology accepted.
A brief correction, however: The title before my name should be Mr., not Ms. The title Ms. applies to my wife (although there the title would more appropriately be Mrs.), to either of our two young daughters, or to my unmarried sister. Please note that the spelling of my name is masculine, whereas the spelling Lauren is feminine.