A church in the U.K. is facing scrutiny after the vicar reportedly offered to “cover up” the devotional images of Jesus as well as the crosses in the building so Muslims could use the space to observe Ramadan.
The Rev. Lissa Scott and former Darlington Mayor Gerald Lee hatched the plan for the St. Matthew and St. Luke Church during a meeting last week, according to The Sunday Times.
For the duration of the unity event, the building’s cross as well as an image of Jesus, a copy of “The Light of the World” by the pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt, would be covered.
According to a copy of the meeting’s minutes, which were reviewed by the Times, one aisle in the church will “be cleared of chairs for Muslim men to say prayers. Cover Christian crosses/photographs in small rooms for ladies to say prayers.”
Reaction was swift
The Diocese of Durham responded not long after news of the agreement spread, informing the church it is not to host a Muslim prayer event in the Church of England facility.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Durham told Premier, “While it is vital to build good interfaith relations, it is clear that an act of worship from a non-Christian faith tradition is not permitted within a consecrated Church of England building.”
The spokesperson pointed to church law, which forbids events from unfolding in the facility if they are in any way “contrary to … the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter.”
“There seems initially to have been some misunderstanding locally of this,” the spokesperson added, “but that has been resolved now, with plans for Muslim prayers to be held in a nearby building, then the whole community coming together for a celebratory meal inside the church.”