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Rev Jules Gomes: Readings from the Koran have no place in a Christian church

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In the village of Al Aour, 150 miles south of Cairo, 23-year-old widow Mariam Farhat, praises her husband for refusing to deny Christ, even when ISIS was chopping off his head. In the city of Glasgow, 51-year-old Kelvin Holdsworth, Rector and Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, invites a Muslim into his cathedral publicly to deny the divinity of Christ and instead of apologising, openly defends this ugly blasphemy by calling it ‘dialogue.’

Every five minutes, a Christian is martyred for his faith. Christians face persecution in 105 of the world’s 196 countries through northern and western Africa, across the Middle East, throughout Asia and down into Indonesia. Much of the bloodiest persecution is from Islamic militants.

Why? For Muslims, the Christian doctrine of God as Trinity is blasphemy in the highest. ‘Lo! Whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden Paradise. His abode is the Fire…. They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve’ (Sura 5:72-73). Did you know that the Koran condemns you to hell, Rev Holdsworth?

To claim that Jesus is the Son of God is to heap blasphemy upon blasphemy. God cannot have a son since he has no wife, which means Jesus can only be God’s Son if Mary is God’s wife, so runs the logic of the Koran. One of the foundational beliefs of Islam is its vehement denial of Jesus as God’s Son. This denial echoes several times throughout the Koran.

‘…Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!’ (Surah 9:30 Yusuf Ali). Did you know that the Koran curses you for celebrating Christmas and Epiphany, Rev Holdsworth — the very festival on which you decided to invite Madinah Javed to read the Koran from the lectern in your cathedral?

Rev Holdsworth wants his cathedral to be ‘open, inclusive and welcoming.’ That is what he trumpets in his mission statement on the portals of his cathedral’s website. In fact, St Mary’s Cathedral is so open and inclusive that it offers same-sex nuptials to gays and lesbians with the exchange of rings, vows, bells, organ and even a chat about ‘how we understand the Bible in relation to same-sex couples.’

Rev Holdsworth is proudly gay. ‘I’m one of the more outspoken members of clergy who happen to be gay,’ he writes. In 2012, he featured in the Independent’s “Pink List” of ‘influential’ LGBT celebrities. In 2015, he defended the decision of the Rev Giles Goddard, vicar of St John’s Waterloo, to invite a group to have Muslim prayers in his church. Holdsworth rather odd logic proceeded along the lines of associating Muslims and gays. ‘…the trouble seems to be coming from those who are also troubled by his (Goddard’s) offering to affirm gay couples, as much as anything to do with the Muslims,’ blogged Holdsworth.

So let’s get this straight (no pun intended). People who oppose gay marriage in church are the same bigots who also oppose reading the Koran in church. But, Rev Holdsworth, did you know that the same Koran you exalt in your cathedral, also condemns you for ‘ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women’ (Sura 7:81). It pointedly asks if ‘you commit the worst sin such as none preceding you has committed in the ‘Alamin (mankind and jinns)?’

You might say that the Bible is also homophobic. But you then have to tell us why Muslims, not Christians, are throwing gays off buildings and why countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran hang, stone and behead gays. Is it because the same Muhammad who supposedly wrote the Koran also pronounced the death penalty for homosexuals? ‘Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver” (al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152).

Of course, Rev Holdsworth doesn’t do theology. That is why he was unable to justify the use of the particular Koranic reading to the BBC. What would you say to a doctor who doesn’t do medicine or a dentist who doesn’t do teeth or a vet who doesn’t do animals? But in the postmodern Church of England and its sister churches in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, clergy don’t have to do theology. What pushes them up the greasy pole of ecclesiastical office is their skills in inclusion, diversity, multiculturalism, feminism, post-colonialism and management.

And this is not the first time the Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral has cocked-up with the Koran. ‘I’ve twice asked Islamic Scholars (one Shia and one Sunni) to give a reading from the Qur’an during our carol service here in St Mary’s,’ he blogged in 2015.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, an expert on Islam, has called for the Rev Holdsworth to be disciplined and for the Archbishop of Canterbury to distance the Church of England from this event. I’m going to die laughing. Holdsworth claims he got the idea of the Koranic reading from Justin Welby applying ash to the foreheads of Muslims on Ash Wednesday when he was Dean of Liverpool!

I’ve got an even better defence for you, Rev Holdsworth. The next time anybody calls for you to be disciplined and brings Justin Welby into the picture, tell them that you only denied the divinity of Jesus by getting a Muslim to read Sura 15 during the Epiphany Service in your cathedral. Justin Welby went one step ahead. To be more inclusive of atheists, leftists, nihilists, and Beatle maniacs, Welby denied the existence of heaven, hell, religion and country when he got the bells of Liverpool Cathedral to ring out John Lennon’s Imagine in May 2009.

‘Imagine there’s no heaven…. No hell below us… Imagine all the people living for today. Imagine there’s no countries… and no religion, too… Imagine all the people living life in peace.’ Imagine, instead of being disciplined, Justin Welby was made Archbishop of Canterbury. Imagine what can happen to you! You might be the next Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Oh, by the way, do pause and imagine what you will say to widow Mariam Farhat and the wives of the 21 Egyptians and thousands of other Christians murdered and martyred for refusing to deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes
‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes
The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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