2014 in the Episcopal Church was another semi bizarre year-
2 momentous things ( OK semi momentous) events occurred- these involved a wonderful prestigious Univeristy the University of the South ( called Sewanee) and the National Cathederal in the USA in Washington D.C>
Sewanee’s seminary chapel was used for a same-sex union and the National Cathedral began hosting Muslim Friday prayers.
Is a Church just a building that can be used for any purpose or should the line be drawn somewhere ?
would the Lutherans or others allow a sect that denies the divinity of Christ use its premises?
I don’t see the problem with a church that recognizes same-sex marriages actually performing (or hosting) such a union. In fact it would be quite inconsistent if they hadn’t. But Muslim Friday prayers? Has the Episcopal Church become Unitarian? Assuming the Episcopal Church is still a Christian church that preaches no one comes to the Father but through Christ, it isn’t at all appropriate to host services for another religion. I’m sure the Muslims would have the good sense to not allow their mosques to be used for Mass!
The National Cathedral is under the control of the Episcopalian Church, but, does host services for just about any denomination since it is the “National” Cathedral, or more like a Cathedral for our nation.
One of the parishes I attend is in the process of building an new Church, and the local Lutheran Church (LCMS) has been very gracious in allowing us to use their Church for Mass.
I don’t see a problem as long as the visiting congregation respects the sanctity of the hosting denomination.
I don’t think this matters much, unless the National Cathedral is somehow public property and the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment applies. If it doesn’t, non-Christian religions should not celebrate their services in Christian churches.
There’s a big difference between one Christian group allowing worship by another Christian group, and one Christian group allowing Muslims (a very non-Christian group) to have a prayer service that intrinsically includes anti-Christian readings from the Quran.
Especially when you should know that Muslims believe any place they’ve held a prayer service is automatically turned into a Muslim place of worship forever. And that if Muslim groups come into control of a country, all those places are supposed to be instantly made into mosques, and the Christians thrown out. (This is often a big issue today in mostly Muslim, partly Christian countries, and it certainly got a lot of play during the Muslim invasions and the Middle Ages.)
Ecumenism and interfaith relationships are useless if they require one party to give while the other party just takes, or if the tenets of one prevent any real relationship with the other. In that case, it’s better to promote a more secular kind of friendship between people of different faiths, rather than promising more than anyone of either faith can do, in good conscience while keeping to their faiths.
It’s also proper for a host to set boundaries. For example, pretty much any use of a Catholic church for stuff besides Mass, liturgical worship, devotional worship, and choir practice means that you have to move the Blessed Sacrament and the Tabernacle out of the body of the church and into a nice safe chapel or other suitable place.
Even then, you can’t let people up on the area around the altar. They can’t use the Gospel ambo for anything but reading the Gospel, so you need to move a microphone out somewhere onto the floor in the center aisle or over on the side. You can’t let people play around with statues or crucifixes. You can’t have secular, totally non-religious or anti-religious concerts or plays. Etc.
A corollary point could also be made of what is a Church (congregation)?. The building, the temple, is the place of worship for the Church. To allow the temple to be used for other than Christian worship, in the case of a Christian temple, would be to admit that the temple holds no real significance in terms of spiritual community life.
To allow a religious service that is contrary to the teachings of the Church in whose temple the service takes place is indeed a capitulation to the non believer. As such, to allow a muslim prayer service in a Christian cathedral would be anathema to the values of the worshiping community.
A church is a building owned by an institution, and that institution can decide whom or what to allow in that space.
Therefore, if the cathedral congregation are happy to allow Muslims to pray there, and the seminarians are happy with same-sex weddings, both should be fine. If the people are not happy, then allowing those will cause stress within the religious community.
Anglican cathedrals (and, I suspect, Catholic ones in majority-Catholic countries, too) are rather vulnerable to being perceived as civic institutions rather than as religious sites. I have heard of a few such cathedrals needing to assert their rights to their own spaces, e.g., telling musical societies that church services actually have a higher priority than concerts do.
Theologically, church buildings are common buildings or meeting-houses and not holy buildings. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and temple were considered the holy dwelling-place of God. In the New Testament, this is relocated: most importantly to the Lord Jesus Christ himself (John 2:21); to the church as in the people of God, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Peter 2:5); and of course to the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 8:5).
As such, the use of church buildings for common purposes that are otherwise lawful is fine, as long as it does not cause a stumbling-block. A Christian or Christian group, however, which allows its buildings to be used for sinful purposes, such as the solemnization of homosexual unions or the worship of idols (such as the god of Islam), is committing a grave sin.
Gee, those Lutherans sure forgot to be anti-Catholic, didn’t they?
Churches are buildings -buildings set aside for holy purposes- but only buildings nonetheless. I’m reminded of that Gruntvig hymn “Built on a Rock, the Church doth stand.” The visible church will exist no matter whether a building stands. God’s sacraments and and Word can be shared anywhere. All that said, in countries that permit free worship, I think it’s good practice not to allow the “meat sacrificed to idols” inside a house of worship. Let a church remain a place for Christian worship and prayer, not secular events or pagan worship.
Built on the Rock the church doth stand,
Even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in every land,
Bells still are chiming and calling;
Calling the young and old to rest,
But above all the soul distressed,
Longing for rest everlasting.
Surely in temples made with hands,
God, the Most High, is not dwelling;
High above earth His temple stands,
All earthly temples excelling;
Yet He whom heavens cannot contain
Chose to abide on earth with men,
Built in our bodies His temple.
We are God’s house of living stones,
Builded for His habitation;
He through baptismal grace us owns,
Heirs of His wondrous salvation;
Were we but two His Name to tell,
Yet He would deign with us to dwell,
With all His grace and His favor.
Now we may gather with our King;
Even in the lowliest dwelling:
Praises to Him we there may bring,
His wondrous mercy foretelling;
Jesus His grace to us accords,
Spirit and life are all His words,
His truth doth hallow the temple.
Still we our earthly temples rear,
That we may herald His praises;
They are the homes where He draws near
And little children embraces,
Beautiful things in them are said,
God there with us His covenant made,
Making us heirs of His Kingdom.
Here stands the font before our eyes
Telling how God did receive us;
The altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice
And what His table doth give us;
Here sounds the Word that doth proclaim
Christ yesterday, today, the same,
Yea, and for aye our Redeemer.
Grant then, O God, wherever men roam,
That, when the church bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come
Where Christ His message is bringing:
“I know Mine own, Mine own know Me;
Ye, not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you. Amen”