Motivated by Love
Last week was a painful one for those of us in the Diocese of Southwark. If you want to know what happened, please read my previous blog post ‘Sacrilege in Southwark’. We are thankful for this press release which came out on Friday:
“The Bishop of Southwark takes very seriously his responsibility to uphold the teaching of the Church and to work within its framework of legislation and guidance. It is quite clear that Islamic prayer should not take place in a consecrated building. This is why he has asked the Bishop of Kingston to investigate fully what happened. It is inappropriate to seek to make further public comments on this matter until this has happened.”
Please join me in praying for the Bishops of Southwark and Kingston as they investigate and take appropriate action.
Some may be wondering what motivated me to make a public comment which was reported in the national press and ITV London last Friday. The answer is: love.
Above all, we love the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And therefore when his name is dishonoured publicly, we should be grieved and seek to ‘hallow’ his name as we pray week by week in the Lord’s prayer. The true and living God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (see for example Mark 1:11, Ephesians 1:3). His name has been dishonoured: not because some ‘sacred space’ has been ‘defiled’, but because the Triune God is not the same person as Allah. To suggest that he is implies that there is another name under heaven besides Jesus' by which we may be saved (see Acts 4:12).
Secondly, we love Muslim people! We were heart-broken that Muslim prayers should be held in a Christian church and affirmed by the Vicar, not because of some Islamophobia which is always wrong, but precisely because we love Muslims. We long to build bridges of friendship and respect with them, to remove misunderstandings. Above all we long to share with them, as indeed with everyone, the good news of Jesus. But that will not happen by pretending that here are no differences between us or that we're all worshipping the same God. So we’re all for inter-faith dialogue, but we're not at all for inter-faith worship. What happened at St John’s Waterloo was inter-faith worship. But even as we are against that, we long to love all people – including all Muslim people. And the most loving thing we can do for anyone is share with them the good news that salvation is found in Christ alone.
And thirdly we love the church. I imagine that there will be those who say we are being divisive or schismatic over this and other issues which threaten the health and unity of the Church of England. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are continuing to uphold what the Bible clearly teaches, the church has always confessed, and the vast majority of Anglicans around the world believe about salvation and sexuality. It is bewildering to see others departing from the faith once delivered to the saints. As we stand unmoved from that faith, we do so because we love the church and long to see it full of the grace and truth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
So what should we do now? Three things at this stage:
Pray. We’re in a spiritual battle, and we need to wage war against the right enemy (the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms) and in the right way (with prayer and the word of God)
Love. Love Jesus, love his church, and love all people enough to share the gospel with them.
Wait. The Bishop of Southwark has asked the Bishop of Kingston to investigate fully what happened. Let’s see what they find and what action they take.