© Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited St Matthew and St Luke’s Church in Darlington, where men who from a nearby mosque were invited to pray in the aisle of the church, while Muslim women were offered an adjoining set of rooms
A church has raised eyebrows after offering to ‘cover up’ a cross and allow Muslims to say prayers in its building during Ramadan.
As part of the plans, men who attend a nearby mosque were reportedly invited to use the aisle of the parish church in Darlington as a place of prayer.
Muslim women were also offered space in adjoining rooms of St Matthew and St Luke’s church, it is claimed.
The proposals are said to have been discussed in a meeting on May 9 and attended by the Reverend Lissa Scott.
It is also claimed members were told that a devotional image of Jesus, a copy of The Light of the World by the pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt, would be covered up, reports The Sunday Times .
The newspaper reported that minutes from the meeting read: “One aisle in church to be cleared of chairs for Muslim men to say prayers.
“Cover Christian crosses/ photographs in small rooms for ladies to say prayers.”
The Diocese of Durham has since intervened in the fiasco and told the church it must not hold Islamic prayers in the church building.
It stated that church law does not permit acts of worship by non-Christians in a Church of England building.
Christian Episcopal Church Bishop Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen, is among those to slam the plans.
He said: “When Muslims come into our church, we invite them to come in and respect Jesus. If we accepted an invitation to go into a mosque, we would respect Muhammad.”
Speaking of the Diocese’s decision to get involved, he added to Premier: “They realise that the vicar made a silly mistake, but I’m glad it happened because it was raises in the public eye some important issues which people need to work through.
“Islam and Christianity are not Abrahamic cousins in Middle Eastern religion. They’re actually antithetic to each other.”
It is understood the event will go ahead, but prayers will be said elsewhere.
In a statement to Premier, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Durham said: “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.
“This is a legal position outlined in Canons B1/2/3 and B5 Section 3 where it states: ‘all forms of service used under this Canon shall be reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter’.
“There seems initially to have been some misunderstanding locally of this, 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.”
St Matthew and St Luke’s church has been contacted for a comment.