The head of the Scottish Episcopal Church says the Church is “deeply distressed” at the offence caused by the reading of a passage from the Koran in a Glasgow Cathedral. The Primus, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, also condemned a subsequent wave of abuse received by St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. Police have confirmed they are investigating offensive online messages received by the cathedral.
Members of the city's Muslim community had been invited to join the congregation at an Epiphany service as a way of promoting understanding between the two faiths. The passage that was read out, sparking criticism, related to the Virgin Birth.
In an online post the Primus said: “The decisions which have led to the situation in St Mary’s Cathedral are a matter for the provost and the cathedral community but the Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused. We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the cathedral community.”
He pledged to bring those involved in developing interfaith relations together: “Those who seek to work in the area of interfaith relationships must weigh carefully whether the choices which they make are appropriate or otherwise. In today’s world, those judgements must give careful consideration to good relationships which have been carefully nurtured over many years in a local context. They must also weigh carefully the way in which national and international issues shape perceptions of what is appropriate or inappropriate.”
He added: “Our intention will be as a church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect. Our desire is that this should be a worthy expression of the reconciliation to which all Christians are called."
Responding to the furore, the Cathedral's provost, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, in his sermon on Sunday, said the Epiphany service was aimed at promoting understanding between the two faiths – but said he had witnessed a ‘storm of abuse’ from ‘10,000 'Christian' voices claiming to know what happened here that night’.
“I would not have wished the week that I have had on anyone,” he went on. “The international hue and cry about our Epiphany service was not something anyone here was seeking. Our aim and the aim of all involved was to bring God's people together and learn from one another - something that did, beneath the waves of the storm happen, and continues to happen. Nobody at that service that night could be in any doubt that we proclaimed the divinity of Christ and preached the Gospel of God's love.”