In an interview with the Sunday Herald, the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, reflects on the continuing after-effects of that congregation’s inclusion of a reading from the Quran in their Epiphany liturgy.
He stands by his decision to include Muslim neighbors, and their holy book, in the cathedral’s Epiphany celebration. He also has some opinions on why, after having read the Quran in church before, he and his congregation got such a virulent response this time around.
The controversy that raged was not something Mr Holdsworth ever expected and, in his first interview about the affair, he says he believes the criticism over the Koran reading was much fiercer because of his sexuality. He also admits that he was shocked and shaken by what happened, but what hasn’t changed is his view on whether the Koran should have been read in his church. “I believe in what I do here and I think what we did was right and I still do,” he says.
His views on why the furore kicked off in precisely the way it did are also interesting – he thinks the referendums on Scottish independence and Europe have changed the way people think and made them more willing to hurl abuse on social media. But he has also tried to put the hate into context.
“There is a sense in which this is a kind of pantomime mob,” he says, “although to call it a pantomime is perhaps to not take it seriously enough, because some of it was violent and alarming, yet it is something that moves on. Whereas the congregation hasn’t moved on – they are still sitting there and they are still saying: let’s be a generous people.”
The police are still investigating death threats against Holdsworth; but not all of the fallout from the reading has been negative.
Mr Holdsworth also, several weeks on, feels rather vindicated by the 20 per cent rise in the number of people coming to St Mary’s on a Sunday since the affair. And he is certainly not changing his behaviour. Most of the hate came via the internet and yet on the day I visit, like most days, the provost has twitter running constantly on his PC. I ask whether he was tempted to keep away from social media after everything that happened, but he thinks exactly the opposite. “People are online now so that’s where we need to be,” he says. “We can’t abandon public spaces to the crazy people.”
Read the full interview with the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth at the Herald.
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