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Glasgow cathedral Provost reflects on Epiphany Quran reading

Glasgow cathedral Provost reflects on Epiphany Quran reading

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.

Photo via Edinburgh Pride on Pinterest


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Father Mike Waverly-Shank

The Shema Version of the summary in the traditional version reads – The Lord our God, the Lord is ONE. The think the real debate here is fear and hatred of Islam

Joshua Castano

Reading the Quran at Christian services, as has been done in TEC parishes here (such as All Saints, Pasadena) is not only cynical and problematic, it quite clearly diminishes and refutes the Christian understanding and worship of Christ as “true God and true Man.” While dialogue, academic exchange, and personal engagement with the texts of our related Abrahamic faiths is not only important but necessary in the times in which we live, it is completely inappropriate to use the Quran within Christian liturgy. In an Adult Forum I’d be glad to have it and discuss quite clearly where our faiths’ understandings and relationship to Christ, the Son of God, differs — but in the context of liturgy it is confusing and could easily promote erroneous conflations between our traditions for many of the faithful. Further its a kind of cynical post-Christian thing to do that leaves us looking like Unitarians in surplices.

David Allen

I cannot in any form understand how reading a Quran in the Cathedral’s service was cynical.

Cynicism is an attitude or state of mind characterized by a general distrust of others’ motives. A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in the human species or people motivated by ambition, desire, greed, gratification, materialism, goals, and opinions that a cynic perceives as vain, unobtainable, or ultimately meaningless and therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment.
– Wikipedia

I’ve never met Father Kelvin face-to-face, but I know him and have interacted with him for years over the internet through his own blog and other websites. There isn’t anything cynical about him. If I had to give my own impression as to why he has invited readings from the Quran, now twice in St Mary’s services, it is to convey to his flock and community that even folks outside the Christian faith have a reverence and regard for Jesus. This breaks down walls, enlightens ignorance and attempts to create trust in communities that are told otherwise about people who are Muslim.

Fr. William McQueen

Mr. Costano,

What a perfect summation of why this is so categorically wrong on so many levels.

Paul Woodrum

Let me see. When was the last time I heard a Canonical New Testament pericope read at the local Mosque?

David Allen

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Christianity isn’t a tit for tat faith.

Fr. Will McQueen


Can you please clarify your statement regarding the Summary of the Law and why you believe it refutes the Trinity? I’ve never heard that accusation before, and I’ve heard plenty of accusations regarding the theology of the 1979 BCP.

Thanks for your help.

Bill Ghrist

I assume he is referring to the summary of the law in ‘A Penitential Order: Rite Two,’ which includes Jesus’ invocation of the Shema Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is the only Lord.” I agree that this hardly seems to be a refutation of the doctrine of the Trinity, which says that God is one God in three persons, not three Gods. Obviously non-Christian Jews would not interpret this in a Trinitarian way, but if Jesus said it (as a good Jew himself) then I think anyone who does accept the doctrine of the Trinity would have to accept that the Shema Israel is compatible with a Trinitarian understanding of God.

Father Mike Waverly-Shank

We read the appocrypha (sp?) in Church with the proviso that we don’t use it for doctrine. So why not the Quran and with the same proviso? Muslims are one of the three religions of Abraham.

Fr. William McQueen

Because the undivided church prior to the reformation did consider the Apocrypha to be Scripture. That has never and hopefully will never be the case with the Koran. I am frankly astounded that this is even an issue.

Father Mike Waverly-Shank

Ok, but what about the version of the summary of the Law from Mark that refutes the Trinity? It’s in Rite 2 and I use it.

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