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Interfaith worship generates hate mail

Interfaith worship generates hate mail

A New Jersey priest gets hate mail for having an interfaith worship service with Muslims in his church.

North reports:

The Rev. Andrew Butler of Montclair’s progressive St. John’s Episcopal Church has been receiving hate mail, calling him a “damn fool” and saying that he has made a “mockery out of Christianity,” because he decided to hold an interfaith worship service for both Muslims and Christians.

The May 22 service was intended to unite Christian and Muslim traditions and together worship God, Butler said.

But his efforts were met with hostility, when he received 10 written and typed letters, and a dozen emails, saying, “Your action was wrong,” and “Muslims are not our friends.”

“It’s disturbing to me,” Butler said. “It’s disturbing, and shocking, and yet fascinating at the same time.”

Butler said he has not received any direct threats.

The letters began arriving after Butler posted a release about the event on an online site operated by the Episcopal News Service. Some letters came from America’s Midwest, and as far away as New Zealand, he said.

“A lot of them are saying I’m being unfaithful to Christian teachings and to my ordination vows … for inviting [Muslims] in to participate with us in our worship service and to hold them up as equal,” Butler said.

The service at the church, at 55 Montclair Ave., began with a call to prayer. Verses from the Quran and the Bible were read, led by the church’s rector, the Rev. Andrew Butler, and Abdul-Alim Mubarak-Rowe, assistant imam at Masjid Waritj ud Deen in Irvington, and journalist Anisa Mehdi.

“We have interfaith couples in our church, so the whole notion of being married to someone of a different faith is not new for a lot of folks here, so it really wasn’t that much of a stretch for our parish,” Butler said.

But some people don’t see it that way – including, apparently, some men of the cloth.

One of the emails came from a retired Orthodox priest who wrote: “To read selected bits from the Koran, in a so-called Christian Church service, is apostasy. What a fool you are to believe that Christianity and Islam worship the same God … You are the sort of priest that has made a mockery out of Christianity, one that is unable to stand up for the faith … Let me give you a bit of advice, son, the entire meaning and purpose of life is to attain heaven. If you believe that this sort of compromise is going to bring you or your congregation closer to heaven you’re a damn fool. Chip it in stone.”

Butler said many of the people who wrote to him called themselves “concerned Christians.”


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rick allen

I don’t agree with the comments of the objectors, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call their objections “hate mail.” To disagree strongly is not to hate.

“Damn fool,” I guess, is closest, but it’s pretty tame by contemporary web standards. (Maybe “rakka” would have been worse.)

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