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Muslim guest preacher at Holy Week renewal of vows in Atlanta

Muslim guest preacher at Holy Week renewal of vows in Atlanta

As clergy and laity across the church meet to renew their baptismal and ordination vows during Holy Week, the Diocese of Atlanta has made an unusual invitation.

The Atlanta Daily World reports that Bishop Robert C. Wright has invited Soumaya Khalifa, the founder and executive director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta to preach at the Holy Week service at St David’s Episcopal Church, Roswell, on Tuesday.

Wright said he chose Khalifa because of her ongoing efforts to bridge the gaps between religions.

“Soumaya provides a wonderful example for how to share the love of God; the same God worshiped by all the world’s Christians, Jews and Muslims,” Wright said. “It is an example that has never been more needed.” …

Tuesday’s is not the first time this Episcopal service has featured a preacher from another religion.  In 2015, Wright arranged to have the renewal service held at The Temple, a Reform synagogue on Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta. The preacher for that service was The Temple’s senior Rabbi Peter S. Berg.

The event announcement on the diocesan website adds further background on the guest preacher.

We bid a warm welcome to Soumaya Khalifa, Executive Director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau, who will be our guest preacher for the service. Soumaya is an American of Egyptian origin. She launched the Islamic Speakers Bureau (ISB) of Atlanta in August 2001. The ISB strives to become the Islamic source for faith and civic collaboration promoting understanding and inclusion. They teach and collaborate in an open way to build a better tomorrow. The ISB has been active in the metro Atlanta area, and its volunteers have presented to thousands in metro Atlanta and surrounding areas about Islam and Muslims.
Soumaya is the founder of Khalifa Consulting, a strategic intercultural and leadership consulting firm. Her career spans more than 25 years in human resources, management, business management and ownership, non-profit, and entrepreneurship. Khalifa Consulting specializes in helping executives and organizations succeed when doing business across cultures by providing them the most relevant, practical, and up to date cross-cultural coaching and training. Khalifa Consulting also offers training and coaching on global virtual teams. Soumaya and team apply this work to a broad range of clients, from large established national and global organizations to startups. Soumaya presents at human resources conferences across the country and writes blogs on different topics. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Houston, and an MBA from Georgia State University.

Read more at the Diocese of Atlanta, and the Atlanta Daily World.

Photo: Soumaya Khalifa via Khalifa Consulting



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Paul Woodrum

Hmmm. Yes. Catholic light, but with good taste.

Thom Forde

Given Episcopalian philosophy, I don’t see this as surprising.

VIcki Holland

I too am unhappy at the thought of the Muslim being invited to speak in a Christian church. We must not confuse Our Lord’s love for all people – indeed He died as the Final Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, for the sins of all those who would trust in Him. I prefer the words of my Lord Jesus Christ: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father except by Me.’ St Paul warned about those who would preach ‘another gospel’ and warned they would be accursed. Yet that is precisely what is happening in Holy Week 2017.

Note: this has been edited to conform to our standards of discussion as outlined in our comment policy

David Allen

St Paul warned about those who would preach ‘another gospel’ and warned they would be accursed.

I think that you make an assumption if you think that was what she did. I would think that if she burned her opportunity as a bridge builder, to evangelize for her faith, that the bishop would have shut her down immediately, without hesitation.

Jay Croft

I agree with Mr. Woodrum.

Many years ago Bishop Walker, of the Diocese of Washington, invited another bishop to preach at the Maundy Thursday service for clergy.

This didn’t go well with us, as we treasured our time with our own bishop.

Paul Woodrum

I greatly admire Bishop Wright and deeply respect his passion for advocating and advancing interfaith understanding. However, I question the appropriateness of using the Holy Week mass of priestly renewal of baptismal and sacred ordination vows and the blessing of holy oils to advance this agenda. Set within the context of our Lord’s passion, crucifixion and resurrection, this is a very special, annual occasion for clergy, with their bishop, to reflect on their shared priesthood and the offering of their lives as disciples of Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. This focus should not be diminished or compromised.

Somehow, having a Muslim preach at this particular liturgy strikes me as promoting a misplaced piety that embraces such things as Jewish Seders during Holy Week and confuses worshipping ‘one’ god with worshipping the ‘same’ god. What’s next? Imams and Rabbis celebrating mass and justifying it as interfaith conversation? There are plenty of other occasions — clergy conferences, annual conventions, interfaith forums, etc — to focus on interfaith understanding and, perhaps more importantly, to engage in real, not faux, dialogue.

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