The Scripture readings included a text from the Quran. A Muslim woman gave the sermon. Then, during the Eucharist, the Bishop communed her.
He later explained that his diocese practices “open communion.” (Even for the unbaptized? For non-Christians?)
The Muslim woman received the Host. But, as a good Muslim, she declined the Wine.
At least someone in the service was faithful to her religion.
Illustration: Interfaith Banner, photograph by Sean, Flickr, Creative Commons License
Soumaya Khalifah’s sermon fell in the usual place in the Holy Week rite in which Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta clergy renewed their vows – after a Gospel passage and before the consecration of bread and wine as Holy Communion.In this Mass, the Liturgy of the Word also included a Quran reading, including: “God, there is no god but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting. Neither slumber overtakes Him nor sleep. Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth. Who is there who may intercede with Him save by His leave?”
Khalifah asked leaders from the region’s 96 Episcopal parishes an obvious question: Was this an historic moment, with a Muslim woman preaching in a liturgy for an entire Christian diocese? . . . .
After her sermon, Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright invited Khalifah to join clergy and others at the altar for the Eucharistic prayers consecrating the bread and wine. As the worshippers stepped forward to receive Holy Communion, the bishop said Khalifah took part.
“She held out her hand to receive the Host and it is not my practice to refuse people,” said Wright, reached by telephone. He noted that “open Communion” is common across his diocese, especially with visitors. Khalifah returned to her seat without receiving the consecrated wine, the bishop said.
“They gave me the bread,” said Khalifah, in a separate interview. “I am a Muslim. I am not a Christian. … This service was about what we have in common, the work we can do together.”