A lone Christian woman protester was evicted from a controversial Muslim prayer service led by South African Ambassador to the United States Ebrahim Rasool in the Washington National Cathedral on Friday (November 14).
The woman, Christine Weick, 50, who slipped through tight security at the by-invitation-only service organised by Rasool and the cathedral’s Rev Canon Gina Campbell spoke out loudly after beginning announcements were made, saying: “Jesus Christ died on that cross over there! He is the reason why we are to worship only him. Jesus Christ is our lord and savior!”
The historic Episcopal cathedral which has hosted inauguration services and funeral services for Presidents for more than a century says it allowed a Muslim prayer service for the first time on Friday to foster more understanding and acceptance between Christians and Muslims around the world. Previously the cathedral has hosted interfaith events in which Muslims have offered prayers but Friday was the first time it has allowed Muslims to hold their own prayer service in the cathedral.
Prior to the service Rev Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Dr Billy Graham, criticised the cathedral’s decision, saying (in a Facebook post):“It’s sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins. Jesus was clear when He said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6).”
Other public opponents of the service included the Center for Security Policy in Washington DC which released a letter to the cathedral and he Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, the Rt Rev Mariann Budde, urging the cancellation of the event and stating that some of the participating Muslim groups were connected with the radical Muslim Brotherhood, leading to concerns that the service would “be a highly symbolic demonstration of Islamic supremacism.”
But it was Christine Weick from Michigan who was most bold in her objection to the Muslim prayer service. As she began speaking out a man attempted to touch her arm but she moved away from him several times.
She continued in a loud voice: “We have built, and allowed you here in mosques across this country. Why can’t you worship in your mosque, and leave our churches alone?”
Weick was then escorted out of the cathedral by a minister and by cathedral police. After the service, outside the church, she said she was not arrested, and was not harmed in the altercation.
“I did it for the Lord”
“I didn’t do it for myself,” she said. “I did it for the Lord.”
Weick said God loves Muslims and so does she. However she said it is time for Christians to stand up for the truth.
“We need to warrior-up, take on the whole armor of God, we got the helmet of salvation, we got the sword, we need to start fighting and quit compromising,” she said.
View video of protest:
Representatives from five Muslim groups addressed the gathering during Friday’s prayer service which was held in the north transept, an area of the cathedral with arches and limited iconography. Cathedral staff identified the transept as “an ideal space–almost mosque-like–with the appropriate orientation for Muslim prayers.”
In his sermon, Ambassador Rasool noted appreciation to the church for making the facility available, but explained the group chose not to have prayers in the “main church” (the nave) “lest subsequent generations of Muslims see that as a license to appropriate the church for Islam”
Rasool appealed for an end to extremist attacks on Christian monasteries and violence that has increasingly occurred in the Middle East.
“If we don’t stop it at monasteries, they will come after mosques for this or that,” Rasool said of Muslim extremists, who he predicted could quickly direct their attacks against Shi’a and Sufi Muslims, or anyone else who did not meet their idealised version of Islam. Rasool also addressed violent actions of ISIS as “shocking the conscience of the world.”
The Friday prayers event at the cathedral will be recurring said another speaker, Rizwan Jaka, a member of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society of America (ISNA) which according to CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and in 2007 was named by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history.
In her welcoming comments, the cathedral’s Rev Canon Gina Campbell noted she has learned the patterns and practices of prayer from Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs and others. Stating that “Openness to those whose prayer differs from our own is one thing” but that preparedness to exercise hospitality is another, Campbell announced that “deep relationships come out of shared prayer.”
At the conclusion of the event, Cathedral Dean Gary Hall recalled St Benedict and his dual emphasis on prayer and hospitality.
“The Christianity St Benedict embodied is representative of what we see here today,” Hall announced, wondering aloud “how many people are chagrinned at the public face of extremist Christianity.”
“We are at a moment where we are confident enough in our own traditions not to try to convert one another,” Hall offered. In a 2012 interview with the Detroit Free Press Hall announced that he is, “not about trying to convert someone to Christianity. I don’t feel I’m supposed to convert Jews or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or Native Americans to Christianity so that they can be saved. That’s not an issue for me.”
In the same interview Hall also shared about finding common cause with those who do not profess a faith in Jesus Christ.
“I have much more in common with progressive Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists than I do with certain people in my own tradition, with fundamentalist Christians,” Hall declared. “The part of Christianity I stand with is the part in which we can live with ambiguity and with pluralism.”
Other controversial events that have taken place in the sanctuary of the National Cathedral include Tibetan sand painting by monks and a Native American smudging ceremony, in which a gift of smoking tobacco leaves was offered to welcome spirits from the four cardinal directions.