Bishops have stepped in after controversial proposals emerged which would have seen Muslims hold Ramadan prayers in a church.
Reverend Lissa Scott and a former County Durham mayor Gerald Lee reportedly came up with the plans for St Matthew and St Luke Church, in Darlington, during a meeting on May 9.
The Sunday Times reports how neighbouring Muslims were told a cross and a well-known devotional image of Jesus, a copy of The Light of the World by the pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt, would be covered up for the special unity event.
Minutes of the meeting, seen by The Sunday Times, said: “One aisle in church to be cleared of chairs for Muslim men to say prayers. Cover Christian crosses/photographs in small rooms for ladies to say prayers.”
Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen and a bishop of the Christian Episcopal Church, criticised the plans.
“When Muslims come into our church, we invite them to come in and respect Jesus. If we accepted an invitation to go into a mosque, we would respect Muhammad,” he said.
“We do not expect them to disrespect Jesus by covering him up and no vicar should either.”
The Diocese of Durham told the newspaper it intervened as canon law states that “an act of worship from a non-Christian faith tradition is not permitted within a consecrated Church of England building”.
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Muslims will still join Christians and other faiths inside the St Matthew and St Luke Church, Darlington, at sunset on June 2 for Iftar, the evening meal with which they end their daily fast.
But no prayers will take place in the church.
Mr Lee said: “We are not trying to convert or upset — we are just trying to bring people together irrespective of language and religion.
“We have simply made an error of judgment and it has been corrected.”
Rev Scott was unavailable for comment.