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Episcopal Priest Praises Mohammed, Vishnu, Buddha, Confucius in Liturgy

ARKANSAS: Episcopal Priest Praises Mohammed, Vishnu, Buddha, Confucius in Rogue All Saints Liturgy

By David W. Virtue
November 20, 2009

When parishioners filed into St. John's Episcopal Church in Harrison, Arkansas, on All Saints Sunday, November 1, they were handed a bulletin that sent shivers down the spines of many of the congregants. It was a case of inclusion gone wild.

The "Litany of all the Saints of God" part of their Sunday liturgy read as follows:

Litany of all the Saints of God

CELEBRANT: Blessed are all you holy ones, the saints, you who have done the will of God, and now rejoice in the reward of Eternal joy.

Holy men and women who worshipped the All Holy One as Rama, Vishnu or the Lord Krishna, forest hermits, ascetics and wise ones whose lives were incarnations of the holy books the Vedas, Upanishads and Gita -

ALL: All you Hindu saints; we praise you for holy are you.

CELEBRANT: Monks, nuns and all holy followers of the blessed Buddha, who, in the peace of Zen, created peace in others; All who sought the bliss of Nirvana with dedication and practiced justice and compassion toward all.

ALL: All you Buddhist saints, we praise you for holy are you.

CELEBRANT: Chosen people of God, children of Abraham and Sara, saints Moses, Ruth, and Rebeccas, holy prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, all prophets and prophetesses, all you martyrs of Dachau and Buchenwald,

ALL: All you Jewish saints we praise you for holy are you.

CELEBRANT: Saints Confucius, Lao Tzu and Chaung Tzu of China, all holy men and women of the Orient, you who lived lives balancing the yin and the yang, and all who found wisdom and grace in the Tao.

ALL: All you Chinese saints, we praise you for holy are you.

CELEBRANT: Holy prophet Mohammed and all holy saints of Islam, all who surrender to the will of Allah: Holy Martyrs of Islam, who with your lives declared the Allah is One and only One, all you whirling dervishes and mystic Sufis, you ecstatic lovers of the divine Beloved.

ALL: All you saints of the Koran, we praise you, for holy are you.

CELEBRANT: All you Incas of Peru, holy Mayans and Aztecs of Mexico, all you Native children of the sun and stars, you who with creative love and sacrifice raised up wondrous temples to your God, holy followers of Lord Khonvum, God of the Pygmies, holy ones of Tane, god of the Polynesians

ALL: All you saints of all tribes, we praise you for holy are you

CELEBRANT: Saints of the Iroquois, Delaware, Dakotas, Hopi and Sioux, holy ones of the Cheyenne, Navajo and Pawnee, Medicine men and women, visionaries and healers, all to whom the animals, fish and trees spoke

ALL: All you Native saints; we praise you, for holy are you

CELEBRANT: All saints of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel, holy husbands and wives, nuns and monks, clergy and missionaries and people of God, all you who lived gospel lives serving others, caring for the poor, the abandoned, and the sick; All you reformers, preachers and teachers, all you holy hermits and mystics. All you Christian saints, we praise you, for holy are you.

All you saints in heaven, we praise you; all you saints on earth we praise you; all you canonized and uncanonized saints, we praise you; all you struggling to be saints, we praise you; all who are unaware that you are saints we praise you; Blessed be all you inside-out saints who are presently sinners, And blessed are all you who believe in the Communion of saints.

Contacted by VirtueOnline, the rector of the parish, Seamus Doyle said that he had been using the liturgy for about 10 years. "I have never thought of sending it to the bishop for his approval or non- approval. I saw no reason to send it to him; it is not contrary to our beliefs."

Asked if he had written it, Doyle said no. He said he believes that a Roman Catholic priest Fr. Edward Hays, a longtime teacher, founder of a house of prayer, and author may have written it, but he wasn't sure.

VOL contacted Arkansas Bishop Larry R. Benfield to ask if this liturgy had been approved. Through his communications officer Micah McConnell the bishop issued the following statement:

"I am a supporter of interfaith dialogue. I look forward to the day when the many barriers that now separate us can be removed. But interfaith dialogue works best when we are confident of our own Christian faith and can articulate it clearly."

McConnell said the bishop would be in touch with the Rev. Seamus Doyle.

However, a former Episcopalian who is now a bishop in the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev Sam Seamans who received a copy of the bulletin incredulously asked, "Can you believe this? I really am at a loss, even coming from a TEC parish. It is truly unbelievable.

"I could not believe my eyes: In the litany praised are the "saints" of Islam and Allah, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Lord Khodvum and all the Native tribes and that's just some of them. Christian Saints were finally mentioned but only in the final portion of the litany."

Asked why he forwarded this to VOL, the bishop said, "I do think that we need to expose these kinds of things because they are leading so many people astray. When a parishioner hands me something like this from an "Anglican" church in my own state I am going to respond - part of what we promise to do as bishops is to drive out strange and erroneous doctrines.

"In light of Ephesians 4 (one faith, one Lord, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all....), I don't know how anyone who takes the Bible seriously could recite something like this in a Christian church," said Bishop Seamans.

Doyle told VOL that he had received no flack over the years for using the liturgy and said he saw no contradiction in using it.

Below is the full text of the bishops' response to VOL:

Regarding Prayers of the People and Litanies That Refer to Saints

19 November 2009

The liturgy is the primary method by which we teach theology in the Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer makes the following statements:

The Catechism (p. 862) states that the "communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ in sacrament, prayer, and praise".

The fourth Solemn Collect for Good Friday states, "Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord."

Furthermore, the Prayer Book states that the Prayers of the People will include prayers for the "Universal Church, its members, and its mission." In light of that rubric, one of the collects for the Mission of the Church (p. 257) states, "Remember the multitudes who have been created in your image but have not known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that, by the prayers and labors of your holy Church, they may be brought to know and worship you as you have been revealed in your Son."

"I am a supporter of interfaith dialogue. I look forward to the day when the many barriers that now separate us can be removed. But interfaith dialogue works best when we are confident of our own Christian faith and can articulate it clearly."


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