Aldersgate United Methodist Church opens space to Muslims, sparks discussion

A local pastor is sparking controversy. The pastor invited a community of Muslims to use his Fairfax church to pray. This sent some parishioners away, but gained admiration from others.

The Aldersgate United Methodist Church opened its doors to a community of Muslims who were renovating their mosque and were in need of a place to pray.

“We are all children of the same mother and father,” said the Rev. Dennis Perry, the church’s pastor.

“It's shown us that people of two different theological schools can get along despite the beliefs of extremists on both sides,” said Rameez Abid, the mosque’s youth coordinator.

Fox News reported the story, quoting a Christian radio talk show host who criticized the move. Dr. Alex McFarland charged these churches “have crossed the line from respect and tolerance, to ... affirmation and endorsement," the report read.

"To let a building simultaneously be used for the activities of a mosque and also the activities of Jesus Christ, it's just incompatible. And I think it's one more example of political correctness and hyper-tolerance gone awry," McFarland is quoted.

Then the Daily Show picked up the story. “What if the Muslim God overhears the prayers of the Christians? Is there not a danger that those prayers will get...mixed up?” Daily Show correspondent John Oliver asked.

The tensions ultimately caused some parishioners to leave the church, the Rev. said. For him, spiritual growth outweighs regrets.

“My understanding of the old testament has deepened,” said Rev. Perry. “I regret some of the friendships I’ve lost. But I think it was the right thing to do, and would do it again.”

Parishioners said the connection they built enhances their cultural awareness and introduces them to facets of life they would have otherwise never known.

“I realized how much we don't know about each other. How much I didn't know,” parishoner Diane Bechtol said. “A woman came up to me and said, you know I used to be afraid of Christians but I'm not anymore.”

“We also shared food. I tasted some wonderful foods!” said Bechtol.

When the mosque renovations conclude in a few months, their friends will leave, but parishioners say their friendships will not.

“I am convinced beyond doubt that Jesus would love what we're doing. What it means simply to love another human being unconditionally,” Rev. Perry said.

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