This soft-headed attempt at interfaith understanding was welcomed by the local Muslim leader, but not reciprocated, of course. Interfaith understanding between Christians, or whatever Lawler is, and Muslims is, as always, all in one direction.
“Episcopal cleric tries Islamic rituals for Lent,” by Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 12 (thanks to Paul):
The Rev. Steve Lawler should have just given up chocolate or television for Lent.
Instead, Lawler, of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ferguson, decided to adopt the rituals of Islam for 40 days to gain a deeper understanding of the faith.
On Friday, he faced being defrocked if he continued in those endeavors.
“He can’t be both a Christian and a Muslim,” said Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. “If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church.”
Lawler, a part-time rector at the church, didn’t foresee such problems when he came up with the idea. He merely wanted to learn more about Islam, he said, especially in light of the ongoing congressional hearings on the radicalization of the faith.
On Wednesday, the first day of Lent, he began performing salah five times a day, by facing east, toward Mecca, and praying to Allah. He also started studying the Quran and following Islamic dietary restrictions by abstaining from alcohol, pork and fish.
During Holy Week, he planned to fast from dawn to sunset as Muslims do during Ramadan.
But in Smith’s eyes, the exercise amounts to “playing” at someone else’s religion and could be viewed as disrespectful.
Plus, he said, “One of the ways (Lawler) remains responsible as a Christian leader is to exercise Christianity and to do it with clarity and not with ways that are confusing.”
When asked whether he would take punitive actions against Lawler if he continued with the rituals, Smith responded that yes, he would. He would be forced to depose him.
Lawler said he only planned to take his idea so far. For example, he did not intend to declare his belief in the oneness of God and to accept Muhammad as God’s prophet. It’s the first of the Five Pillars of Islam, which are obligatory for Muslims….