A former church has been taken over and converted to a mosque in a rural North Carolina county, and a group of Christian pastors took part in the conversion ceremony in an effort to “show mutual respect” for their Muslim neighbors.
Crosses have been removed from the former church’s facade and steeple, and mosque leader Ali Muhammad turned them over to the group of pastors.
“What they were attempting to do is honor our tradition and so they wanted to turn the crosses over to us,” said the Rev. Jim Melnyk, pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Smithfield, a small town in Johnston County about 45 minutes south of Raleigh. “They were reaching out to us, and we were reaching out to them.”
Melnyk said he was joined by pastors from the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ and three different Baptist congregations at Saturday’s ceremony, which marked the official conversion of a former Pentecostal church into a mosque. One lay person from the local Presbyterian Church was also present for the “celebration.”
Melnyk told WND the mosque had reached out to the local churches through an interfaith group in Raleigh and was hoping to strike a welcoming and respectful tone for the two faiths.
Melnyk said Christianity and Islam “share common origins and scriptures” and that he felt it was the right thing to do to participate in the mosque opening as a show of respect for Islam, a fellow monotheistic faith.