A Wisconsin-based Islamic elementary school has been given approval to continue to use a Presbyterian church until the end of the current academic year.
Madinah Academy of Madison, Wis., has been using the facility of Westminster Presbyterian Church during the week since September when a fire destroyed their facility.
The Rev. Alex Thornburg of Westminster explained to The Christian Post that he learned of the Madinah Academy’s need for a facility through a local rabbi.
Upon learning of the academy’s need, Westminster voted to approve Madinah’s usage of the church facility until the fall and then recently voted to allow their use to extend until June.
“I think the first and primary thought was to offer in the Name of Christ hospitality. This is the spirit in which it was offered,” said Thornburg.
Thornburg said he believed a possible influence on the decision of Westminster leadership was a fire that damaged their sanctuary back in the 1960s.
Back then, the congregation proceeded to worship at a Roman Catholic Church until repairs were completed and received help from other local religious groups.
When asked if he held any concern over an Islamic school teaching Islamic belief in a Christian church building, Thornburg spoke about hospitality even for those with different spiritual views.
“In the Presbyterian tradition, we have a lot of respect for other faith traditions,” said Thornburg.
The issue of allowing non-Christian religious groups to use church buildings for education or worship has been a topic of debate among Christians.
In March, the evangelical publication Christianity Today held a discussion entitled “Share Sacred Spaces?” in which various Christian leaders offered differing opinions.
Pastor Steve Stone of Heartsong Church in Tennessee argued that “the church is a people, not a building.”
“No place in the teaching of Jesus or the New Testament refers to the church as a place,” said Stone. “The church is the faithful who spend life with Jesus together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is no space that is more sacred than any other on earth in itself.”
By contrast, LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer was more cautious about the idea.
“Christians need to be stalwart advocates for religious freedom while not succumbing to the temptation of religious pluralism,” said Stetzer.
“People should be free to worship according to their convictions, but it's necessary to recognize that Christianity is not the same as other world religions."
Madinah Academy uses the church’s facilities at a cost of $1600 per month and has classes during the week while it looks for a permanent facility to move to.
According to its website, Madinah Academy “aims to provide young Muslims” with an education “guided by the teachings of Islam and under the guidance of the Qur’an…”
Presently on its homepage, the school has an announcement about an “Interfaith Potluck” to be held next week at Westminster Presbyterian Church.