A plan to hold Easter service at a Sacramento, Calif., mosque is drawing a mixed reaction from the Christian community.
Some are commending the event, especially the generosity of the Muslim community to provide a place for a Sacramento community needing space, as a needed expression of mutual respect between cultures. But the good news of a resurrected Christ won't be part of the service.
"I know that I don't believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus but I do believe his spirit ascended and his teachings are very valid and transformative," the Rev. Michael Moran, senior minister of The Spiritual Life Center, told The Christian Post over the phone.
SLC will be holding all of their upcoming Easter services at a mosque owned by the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM) – the result of an expiring lease on their building at Pioneer Christian Church.
The church is part of the Unity movement, founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in 1889, which holds beliefs not in line with traditional Christian teaching. Their ministry embraces the controversial "one God, many paths" belief and desires to create peace and harmony among all the world religions. Though they see Jesus as a great teacher, they do not see him as the only way to eternal life.
While many of his own congregants believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus, he does not. "I believe it was more of spiritual resurrection and that it's symbolic of what everybody does when they rise above old beliefs and that we all can have a personal resurrection experience whenever we overcome the world."
During the Easter service, Moran will be speaking to that effect. "I'll mention that there are many different beliefs in our congregation. That there is the physical belief, looking at the story as a metaphor for personal resurrection and ... that Jesus showed us a different way of living life."
Professor Erik Thoennes, chair of Biblical & Theological Studies at Biola University, however, asserted that "an Easter service where the physical resurrection of Christ is not believed, is not an Easter service in any sense, biblically or historically. A church that does not follow the risen Christ is not a true church," he told The Christian Post in an email.
When asked how Moran reconciled many of his beliefs with what was in the Bible, which he taught from along with other religious scriptures on Sundays, the senior pastor said, "I don't believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. I believe over the years it's been changed, politicized, but I believe that in the Bible that there is great truth and there is also a lot of misstatements in it." In regards to the afterlife and heaven, he teaches that no matter what someone's belief system is whether in heaven or in reincarnation, "where you go and what happens to you is determined by how you live your life now. I trust that whatever is waiting for me will be good and that it will be as good as I am able to live now on a daily basis. If I can be more Christ-like then I don't think I have a whole lot to worry about."