December 3, 2003 - The Gleaner News: Iran RPCV Gordon Morrison, says "Muslim and Christian are brothers"

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By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 11:33 pm: Edit Post

Iran RPCV Gordon Morrison, says "Muslim and Christian are brothers"

Iran RPCV Gordon Morrison, says "Muslim and Christian are brothers"

'We are brothers'

Morrison hopes to use sabbatical to promote unity

By JUDY JENKINS, Gleaner staff
December 3, 2003

Northwest of Damascus, Syria, on the mountain of Seidnaya, stands an ancient monastery that has seen its share of miracles.

According to legend, the Blessed Virgin once appeared there in the form of a gazelle to shame an emperor for wanton killing.

But a quieter miracle of human compassion and understanding takes place there every day, and it has had a profound effect on the Rev. Gordon Morrison, rector of the 200-year-old St. Paul's Episcopal Church here.

Morrison, an Oakland, Ind. native whose adult life has brought him numerous ties with the Middle East, personally witnessed the amazing revelation last summer while visiting his son in Syria.

As the minister noted in an August article that first appeared in the state Episcopal diocesan newsletter and later was reprinted in Syria's national newspaper, "At that shrine, Muslims and Christians worship together.

"Out of respect for the inherently Christian traditions of the shrine, Muslims who wish to make a votive act stand by quietly until a Christian offers to light a candle for them.

"Dressed as a typical tourist with nothing to identify me as a priest, as I had watched others do, I touched the sacred oil in a bowl of oil before the ancient icon to make the sign of the cross on my forehead," Morrison wrote.

"Immediately, a Muslim, identifiable by his garments, leaned foreword and gestured toward his forehead for me to convey oil of unction to him as well. He kissed my hand after I dabbed the oil on his forehead. That Muslim and I, we are brothers."

The shrine isn't the only place in the world where Muslims and Christians have successfully bridged their differences and embraced their similarities. Morrison has seen it happen in other locales, and is encouraged at what can be man's humanity to man.

That transcendence of differences motivated the rector and his 410-member congregation to apply for a national grant to enable him to take a 10-week sabbatical to study "what it is that creates an amicable interface (between Christians and Muslims) and what it is that sets up an abrasive interface."

Because he was hospitalized with a heart ailment for 10 days before the July 18 deadline for making application to the 2003 National Clergy Renewal Program funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc., Morrison didn't think the unpolished document he hastily submitted would be accepted.

But it was, and his congregation is one of 117 across the U.S. receiving funding to allow their ministers to follow scholarly pursuits, renew spiritual disciplines or simply refresh their spirits.

The church here was awarded $42,955, one of the larger grants which ranged from $11,694 to $45,000 and benefit 16 different denominations in tiny churches and huge ones.

Four Kentucky churches were approved for the grants, and the other three are all in Louisville.

Morrison will leave here April 25 for a week at the National Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. and then travel to the United Kingdom where he will be joined by his wife Lynda -- a USI history professor. Their travels also will include Singapore and Australia, as well as Bosnia. Of that latter site, Morrison said it's important to a balanced picture to see where Muslims and Christians have been warring.

The couple also will spend 10 days in Syria, where their older son Gregory is a foreign service officer in the U.S. Embassy at Damascus.

While they are away, the St. Paul's pulpit will be filled by visiting clergy, including the Rev. Anne Derbyshire from County Devon in England. She is an Oxford graduate and longtime friend of the Morrisons.

Morrison's introduction to Islam took place when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1960s, prior to becoming a minister. He ran a youth center in the historic city of Isfahan, Iran. Later, he and his wife developed youth programs for the Episcopal Diocese of Iran.

At the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Morrison spent a month relieving "burned out" Episcopal priests serving in the war zones.

He has long befriended Muslims, and found them to be gentle and hospitable people. "It's the fanatics who have distorted that religion," he said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he sent a note to the Islamic Center in Evansville to offer his congregation's support, and the St. Paul's membership has continued to befriend the center and help with their fund-raising projects on behalf of the Tri-State Food Bank.

Morrison, who is in his eighth year of ministry here, said he doesn't know what will result from his sabbatical, but he will share his findings with the area.

The two religions, he said, "serve one God. We start in the same place and seek to go to the same place. It's the road in between where we differ -- but we don't have to do it with our dukes up."

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Story Source: The Gleaner News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Iran; Islamic Studies; Chrstian Studies; Religon; Tolerance



By Anonymous ( on Friday, January 20, 2006 - 8:47 am: Edit Post

Dear Muslim Bother / Sister in Iran,
I we want you people to get me direct address of the head of (Muslim) leader to write to him.

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