The Rt. Rev. Kenneth Cragg — priest, bishop, and missionary scholar — died Nov. 13. He was 99. Moving to Lebanon in 1939, Kenneth Cragg became chaplain of All Saints Church, Beirut, and adjunct professor at the American University there. He was a professor of Arabic and Islamics at Hartford Seminary, where he was co-editor of The Muslim World Journal, a canon of St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, and traveling secretary of the Near East Council of Churches. He became sub-warden and then warden of the Central College of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury and then an assistant bishop, based in Cairo. Subsequently he was a professor at the University of Sussex and then assistant bishop in the Diocese of Wakefield. After retiring in 1981 he continued to write, teach and travel until recent years.
On Bishop Cragg’s 90th birthday in 2003, a number of his colleagues and friends published Faithful Presence: Essays for Kenneth Cragg. The Archbishop of Canterbury presented the festschrift to Bishop Cragg at Lambeth Palace.
From the Archbishop of Canterbury
Bishop Kenneth Cragg held a unique position in the world of interfaith dialogue. His powerfully original mind, both analytic and poetic, was able to weave together themes and images from many and diverse religious backgrounds into a fresh theological perspective that still managed to do full honour to classical orthodoxy. In particular, he constantly challenged Christian clichés about Islam, and could bring out of Islamic texts extraordinary riches for Christians to contemplate. Those involved in interfaith work in the UK, and many others outside Britain too, looked to him as a guide and inspiration. His intellectual keenness remained undimmed to the end of a very long and full life, and he will be missed intensely by countless friends and admirers around the world. He was a witness above all else to the universal reconciling hope that Christians find in the confession of faith in Christ as First and Last, as the truth on which all truth converges.
From Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis via TitusOneNine
It was sad to hear this morning that Bishop Kenneth Cragg has passed away. For the last few years, he was physically very weak, but mentally he was clear and alert. Although we were hoping that he would make it to be 100 years old in a few months time, his time came to be with the Lord.
Those who heard Kenneth Cragg talking about Jesus Christ could tell how much he loved the Lord. It is difficult for me to forget his tears every time he talked about the sacrificial love of Jesus.
Bishop Kenneth Cragg was very well known here in the Arab World for his scholarly writings on Islam. He lived for many years here in the Middle East and developed friendships with many Muslims whom he sincerely loved. Many Muslim scholars loved and respected him too!
He wrote and spoke about the major differences between Christianity and Islam, but the love that filled his heart towards Muslims embraced these differences. He also made a great contribution in revealing the common grounds between Islam and Christianity. I had the privilege of joining him in several seminars about Islam and Christianity here in Cairo and in the UK.
His contribution to our Diocese and the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East will never be forgotten. We remember with great affection his time as an Assistant Bishop for the Diocese of Egypt and North Africa from 1970 to 1974. Until recently, he continued to be a faithful and active member of the Egypt Diocesan Association. He was the one who chose the current site of All Saints Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. We shall remember him as we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of All Saints Cathedral in November 2013.
Kenneth Cragg left a great heritage of the many books that he wrote and the love of God that he shared with many of us.
Please pray for his family.
From Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali via Anglican Mainstream
Kenneth Cragg was one of the most distinguished Christian scholars of Islam in the hundred years that have spanned his life. Whilst being clear about the nature of the gospel, he sought to be as sympathetic to the classical basis of Islam as it was possible for him as a Christian to be. In due course he developed a way of commending Christian faith according to the logic of Islam. Many have admired him for such an undertaking even if they have known that such a project would not in the end succeed.
Towards the end, whilst retaining his sympathy and depth of scholarship, he saw more clearly the fundamental differences between the two faiths, not least in their attitude to power. He was better known and respected in the Middle East and the Islamic world, both among Christians and Muslims, than he was in his own native land.
His passing creates a gap in scholarship which needs to be filled by those committed to a rigorous study of languages, sources and the history of the world of Islam and of Muslim-Christian Encounter. The Call of the Minaret was his first book, but equally important was The Mind of the Quran and The Dome of the Rock.
Photo: The Rt. Rev. Kenneth Cragg (assistant bishop in Jerusalem) with Archdeacons Ishaq Mussad (bishop, 1974-81) and Adeeb Shammas, circa 1972.