United we kneel?

God only knows how many clergy have been asked to write prayers for the spiritually fragile days since Sept. 11.

Offering a prayer for Ground Zero, the Rev. Charles T.A. Flood of Philadelphia began by praising the saints "who have made us holy from times past. ... God has sent them to us in times of loss and confusion."

It helps to name names and the Episcopal priest did that. "The Saints were not those who were perfect," said the prayer, as posted on Episcopal and Anglican Web sites. "They were parts of God's creation who struggled and often failed and yet managed to raise up our faith in God and in one another.

"Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Sarah, Hannah, Joshua, David, Moses, Mary the Mother of Jesus. Buddha and Mohammad. ... They led God's people to God's Light."

This was not exactly a traditional litany. Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said the inclusion of Buddha and Mohammed was "very unfortunate. ... It's not Church of England practice to refer to Buddha or Mohammed in prayers."

The Rev. George Curry of the evangelical Church Union told the Daily Telegraph: "It is blasphemous. It is appalling. Any self-respecting Christian will be horrified."

The bottom line is that it's easier to stand together than to kneel together. Statements of faith that have brought comfort to many have caused distress for others. The question is whether believers must blur the doctrinal lines that divide them, while striving to find any ties that bind.

Evangelist Franklin Graham, for example, set off a media firestorm when he said: "The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion."

Later, Billy Graham's heir noted that his Samaritan's Purse relief agency has poured millions of dollars into Muslim communities in Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan. Christians are called to love their neighbors, regardless of creed. But there is no way, he argued, to avoid the words of Jesus: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."

It is also unlikely that Muslim clerics will edit the inscription on the face of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock, which stresses that Allah is, "One, God, the Everlasting, who has not begotten and has not been begotten. ... Praise to God who has not taken a son." In other words, a cornerstone of Islam is the rejection of the Trinitarian God of Christianity.

True Christianity is a missionary faith. So is Islam.

The Archbishop of Canterbury confronted that reality in an address -- entitled "How Far Can We Travel Together?" at the Beit Al-Quran, an Islamic cultural center in Bahrain. He spoke only days after 18 Anglicans in the Church of Pakistan were killed during Sunday worship. Carey called for tolerance that did not require believers to hide or shred their core beliefs.

Muslims are thriving in the West, building waves of new mosques and winning converts, he said. The question is whether believers in other faiths will have the same freedom to build, to preach and to convert others -- in Islamic lands.

"All minority religions, which expect the freedom to express themselves in worship and in the nurture of their young, and to be able to make converts must, as a matter of human justice, encourage the same freedoms to be exercised in those parts of the world where they are in a majority," said Carey. "I must express the deep worries of many Christians in our country who see their Christian brothers and sisters in many parts of the world unable to practice their faith with the same freedom that peoples of other faiths enjoy in the West."

"Clearly this will always be a tension between two missionary faiths such as our own, both of which see their beliefs more in absolute rather than relativistic terms."

The archbishop ended with a poignant detail from the massacre in Pakistan. A Muslim man was guarding the church door that Sunday and he died, struggling to "protect people whose faith he did not share."