Responding to continuing controversy over remarks by some Christian leaders about Islam, evangelical leaders issued a set of guidelines on dialogue between the two communities. Reaction was mixed.
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which represents 43,000 churches, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) hastily convened the event after media questioned the appearance of Franklin Graham at the Pentagon, where he preached a sermon on Good Friday, IRD President Diane Knippers said.
Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Franklin Graham called Islam a "wicked" and "very evil" religion. Other evangelical leaders, including Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Jerry Vines, have also criticized Islam or its founder, Muhammad.
The three-page document issued at the forum calls on Christian leaders to tone down their language and talk with Islamic leaders. At the same time, it urges Christians to avoid "pretending" the two religions are the same. It also frowns on setting up interfaith organizations or worship services.
Roy Oksnevad, director of the Ministries to Muslims department at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, said dialogue with Muslims is good but of limited value. "There is a dark side to Islam, and, frankly, I've never met a Muslim who understood the concept of the Trinity."
Dudley Woodberry, professor of Islamic studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, participates in monthly meetings with Muslim leaders. Woodberry said he is "basically pleased" with the guidelines but thinks they need "fine tuning."
In a statement, SBC president Jack Graham said Southern Baptists "will continue to aggressively ...1