In an unsigned letter, more than two dozen Southern Baptist missionaries have warned members of their denomination that negative statements about Islam not only hurt evangelism but also endanger missionary lives.

The letter's writers, members of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Missions Board (IMB) who serve in predominantly Muslim countries, say that negative sound bites, such as those by Baptist leaders Jerry Vines, Jerry Falwell, and Franklin Graham, are widely reported in Muslim countries and add to already high tensions. The letter encourages public commentary on Islam to instead focus on the need for salvation through Jesus Christ.

George Braswell, professor of missions and world religions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, released the letter to the press this week. "I believe it is the first statement of its kind by a group of SBC missionaries," Braswell told CT.

The letter is signed "A group of Southern Baptists serving in the Muslim world" rather than with specific names because of security concerns, Braswell said. He identified the writers as missionaries in 10 countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa, and South Asia.

The letter's writers are seminary students serving overseas for two years to complete their degrees. They gathered in the Middle East last week for an Islamics course led by Braswell, author of What You Need to Know About Islam and Muslims. During the course, the group drafted and unanimously accepted the letter. They asked Braswell to distribute it among stateside Baptists.

"These IMB workers wanted to emphasize a focus on bearing witness for Christ as a blessing for Muslims rather than arguing Islam versus Christianity," said Avery Willis, IMB senior ...

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