Methodist bishop promotes universalism on Larry King roundtable on Christianity and war
Bishop Melvin Talbert, ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Church, said on Larry King Live (transcript) that Muslims will be saved and should not be evangelized. "They are on their way just as certain as I'm on my way. And what we need to do is to be tolerant with each other and not assume that our way is the only way," he said last night. "That dispute belongs to God. We are here to practice what we preach. … I believe my God is large enough to be inclusive of all human beings who were created in God's image, and that includes those religions that are not Christians."

The view was strongly opposed by King's other guests, including Bob Jones, Max Lucado, and John MacArthur.

"Why did Paul say, "If any man preaches any other Christ than the true Jesus Christ, let him be accursed? Let him be anathema?" asked MacArthur. "Why does the Bible say, "Neither is their salvation in any other name than Jesus Christ?" Why does the Scripture condemn anyone who rejects Jesus Christ and the gospel of Christ? Why is the message so exclusive?"

"For me, salvation in Jesus Christ is the way, and what I try to do as a Christian is to live that example," Talbert responded. "My responsibility is not to convert all other religions, but to live the Christian faith in the face of those religions."

Talbert was supported by Michael Manning, a Roman Catholic priest who hosts the TV show The Word in the World. "Jesus rejoices when his Father is glorified," Manning said. "And when a Muslim or Jew glorifies the Father I can't imagine Jesus coming and saying, Oh, well. When are you going to look at me? The joy of Jesus is the glorification of God."

It's somewhat inevitable that a Larry King Live discussion with evangelicals will include universalism, no matter the main topic of conversation. Last night the Christian leaders were invited to discuss the war with Iraq. They refuted claims that war is being driven by religious concerns.

"This is not a Christian war," said MacArthur. "Whether George Bush sends the American troops into war has nothing to do with Christianity. It has nothing to do with the Bible. It has nothing to do with him being a Christian. … He's not saying, 'I'm praying and God's telling me to go to war.' … This is a matter of wisdom on the part of leaders."

Bob Jones agreed. "It's not a matter of Christian supporting war. The Christians support peace. And in order to have a just peace, sometimes you have to have a war."

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"The only time that it seems to me that any type of international combat is justifiable from a scriptural point of view would be when innocent people need to be protected," said Max Lucado. "I would see that this is a decision that really can only be made by those in authority, and we have to trust their decision, and rely on their character, and pray earnestly for them that God would lead them in the right direction."

Talbert says it doesn't matter if the motives are religious. "I, unfortunately, I believe that the people in the Muslim world will see the—a war led by the person from America as a Christian crusade," he said.

Expect Methodist conservatives, such as those at United Methodist Action, to have some comment about Talbert's comments soon.

More articles

War with Iraq:

  • Some see Iraq war in Scripture | Fundamentalists say the end is near (Los Angeles Daily News)

  • Vatican becomes anti-war rallying point | The unwavering stance has made the pope one of the most visible opponents of war in current circumstances, and a rallying point for peace groups and politicians who seize on his words counseling against war (Associated Press)

  • How a war became a crusade | Like the strategists' faith in smart bombs, George Bush's faith in Providence frees him from having to consider the role of chance in armed conflict (Jackson Lears, The New York Times)

  • Faithful should try stealth to get to pious Bush | Can Bush really be sure God is on his side, when the leaders of this nation's faithful haven't had a chance to share their side? (Laura Billings, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  • Faith a requisite on the battlefield | Americans should celebrate the fact that pastors protest, and participate, in war (Editorial, The Indiana Star)

  • Was Jesus a pacifist? | Darrell L. Bock and Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite debate (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Watch the words | The pope prefers diplomacy over Iraq. But diplomacy requires enforcement. (Thomas J. Farnan, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Pious nonsense | The unholy "Christian" case against war (Christopher Hitchens,

  • This just in? | The Vatican's views on war are welcome, agree or not. (Brendan Miniter, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Lament for a saint | St. Patrick's Day is supposed to celebrate love and peace. How ironic that it's now turning into a deadline for war (Patti Davis, Newsweek Online)

Church life:

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  • Church radical stirs up debate | John Shelby Spong, a retired Anglican leader, brings his controversial message to Salem (Statesman-Journal, Salem, Ore.)

  • Supporters create new church for ex-pastor | They turned their backs on Southwest Community after David T. Moore's departure (Press Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.)

  • Anglican dissidents pledge to work for greater unity | U.S. Anglican Congress, which met in Atlanta in December, has been circulating the "Atlanta Covenant," a framework that calls for the dissidents to grow together, respect each other's ministries and find ways to attract minorities to their churches (Religion News Service)

  • Do active believers live their faith? | Lent is an excellent season for churches to diagnose their spiritual effectiveness (Mike McManus, The Repository, Canton, Ohio)

  • Church faces new baptism complaint | A Colorado Springs church long criticized for baptizing children without their parents' permission faces a new complaint from the mother of an 8-year-old girl who said her daughter was ordered to disrobe for a baptism Sunday (The Colorado Springs Gazette)

  • Head of Presbyterian Church presiding in time of conflict | The Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel knows quite a bit about intractable conflicts (The Orlando Sentinel)

Missions and ministry:

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Church and state:

  • Prayer issue pops up again in Florida | A bill (HB 243) authorizing school boards to allow invocations and benedictions at commencement ceremonies or other optional student assemblies sailed through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday by a 13-5 vote (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • Freedom from religion—that too is a right | Why I sued over the intrusion of 'under God' into the Pledge of Allegiance (Michael Newdow, Los Angeles Times)

  • Church and state connected in most European countries | The constitutions of five countries (Ireland, Greece, Poland, Germany and Slovakia) point to Christianity as the foundation on which ideas and values are built, and the Christian cultural heritage is mentioned in the preambles (EU Observer)

  • One nation under … ? | If we are not under God, whom are we under? Who is final authority for our law? (Terence P. Jeffrey, The Washington Times)

  • Judge trims Maranatha's lawsuit vs. Sierra Madre | School says its religious rights were violated when the council rejected plans to build a new campus in the foothills (Pasadena [Calif.] Star News)

Life ethics:

  • Chipping away at Roe | Abortion foes are poised to pass a ban on partial-birth abortion. Is it a meaningful change, or a manufactured political issue? (Newsweek)

  • Partial victory | Some kind of restriction on partial-birth abortion has always been inevitable (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Partial-birth rerun | In reality, the number of doctors nationwide who will perform the procedure even in serious cases amounts to about three. That hardly seems like a federal case (Editorial, The Washington Post)

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  • A life-and-death issue | Population programs spark global debate (The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)

  • Also: How big is birth problem? (The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)

  • Davis is out front on family planning 'gag rule' | Rep. Jo Ann Davis, a leader in the fight to expand the 'gag rule,' also worked to have funds withheld from the U.N.'s family planning organization  (The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)

  • Also: Manipulation or helpful information? | Critics accuse family planning groups of pushing Western views of birth control, smaller families on developing nations (The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)

  • Bill to redefine fetuses defeated | Killing an unborn child would have been a homicide (Lexington Herald-Leader)

  • China's abortion clinic opens | The clinic, which opened in south-western Chongqing last month, offers teenage girls free abortions - a service now in growing demand among China's youngsters as an increasing number become sexually active but receive no education about safe sex from schools or parents (, Australia)

  • New data on abortion-crime link | There's new and stronger evidence to support one of the most provocative and controversial social theories of recent decades, namely that abortions reduce crime (The Washington Post)

  • Earlier: A Death Penalty Before the Crime (Editorial, Christianity Today, Oct. 4, 1999)

  • 3 inches from infanticide | Until the ban on partial-birth abortion becomes a law, 3 inches are the legal measure of personhood—the distance that separates an abortion and an infanticide (Editorial, The Washington Times)

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