Evangelical leaders call for tempered speech on Islam
Yesterday, about 40 or 50 evangelical leaders got together to criticize evangelist Franklin Graham. Or so it would seem from media reports.
"Leading evangelical Christians for the first time have publicly condemned assaults on Islam by the Rev. Franklin Graham and other fellow religious conservatives and pledged to heal rifts with Muslims that threaten missionary work overseas," begins a widely circulating report from the Associated Press.
The Washington Post begins on a similar note, but adds a few names: "Evangelical Christian leaders from across the country called yesterday for fellow ministers such as Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson to stop making broad, inflammatory remarks about Islam."
And then there's this headline from the television station in San Diego, where Franklin Graham's father is preaching this week: "Billy Graham's son condemned by evangelical leaders: Franklin Graham rebuked for derogatory statements about Islam"
Weblog wasn't at the meeting, which was sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and a CT news story is still in process. However, judging from the news stories themselves, it seems that characterizing it as a meeting about Franklin Graham is spurious. None of the stories on the event quote anyone explicitly critical of Graham. Not one.
In fact, says Associated Press religion reporter Rachel Zoll, participants "avoided personally criticizing the religious leaders."
The meeting in fact was called to discuss and promote the IRD's "Guidelines on Christian-Muslim Dialogue." Graham, it should be noted, is an evangelist who engages in very little Christian-Muslim dialogue. Interfaith relations isn't his bag.
In fact, by reading the guidelines and quotes from the meetings, it would be more appropriate to report that evangelical leaders criticized United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert, who says Muslims will be saved and should not be evangelized. There aren't any quotes with Talbert's name, but the guidelines seem far more directed at liberal mainline church leaders who favor "macro-ecumenism" and "pretend that [Christianity and Islam] have the same basic teachings" than at evangelists who used some ill-advised adjectives in describing Islam. In talking with Muslims, the guidelines say, Christians must "give testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is our duty to do so." (UPI emphasizes the anti-syncretistic flavor of yesterday's meeting, while The Washington Times characterized the meeting as anti-anti-Islam.)
Indeed, the mainliners seem to have understood this point better than some of the reporters. National Council of Churches General Secretary Robert Edgar told The New York Times he disagreed with some of the guidelines. "We disagree that you can't have dialogue unless you talk about Jesus," he said. "My belief is that dialogue is best built on relationships. People have to get to know each other, to trust each other, to like each other, and in some cases to even love each other before real learning and listening takes place."
Nevertheless, there was what one unnamed attendee called a "loving rebuke" of Christians who have been too harsh in their condemnation of Islam, and it was clear that at least some present were talking about Graham.
"We've got to have an attitude of how can we serve, how can we help," World Relief President Clive Calver said. "Saying Islam is evil isn't going to help any of us."
In an interview with The New York Times after the meeting, Calver was apparently more direct in referring to Graham. The evangelist's statement that Islam is a wicked and evil religion, Calver said, ""is used to indict all Americans and used to indict all Christians. It obviously puts lives and livelihoods of people overseas at risk."
"Since we are in a global community, no doubt about it, we must temper our speech and we must communicate primarily through actions," NAE President Ted Haggard said. "There has to be a way to do good works without raising alarms."
Franklin Graham, who was invited to the meeting but couldn't attend because he's helping at his father's San Diego meetings, hasn't responded to the reports. Neither has Pat Robertson. But Jerry Falwell told reporters he was upset that he hadn't even been invited. That's too bad. As someone who is contrite about many of his anti-Muslim statements, his perspective might have been helpful.
"Almost suddenly, the world has become very tiny, and every comment from any portion of the planet that is important will be heard in every other part of the planet the same day," he told The Washington Post. "So, yes, we do need to be more careful, and I hope we have all learned from what we say and do."
In an interview with The New York Times, he explained what he learned: "In this media-sensitive world, we must be cautious that we walk a tightrope that does not allow offending others while at the same time never compromising what we believe. At the same time we cannot expect hundreds of thousands of evangelical church leaders to go silent when somebody asks what they think about any religion, just because those religions might kill their missionaries."
The NAE, Falwell said, was "trying to do something noble" in calling the evangelical leaders together on the subject, and he promised to participate in future discussions.
Meanwhile, at least one reporter engaged in some name-calling and ill-advised comments of his own: according to The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman, the NAE and IRD are "fundamentalist Christian groups." For both groups, them's fighting words.
Muslims upset over Christian books:
- Evangelical book causes outrage among Muslims in Israel | A book with the title "Who is the Greatest?" has caused the Islamic movement in Israel to publish large ads in the main Arab Israeli newspapers accusing Emmaus Bible school in Nazareth of being a part of a larger Zionist-American plot to combat Muslims all around the globe in inspiration of the American victory in Iraq (Come and See, Tel Aviv, Israel)
- John MacArthur book on terrorism banned in Pakistan | Terrorism, Jihad and the Bible "has the potential to deliberately and maliciously outrage the feelings of different classes of citizens in Pakistan," the government of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province said in a statement (Associated Press)
- Churches asked to respect ban on noisemaking | Accra's religious battle over drums comes around again (Accra Mail, Ghana)
- Earlier: Christians and Animists Face Off Over Loud Worship in Ghana (Weblog, May 10, 2001)
- Even Earlier: Toppling Tradition? | Christian teachings conflict with tribal customs, national laws (Christianity Today, Sept. 6, 1999)
- Palestinian priest named Vatican consultant for Christian-Jewish dialogue | Elias Michael Chacour is a three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize (Jerusalem Post)
- Religious-charities bill stumbles in House | A top Republican signaled today that the House was effectively abandoning President Bush's drive to expand religious organizations' ability to receive federal money for social services (The New York Times)
- House to vote on church programs | Bill would allow hiring based on beliefs (The Washington Post)
- Also: Religious-hiring bill faces debate | Workforce Investment Act would permit religious groups that accept federal job-training funds to hire only workers who share their faith (The Washington Times)
- Also: Faith groups line up behind workplace freedom bill (Religion News Service)
- Battle over faith-based initiative rages | In Utah, a federally funded liaison is helping Utah faith-based groups start new programs and hook up with funding sources (Deseret News)
- GOP decries abortion 'litmus test' for judges | Abortion is at the center of the debate over President Bush's judicial nominations (The Washington Times)
- Democrat enlisted help from conservative group in Ten Commandments battle | Ben Chandler is running for governor this year as a conservative Democrat who embraces family values (Lexington [Ky.] Herald-Leader)
- Santorum on sex: Where the slippery slope leads | Santorum's remarks are more plausible as legal analysis than most critics have acknowledged (Stuart Taylor Jr., National Journal)
- Edwards' faith likely to be a critical matter in S.C. primary | His strong Christian faith has been mostly overlooked, even though Edwards was co-chairman of the Senate Prayer Breakfast - attended mostly by Republicans - for two years (Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.)
- Some see Jewish shift toward GOP | Younger Jews care about terrorism, not New Deal (The Boston Globe)
- Elon: My talks in Washington are about tourism, not road map | Israel's tourism minister insists that his views on the American road map have only surfaced on the sidelines of a few conversations (Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv, Israel)
Church and State:
- 'Under God' doesn't belong in pledge | If the court follows its precedents, the answer in the case is clear; the two words have to go (Tony Mauro, USA Today, alt site)
- A large-scale battle over a small cross | Court case tests whether a cross in the Mojave National Preserve breaches the church-state wall (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Dirt and the First Amendment | Sadly, local governments throughout the United States have gotten into the habit of using just about any excuse to prevent the construction, remodeling or expansion of churches, synagogues and other religious buildings (Patrick Korten, The Oregonian)
- Woman: Refusal to pray results in discipline | Lawsuit filed on jail's prayer circles (Jacksonville Times-Union)
- Also: Ex-inmate sues over prison prayer group | Laurel Clanton says she was kept incarcerated for several extra weeks because she refused to take part in a prayer circle (Associated Press)
- Judge awards $1 to woman in Texas case | Marian Ward secured a restraining order allowing her to pray over a public address system before her school's 1999 home football games (Associated Press)
- Ohio exempts Amish from workers' comp | The Amish in Ohio, which number about 51,000, have sought the provision for at least a decade (Associated Press)
- Suspended teacher's aide sues employer over wearing cross on necklace | Brenda Nichol had been told of the ban in 1997 and was warned twice since March that wearing the necklace was cause for suspension. She said she refused, "after prayerful consideration," because the cross symbolizes her religion (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Also: Teacher's aide takes agency to court over cross necklace (Associated Press)
- Missionaries' friend killed in Lebanon bombing | 9-year-old son was also slightly injured in blast (The New York Times)
- Martyrdom in North Korea | The martyrdom of Christians in North Korea seems to be escalating as the crisis of the Stalinist-run country gets worse (UPI)
- Religion "new breeding ground for conflict" in Ethiopia | "The religious equilibrium is collapsing very quickly," says Medhane Tadesse (IRIN)
- Jehovists' congress foiled in Georgia | More than one hundred Christians on Sunday foiled a congress of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the village of Ortasheni in Georgia's Gori district. All approaches to the village were blocked (Interfax, Russia)
- Russian Catholics feel excluded | But signs point to possible healing of rift with Orthodox (Chicago Tribune)
- Cracks surface in Eritrea's veneer | As famine looms and dissent arises, ruler cracks down (The Boston Globe)
- Dean of Students at Ben Gurion University denies status of Christian students | He said "we will really cause great problems for the university if anyone should become a Christian because of us," student explains (Come and See, Tel Aviv, Israel)
- 400,000 human embryos frozen in U.S. | Number at fertility clinics is far greater than previous estimates, survey finds (The Washington Post)
- Abortion issue sets off dispute at L.A. college | Group insists speakers at a Catholic school should back church's position (Los Angeles Times)
- Abortion aftermath can cause infertility | Fetal bone fragments can imbed in uterus (The Washington Post, alt site)
- Alaska abortion bill would require 24-hour wait | Doctors would have to offer adoption as an alternative (Juneau Empire)
- Women's clinics will be unlikely neighbors | A prolife center will open next to clinic that offers abortions (Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel)
- Also: Equal rights for clinic, center | The ability to manage their differences will be an important test of civility and maturity for both sides (Editorial, Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel)
- Trail of unresolved cases of clergymen deaths | Kenyan government is set to re-open investigations into the mysterious death of an American Catholic priest three years ago (African Church Information Service)
- Easter church fire is ruled deliberate | Police won't talk about motive (The Indianapolis Star)
- Principal of Anglican school convicted in violence against students | Son of the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem sentenced for two months in jail (Come and See, Tel Aviv, Israel)
- Bishop charged with murder plot | A senior Greek Orthodox churchman in the Holy Land is formally accused of offering half a million dollars to assassinate Patriarch Irenaios (Kathimerini, Athens)
- Earlier: Patriarch sues over murder plot (Kathimerini, Athens)
Maine church arsenic case:
- Police not ready to close case in New Sweden | They are continuing to pursue a second-suspect theory in the church arsenic poisonings (Portland Press Herald)
- New Sweden poisoning victim holds no ill will | Erich Margeson, a part-time organic farmer and bus driver, became the youngest victim of the arsenic poisonings (Portland Press Herald)
- Maine probe focuses on the ordinary | Could Communion have been issue in arsenic poisoning? (The Boston Globe)
- Parishioner's death ruled a suicide | Suicide note contains information that has led state police to continue the probe for other suspects in arsenic poisoning (Portland Press Herald)
- Case spotlights moral convictions in jury room | Personal beliefs OK; consulting Bible goes too far, experts say (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- Arrested 'apostle' won't repent for street preaching | Orlando Bethel, 36, was arrested April 12 and again Wednesday evening, but the activist with the 21st Century Church of God in Loxley, Ala., pledged to continue his fire and brimstone preaching, and he called "interference" by Escambia County sheriff's deputies unconstitutional (Pensacola News-Journal)
- Bishops urged to rethink policy of expelling abusive priests | Church leader opposes removing offenders from the priesthood. He also supports withholding some personnel records (Los Angeles Times)
- Time to go, bishops tell G-G | Three Anglican bishops said it was time for their former colleague to step down (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Also: Bishops urge Hollingworth to quit (BBC)
- Peter Jensen says G-G should think of what's best for sexual abuse victims (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
- Also: Don't be bullied, Jensen tells G-G (News.com.au, Australia)
William Bennett, gambling, and religion:
- Bennett's gambling shows religions' split | Gambling is no virtue but, religiously speaking, is it a vice? (Associated Press)
- Stances vary on political figure's gambling habit | Religions differ in their views on gambling, but a 1998 survey found those who say their faith is "very important" in guiding their daily lives were nearly three times more likely than less-religious people to disapprove of casino gambling (USA Today)
- Bennett's gambling admission puts a morality debate on the table | More on what religions say about gambling (USA Today)
- Is gambling a sin? | Protestants and Catholics aren't alike on the issue (Maggie Gallagher)
- The moral transgression of William Bennett | The revelations about his gambling habits have revealed this spokesman for virtue to be just a man, a sinner like the rest of us. Ironically, his protestations that gambling have never been a moral issue with him have the air of that cultural tolerance he so often has decried as "'indifference" (The Layman, link via Presbyweb)
Billy Graham in San Diego:
- Graham fills souls, seats | Evangelist who has counseled leaders and followers alike is in San Diego until Sunday (The Orange County Register)
- Keeping the faith, or changing it? | Mission shines its light on question of conversion (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- The Billy Graham Mission: A search for moral clarity | Graham has been on the front lines of reinvigorating American morality as one who unites (Anne Hendershott, San Diego Union-Tribune)
- A challenge for Christians | Christianity can no longer be proclaimed as the exclusive club for the saved, outside of which there is no hope and no wisdom (Rosemary Johnston, San Diego Union-Tribune)
- Lengthy sermons are not good, says bishop | The Bishop of Busoga Diocese, Dr. Michael Kyomya, on Sunday said lengthy church sermons only discouraged Christians from attending services rather than bringing them closer to God (New Vision, Kampala, Uganda)
- Drive-through coffee shop offers weddings | At the Rev. Al Holm's drive-through espresso place, you can get a latte, a mocha or a husband (Associated Press)
- Celebrating a shared history | Alexandria Baptist churches, one black and one white, thriving after 200 years (The Washington Post)
- Building priests strong in spirit—and in body | Meet Bishop Barbell, rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood (Art Carey, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Work to be done and Jensen the man to do it | The Anglican Archishop of Sydney has tapped into the heart of his diocese in a unique way (Bruce Ballantine-Jones, The Sydney Morning Herald)
- William Jewell College hit hard, but lives are spared (Baptist Press)
- Tornadoes cause major damage at William Jewell College (Associated Baptist Press)
- Rejecting bad company | Some shareholders are forcing firms to weigh the human rights consequences of their business practices (The Christian Science Monitor)
- It's not just a job, it's a ministry | Christian businessmen say faith makes a difference (Times Daily, Florence, Ala.)
- Church works on cash card for members | Maori Anglican Church's cards would prohibit expenses for gambling, pornography, cigarettes, and alcohol (New Zealand Herald)
- The media gets religion | The only problem is that, according to a new study, they get it wrong (Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard)
- St. Benedict's virtual scribes | What do Trappist monks, fruitcakes, Cartier, Harley Davidson and a Quaker computer geek have in common? Would you believe it—business interests? (UPI)
- Pope arrives in Spain, seemingly less feeble | During a flurry of public comments connected to the war in Iraq and Roman Catholic Holy Week in April, he spoke with such surprising clarity that European journalists proclaimed a papal "renaissance." A thousand medical rumors bloomed (The New York Times)
- A festive holiday takes a prayerful turn | On Cinco de Mayo, the Virgin of Guadalupe is honored, and schoolchildren learn some history (Staten Island Advance)
- Bulldozer protest at saint's shrine | Protesters used bulldozers to try to stop police entering a shrine to Padre Pio, who was canonised last June, and enforcing the removal of its control from Capuchin friars (The Times, London)
- Also: Padre Pio's people stake claim to shrine | Pope Accused of financial motive in favoring bishop over monks as overseer (The Washington Post)
- Also: Saint's town up in arms over Vatican move (Reuters)
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