Most evangelical church leaders condemn same sex relationships. But some evangelical churches and colleges are starting to have open and frank conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity. Evangelicals and rethinking LGBTQ rights and inclusion.
Filtering by Category: Peace
Joel Hunter joins other faith leaders against terrorism Joel Hunter joins other faith leaders against terrorism Central Florida’s religious community will be conducting a joint event to build compassionate communities on Saturday, Feb. 28, from 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. The event will take place at the American Muslim Community Center, located at 811 Wilma Street, in Longwood, Fla.
Participants include Dr. Joel C. Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed; Atif Fareed of American Muslim Community Centers; Rabbi Steven W. Engel of Congregation of Reform Judaism; Pastor Jim Mory, Longwood Hills Congregational Church; Ustadh Ali Ataie of Zaytuna College and other individuals and faith leaders. Together, they will focus on how to build compassionate communities and speak out against those seeking to tear down the human family.
"We strongly condemn violence against any innocent victims in the name of God, national or international interests. This shall include the murder, beheading, burning, rape or bombing of innocent people, whether Christians, Jews, Muslims or adherents of any other faith. Acts of domestic or international terrorism and the desecration or bombing of any church, mosque, synagogue or any house of worship are violations of divine principles and will not be condoned by any of the three Abrahamic faiths."
Central Florida Muslim leaders will also sign the Judeo-Christian-Islamic Peace Covenant. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic Covenant is an agreement between the three Abrahamic faiths and its leaders to adhere to common universal principles in a spirit of mutual respect, love and indiscriminate compassion for all innocent victims worldwide ... to stand against bigotry, hate, intolerance and cooperate in a spirit of brotherhood through dialogue and love, mutual trust and understanding.
The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joel Hunter, a spiritual adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, recently spent about a week discussing religious tolerance with officials in Iran, a country often singled out by rights groups for its intolerance toward its religious minorities.
Hunter, a senior pastor of Northland Church in Florida who led a delegation of U.S. religious leaders to the Islamic republic, says he was invited by Iranian religious leaders and scholars to attend a conference.
The conference titled "World Free of Violence and Extremism from the Perspective of Abrahamic Religions" was held in Tehran on May 25.
Hunter, who describes himself as someone who helps Obama get closer to God, says he will brief the U.S. President on his trip, which included a visit to the holy city of Qom.
Hunter's visit to Iran is likely to be castigated by hard-liners in the country as well as critics in the United States who oppose engagement efforts with an Islamic establishment that has been accused of serious human rights abuses.
A conservative Iranian website questioned the trip on June 2 and asked authorities whether it had been coordinated with the country's security and intelligence bodies.
"Is this trip part of the project to make 'America look good' by the pro-Western faction to send positive impulses to U.S. officials?" Jahannews.com asked.
Despite the criticism, Hunter says the trip was worth it.
"That's part of how we make progress, is that those of us who know we're going to be blamed by some of the hard-liners, for even having these conversations," he said. "We believe it's worth the risk because we're not going to make progress as countries or even as religious communities for not talking to one another."
Path To Peace
Hunter said he met with Iran's parliament speaker, advisers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, officials of Iran's academy of science, Christian and Jewish leaders, and Grand Ayatollahs in Qom.
He added that religious extremism and violence as well as a faith-based path to peace were among the main topics he discussed with Iranian officials.
Asked whether he raised the issue of Iranian state pressure on religious minorities, including Christian converts, Hunter said those subjects were discussed in "sidebar conversations".
In his latest report, Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, noted that religious minorities in the Islamic republic, including Baha'is and Christians, face violations entrenched in law and practice. Sufis are reportedly also coming under increasing pressure by the Iranian establishment and hard-line clerics who describe the Sufi interpretation of Islam as deviant.
"We didn't go over there to confront people on certain issues," said Hunter. "But...we have built enough of a relationship to address those specific conversations and we talked through those together, and what steps we could do to build a better environment."
Pastor Hunter also said that he was aware that his trip could be used for propaganda purposes by Iranian officials who often claim that all the country's citizens enjoy the same rights.
"Everybody will use our trip for propaganda purposes," he said. "It's the nature of the beast, that's what politics is."
Hunter said he believes religious leaders can play a role in decreasing tensions between the United States and Iran.
Washington broke its diplomatic ties with Iran following the 1979 revolution and the hostage-taking of U.S. diplomats in Tehran. In the past 35 years, the two countries have been at odds over a number of issues, including Iran's support for terrorism and its controversial nuclear program.
In recent weeks, Iran and the United States, as well as other world powers, have been engaged in talks aimed at finding a lasting solution to the crisis over Iran's sensitive nuclear work.
According to Hunter, certain areas, including religious violence and persecution, can only be solved through dialogue among religious leaders.
"We believe that we have something in common and out of the commonality of our religious communities, we can build the kind of relationship and trust that politics simply can't," he said. "Only through religious leadership or the exchange of religious leaders, we believe peace is going to be successfully built between our two countries."
In an email to RFE/RL, a State Department official said that the United States is aware of independent initiatives by various U.S. religious figures to foster interfaith dialogue with Iranian religious scholars.
"We commend such efforts to promote interfaith tolerance and religious freedom, a foreign policy priority for the Department," the official said.
The official added that Washington was also aware that a small delegation of U.S. Catholics visited Iran in March, entirely independent of the U.S. government.
By Dr. Joel C. Hunter and Imam Muhammad Musri
We can tell you who does NOT speak for Christianity or Islam: the radicals who are getting all the media attention.
In both Christianity and Islam, freedoms of speech and expression are cherished rights, however, a small fraction of extremists on both sides are abusing these rights and pretending to speak on behalf of billions of peaceful Christians and Muslims. The tendency to mischaracterize a religion other than your own is nothing new. The desire to defend one's faith and respond to insults is certainly understandable. But let us all take a moment to put this in perspective: Who is launching the attacks?
Recently, a demeaning and degrading hate film, produced by a radical Christian in California and promoted by a fundamentalist Christian leader in Florida, resulted in radical Muslims rioting in several countries. The Christian extremists intended to outrage Muslims worldwide, and to get the Muslim extremists to respond violently. They blame each other, but they are two faces of the same coin.
We have both been in the office of Rev. Terry Jones, on different occasions, to try to dissuade him from actions that would place Americans, especially those serving in our Armed Forces, in danger. We have failed for a simple reason: He loves the attention and he believes he is fighting evil. His tiny congregation loves the idea that believers like them are the only ones true to Christ and courageous enough to defend the faith against enemies. Like other fundamentalists of any faith, he speaks with disdain when talking about other churches let alone Islam. When we visited him, instead of carrying a Bible around the office, Rev. Jones and his assistant pastor carried guns.
We do not know any respected Christian leader or denomination who would promote or even tolerate a despicable video denigrating the leader of another religion. Out of the billions of Christians on this earth, only a very few would approve of such slander. The question is, how many will speak out against it?
We both have talked to Muslims, encouraging them to peace and dialogue. Compared to the of the millions that demonstrated for more democratic reforms in the "Arab Spring" movement across the Middle East, how many have been involved in these violent reactions to the film? Only thousands, in some cases hundreds, demonstrated angrily and only a fraction of those were violent.
Everyone likes to blame the media for focusing on the loud voices of the radicals, but some of the responsibility must rest on the majority of religious leaders who are silent during these times, the ones who would speak up for peace and respect of others but they do not take the initiative. Maybe if more of us spoke up, we could drown out the radical provocations and the radical responses with voices of reason, civility and thoughtfulness.
As a Christian leader, I, Pastor Joel Hunter, rebuke the Coptic Christian who made such a disgusting video. I know many Coptic Christians in Egypt and other countries who would be sick about this kind of attack on the Prophet of Islam. I will be part of the voices that will drown out future attempts to incite the clash of religions and civilizations.
As a Muslim leader, I, Imam Muhammad Musri, strongly condemn the cowardly criminal attacks against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and other U.S. Embassies around the world. My prayers and condolences go out to the families and loved ones of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his colleagues, who were killed in these senseless criminal acts. I strongly condemn the radical mob that carried out the attacks, and I stand up with the vast majority of Muslims who are peaceful against the extremists who keep trying to hijack our faith. Islam is peace, and under no circumstances is any kind of violence ever justified in response to such provocations.
While many religious leaders find it difficult to reach out across the religious divide, we are proud to say we have been best friends for nearly 20 years. We have advocated for many issues of compassion and justice and health together. We have worked together to reduce nuclear arms, pollution, eliminate torture, minimize poverty and other important issues. How many will stand with us to speak out and outlast the voices of degradation when it comes to other religions? We are each strong advocates for our own scriptures and understandings of God, but we do not build our communities by tearing others down.
Pastor Hunter speaks to a gathering of more than 600 local and international Christians in Bethlehem. Organized by Bethlehem Bible College, the conference addressed the issue of how to find hope in the midst of conflict. Conference organizers challenged the evangelical community to join in following Jesus in the prophetic pursuance of justice, peace and reconciliation.
According to the conference's press release:
For the first time, a broad spectrum of evangelical believers met literally at the “checkpoint,” and engaged biblically on issues that have historically divided them. Subjects included, Christian Zionism, Islamism, justice, nonviolence, and reconciliation. These themes were intended to create an ongoing forum for Christian peacemaking within the context of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. These issues were discussed in the form of inspirational messages, Bible study, interactive workshops, panels and site visits.
Defying the temptation to despair, Palestinian Christians demonstrated renewed hope to continue to stand against the injustice of occupation nonviolently and forms of Christian Zionism that marginalize them. They also acknowledged the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders.
Speakers included John Ortberg, Bishara Awad, Chris Wright, Doug Birdsall, David Kim, Tony Campolo, Lynne Hybels, Munther Isaac, Shane Claiborne, Joel Hunter, Ron Sider, Salim Munayer and Colin Chapman. Participants from 20 nations and a sizeable delegation of university students including Wheaton College and Eastern University, were moved by the testimony of Palestinian men and women who shared the pain and suffering they experience on a daily basis caused primarily by the continuing occupation.
A unique aspect of the conference was the presence and presentations by members of the Messianic community including Richard Harvey, Evan Thomas and Wayne Hilsden, who provided an integral contribution to the dialogue.
Conference organizers challenged the evangelical community to cease looking at the Middle East through the lens of “end times” prophecy and instead rallied them to join in following Jesus in the prophetic pursuance of justice, peace and reconciliation.
The conference organizers included: John Angle, Alex Awad, Bishara Awad, Sami Awad, Steve Haas, Munther Isaac, Yohanna Katanacho, Manfred Kohl, Salim Munayer, Jack Sara, Stephen Sizer. They also published the following manifesto:
- The Kingdom of God has come. Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.
- Reconciliation recognizes God’s image in one another.
- Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.
- The Church in the land of the Holy One, has born witness to Christ since the days of Pentecost. It must be empowered to continue to be light and salt in the region, if there is to be hope in the midst of conflict.
- Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.
- All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally.
- Palestinian Christians must not lose the capacity to self-criticism if they wish to remain prophetic.
- There are real injustices taking place in the Palestinian territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored. Any solution must respect the equity and rights of Israel and Palestinian communities.
- For Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.
- Any challenge of the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love. Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
- Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.
- Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam. We challenge stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbors and enemies.
The Ahlul Bayt News Agency prefaced it story about the 48th Annual ISNA convention with this statement: “With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 looming, attendees at North America's largest Muslim gathering next month will be told that the best way to deal with Islamophobia is not to lay low, but get involved in politics, interfaith work and community affairs.
The four-day conference includes guest speaker the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ. In 2009, Saddleback Church founding pastor Rick Warren spoke to crowd of some 8,000 Muslim Americans at the conference. Warren talked about the need to have more than just interfaith discussions, but to have interfaith projects together as well.
"Our conventions in the past years have changed. You'll see more questions dealing with interreligious cooperation and understanding," Mohamed Elsanousi, ISNA's director of community outreach, was quoted by ABNA as saying. "We are opening the convention more to people of other faiths."
The theme of this year’s conference is “Loving God, Loving Neighbor, Living in Harmony.”
Northland Church Pastor Joel C. Hunter, who served in President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said the convention theme of reaching out to non-Muslims is on the right track.
“I’m not sure about the political side of this issue, but there’s nothing like relationship. That helps you put things in perspective,” Hunter told The Christian Post. “I do believe that the best antidote for fear is to build relationships and do good with others in partnership.”
Hunter said he does believe that significant dates in history, such as the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attack on U.S. soil, are an important time to evaluate how Christians and Muslims relate to each other.
Alex Murashko, Christian Post Reporter
Part 4 in a series of teachings from Dr. Joel C. Hunter about how to approach today’s issues biblically, respectfully and effectively.