Rick Warren Under Fire for Partnering with Muslims
There’s been a bit of a brouhaha in the evangelical world about Saddleback Church’s outreach to Muslims and whether or not Rick Warren, Saddleback’s nationally prominent pastor, is watering down evangelical theology to build these partnerships.
An Orange County Register story precipitated the controversy, covering Warren’s friendship with a Muslim neighbor and his church’s initiative to combat misunderstanding and division among Christians and Muslims. According to the article, Warren proposed “a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”
Terry Mattingly, religious columnist and GetReligion.org writer, explained the controversy in this week’s column:
The Saddleback leader also denied that King’s Way efforts to build a “bridge” of understanding and tolerance represents a change in his Southern Baptist congregation’s commitment to evangelism.
… Contacted by email, Warren insisted that public discussions of an official King’s Way doctrinal statement — as opposed to a program by that name that promotes interfaith understanding — caught him by surprise.
While some evangelicals are criticizing Warren for building bridges with Muslims rather than proselytizing to them, Larry Ross, well-known evangelical communications consultant and Saddleback spokesperson, wrote a spirited defense of Warren:
Neither the Christmas dinner nor the broader Saddleback local outreach represents a ministry partnership between church and mosque, but rather an opportunity to foster individual relationships. Though both communities agreed to not proselytize or force their respective faiths on each other, Christians are continuously called to evangelism, which means sharing the Good News of Jesus, through both word and deed. That stems from the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and our commitment to love.
If sharing a meal or service project with Muslim neighbors to learn about each other’s faith represents a bridge too far, then interfaith outreach is rendered essentially impossible.
Rick Warren isn’t always a paragon of helpful political commentary, but I hope we can give credit where credit is due. He should continue to build bridges with Muslims as an important example in a country beset by anti-Muslim sentiments and increasing polarization.