WASHINGTON An attempt by leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals to win friends and influence Muslims is alienating another groupevangelical Christians.
Reactions have been negative and strong. Islam expert Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo has called it a "betrayal" and a "sellout." Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Southern Seminary, termed it "naiveté that borders on dishonesty."
Others are just beginning to hear of it. In November, NAE President Leith Anderson and NAE Vice President Richard Cizik signed onto a Christian response to an invitation to dialogue from 138 Muslim leaders around the world.
Their responseinitiated by Yale Divinity School and endorsed by other liberal Christian leadersapologized for the sins of Christians during the Crusades and for "excesses" of the global war on terror, without mentioning Muslim atrocities. It appeared to leave the fundamentals of Christianityespecially the deity of Christopen for discussion.
It even seemed to acknowledge Allah as the God of the Bible.
"Before we 'shake your hand' in responding to your letter," it stated, "we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world."
The very name of the Muslim communiquéA Common Word between Us and Youis from a verse in the Quran that condemns "people of the Scripture" (Christians) for alleged polytheism (the doctrine of the Trinity).
Mohler said the agreement "sends the wrong signal" and contains basic theological problems, especially in "marginalizing" Jesus Christ. He also condemned the apology for the Crusades.
"I just have to wonder how intellectually honest this is," he said. "Are these people suggesting that they wish the military conflict with Islam had ended differentlythat Islam had conquered Europe?"
Neither Anderson nor Cizik could be reached for comment.
On the NAE Web site, Anderson asserts he signed the letter as a private individual, although he is identified as NAE president. He also seems to acknowledge problems with the statement.
"Sometimes we all sign onto things that are not all that we would like them to be," Anderson wrote. "Even after we write and say our own words, we discover that we wish we had done better."
Gary Bauer, president of the Campaign for Working Families, told CitizenLink the NAE leaders "have left the (card) table without their pantsthat is, they've been taken and may not even realize they've been taken."
Bauer said he already was dismayed by the NAE's recent controversial excursions into questionable areas such as global warming.
"Many of us have been concerned about the NAE getting into all sorts of areas where it has had no previous expertise," Bauer said. "And now, I'm afraid, I see signs that they're going down the same road that the National Council of Churches is going."
The National Council of Churches has embraced liberal causes and is affiliated with ultra-liberal groups, such as MoveOn.org and People For the American Way.
Sookhdeo called for Christian leaders who signed the letter to withdraw their names, saying the confession of guilt puts Christian communities in Muslim areas of the world at risk.
"I find it difficult to understand how senior evangelical leaders in the West can join hands with other Christians who actually are betraying the Christian faith (and) their Christian brothers and sisters in the Muslim world," he said.