From the Chicago Tribune
Pastor, imam have dialogue at suburban church
By Sean D. Hamill, Tribune staff reporter, October 12, 2001
For the first few weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels was increasingly bothered by reports of hate crimes and misinformation about Islam.
"I am so concerned by the gap between Muslims and Christians that is growing week by week by week," Hybels said, "and I thought Willow could do something about that."
That something was to have Hybels' church in South Barrington, one of the larger Christian churches in the country, invite a local Muslim leader, Fisal Hammouda, to talk last weekend about Islam to a total of 17,000 churchgoers spread over four services.
"There are some Americans and some Christians spreading rumors and half-truths that the Koran encourages violence," Hybels told his congregation Saturday. "Well, you take some stuff out of context and we've got major problems."
Hammouda, a U.S. citizen who emigrated from Egypt in 1969, is an engineer and an imam, or religious leader, in the Islamic Center in Naperville. He had visited Willow Creek in March as part of the church's world religions weekend, and he and Hybels had continued to talk in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Because of that familiarity between the two men, their discussion was at times light-hearted--they even joked about converting each other--but also somber as it turned to politics and violence.
The 45-minute interview is a familiar format at Willow Creek, with Hybels talking with Hammouda onstage in a 4,500-person auditorium.
Hybels asked Hammouda questions that he said were drawn from hundreds of e-mails he had received from fellow "Creekers."
"As it started to look like it might be Osama bin Laden ... who directed the attack, what did you think?" Hybels said.
Hammouda said that at first he thought "it couldn't be a Muslim," explaining that the holy book of Islam, the Koran, does not allow violence against innocent people. "The Koran says: `Who kills an innocent life, it's as if he killed all humanity.'"
The imam also discussed the strong ties between Christianity and Islam.
"We believe in Jesus, more than you do in fact," said Hammouda, drawing laughter when Hybels, smiling, ventured to disagree.
Muslims consider Jesus and other biblical figures to be Islamic prophets, Hammouda explained, though not as important as Muhammad, the faith's main prophet.
"We call you `the people of book.' We have all the prophets from the Bible," he said.
That fact alone surprised many in the audience.
"I didn't know they believed in Jesus," church member Elizabeth Perez, 60, of Zion said after the service. "I thought it was interesting how much we have in common."
Laughter rolled through the audience again as Hammouda, discussing the true definition of a "jihad," or holy war, said it even could refer to a personal holy war to overcome, say, a desire to eat more candy.
But unease took hold when the conversation turned more serious and political, as when Hybels asked Hammouda, "Why do some Muslims hate the U.S. as much as they do?"
Hammouda said many Muslims see U.S. decisions about Israel, Iraq and Yugoslavia as "inconsistencies in our foreign policy" that favor non-Muslims.
Some members of the audience seized on these points.
Hammouda "still professes hate for Israel," said Marilyn Stoken, 69, who was visiting the church with her daughter, Leslie, 38, of Wheeling, who has been a member for two years.
After the service, Hybels said in an interview that the goal of the event wasn't to change longstanding views.
"I don't know that many views needed to be changed," he said. "I think questions were answered."
Judy Barrie, 30, of Mundelein said the interview "opened up doors to communicate and showed [Muslims are] people just like we are."
That is the kind of impact Hybels had hoped for.
"It gave us a greater sense of assurance that maybe, despite all of our differences, we can get along," he said.
Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune
From: "Louisa" < junior@ISP_protected.co.za>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 20:19:48 +0200
Willow Creek in South Africa sent out this message to me and others after someone sent them some info on Bill Hybels and the Muslim speaker he had in his church. God bless, Louisa (Address on file)
A lot of statements have arisen across the internet of a Muslim Visit to Willow Creek, We wish to set the record straight and wish you well in your Ministries,
Please pass this on as you see fit. God Bless
Willow Creek Association SA PO Box 11895 Centurion 0046 Tel: +27 12 665 4688 0861 945569 +27 12 665 0890 Fax: +27 665 2844
Statement Regarding Muslim Visit to Willow Creek
Several statements recently made in print, on the Internet, and in radio broadcasts about the October 6-7 visit of Muslim Imam Fisal Hammouda to Willow Creek Community Church contain substantial errors of fact. Well-meaning but misinformed believers have passed along and further distorted several details. For those who seek an accurate account, we offer this additional information. We begin with the purpose of Mr. Hammouda's visit. The backdrop of that service was the backlash against American Muslims and Arabs that followed the events of September 11th. Right here in Chicago, racist statements, hostile mob actions, and unfounded suspicion toward Arabs and Muslims deeply troubled us. By way of comparison, after Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were all considered possible spies or sympathizers with Imperial Japan. Frightened Americans lashed out at people of Japanese descent, and our government interred many of them in concentration camps.
After the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, people of Middle East backgrounds or Muslim affiliation were similarly being seen by many as terrorists or at least sympathizers. To help our people grasp first-hand that such blanket assumptions were neither true nor honoring to the cause of Christ (and hinder our outreach to Muslims), we addressed this issue. We wanted to interview a practicing Muslim-not a Muslim convert to Christianity-to illustrate the moderate view of the majority of North American Muslims. These are the very folks our congregation would meet and witness to in day to day life. Furthermore, our senior pastor wanted to model how a Christian can dialog in a winsome way with someone who has radically different views. Our focus was very specific, and there were issues we chose not to address, though they are also certainly important:
We were instead trying to show how North American Muslims think and act, and how we as Christians can live alongside them with our profound differences yet without prejudice, suspicion, and-very importantly-in peace. As an aside, we think it fair to point out that the persecution of Christians in foreign lands is no more Mr. Hammouda' s fault, as a practicing Muslim, than the murder of abortion doctors by "Christians" here in America is somehow our fault. Mr. Hammouda consistently distanced himself (and other moderate Muslims) from approving of, supporting, or participating in those unjust, abhorrent actions. What actually happened at the service was that during the sermon given by our senior pastor, we invited Mr. Hammouda to come up on stage, sit off to one side, and respond to some questions in a friendly, respectful dialog. Mr. Hammouda was not invited "to speak from the pulpit" as has been alleged; he did not "give the message (sermon)" that day, nor was he allowed to "speak freely" to our congregation. Anyone saying or writing that he "shared the pulpit"-or words to that effect-obscures the context in which Mr.Hammouda's statements were made and ignores our intentions for inviting him.
It ought also to be clear that we do not agree with everything Mr. Hammouda said. Quoting him in such a way as to imply his views are our views (or that we intended our congregation to uncritically accept all his opinions) is to take his remarks out of the context of that service. It blindly ignores our official position contained in our Statement of Faith and represented by our public statements made in the course of 26 years of ministry.
We did not allow the truths of Christianity to be obscured in our service, despite Mr.Hammouda's inaccurate remarks. In fact, Mr. Hammouda said several things that represented only his point of view, and may not even be the views of Muslims worldwide; they certainly weren't ours. The fact that Bill Hybels did not engage in immediately debating every erroneous point-which wouldn't have been appropriate in that setting-should not be construed as endorsement of those points (especially when clear statements to the contrary were made at other times during the service and fly in the face of our official positions published elsewhere). Throughout the message and interview, Bill Hybels made clear distinctions between the claims of Islam and the claims of Christianity.
There was never any hint that we "present[ed] Islam as another truth", or that the Muslim view of Jesus (Isa in the Quran) is compatible with the New Testament view of Christ. Anyone saying that happened during the service, or suggesting that is our position is not accurate. During Bill's message, he recounted conversations with Mr. Hammouda prior to the service and said, "We thoroughly discussed our points of disagreement, which are many. I told him quite candidly I'm not nearly as fond of Muhammad as I am of Jesus Christ, and that I think the salvation plan based on grace is a lot better deal than one on works, and I liked the Bible better than the Quran.[But] when we had our disagreements, our discussions were respectful."
We readily acknowledge such respectful dialog isn't possible in many places in the world right now because of strife between Muslims and Christians. But that isn't the case generally in America where Muslims are the minority, and we as Christians desire to continue to promote tolerance without compromise-especially considering the alternative. Bill concluded the service reminding people of the clear facts of the gospel: "When people turn from their sin and their independence and their rebellion against God, and they realize what Jesus Christ did when he went to the cross and forgave their sins and they opened up their hearts to the love of God, then an interesting thing happens. God puts a new heart of love inside that individual.We're asking all of you who are seekers to open your heart up to the love of God, to confess your sin and your need for God, to put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.It's the only hope for our world." These are verbatim quotes of Bill Hybels' sermon made just moments after Mr.Hammouda's statements. One comment in particular made during the service created a huge reaction, when Mr. Hammouda said that he "believed in Jesus as much as you [Christians] do."
Such a statement to us as followers of Christ is, of course, absurd; Bill Hybels reaction at that point was to stop and roll his eyes with incredulity, and the audience laughed as well. The claim was so groundless as to be ridiculous. Some have quoted Mr. Hammouda's statement without also noting the immediate non-verbal reaction of our senior pastor and the congregation, as well as Bill's clarifying remarks at the conclusion of his sermon. They also left out the important truth that everything we stand for as a church disagrees with Mr. Hammouda's assertion. Their omissions make it seem as though we somehow glossed over Mr. Hammouda's claim or possibly think it valid. Nothing could be further from the truth.
At Willow Creek Community Church we've been building bridges to the lost and preaching the gospel for twenty-six years, and we've encouraged our congregation and churches all around the world to do the same with passion, clarity, integrity, and love. When a story like the one you heard or read comes along-with a few snippets taken out of context or quotations from a secular newspaper article-and contends we don't preach Christ as the only way to God, or that we don't know the difference between Allah and God, or Jesus and Muhammad, or that we've "spit in the face of Christ" (God have mercy!), surely we're not asking too much that you check the facts, and give our ministry and our senior pastor the benefit of the doubt.
We hope this response clears up any misconceptions you may have had. And we also hope you'll continue to support the individuals and ministries that raised concern about Mr. Hammouda's visit. Although they misunderstood what we did, we believe they are sincere fellow-soldiers for Christ, carrying on important work for the Kingdom. We're hopeful they will come to see their mistaken conclusions about us, and have the integrity to use the means they employed for misinformation to set the record straight.
----end of message---
From: "Louisa" < junior@ISP_protected.co.za>
Subject: Islam, Laodicea and Willow Creek
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2002 14:59:26 +0200
From: Tony Wright To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Wednesday, March 06, 2002 5:07 PM
Subject: Islam. Laodicea and Willow Creek
To whom it may concern
As a disciple of BiblicaI Truth, I feel moved to answer your rebuttal of the article written by the Newsletter of the Voice of the Martyrs. You say: "We wanted to interview a practicing Muslim-not a Muslim convert to Christianity-to illustrate the moderate view of the majority of North American Muslims." I respectfully submit that this statement is in itself one of complete ignorance. Just as there is no such thing as a "moderate" Christian, there is no such thing as a "moderate" Muslim. Just as True Christians believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God, so too, do true Muslims believe in the Koran. "Moderates" who claim to be Muslim, are not Muslims at all - they have not read their Koran, nor followed it's commandments of JIHAD - just a few examples taken from the Koran... "Slay the idolaters [Jews and Christians] wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush." Surah IX " . . . take not to yourselves friends of them [the disbelievers] until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them . . . " Surah IV
THE SEVEN CHURCHES 7. LAODICEA
We come now to the last church mentioned in our study of the seven churches of the book of Revelation. We have been watching the unfolding of events that have led up to this church of the last days. The church of the last days is an apostate church. Apostasy means "to abandon one's faith; ie: To backslide" At the beginning, in the Acts of the Apostles, the church was witnessing in the power of the Holy Spirit and exalting the living Christ. We then saw the church uniting with the world and getting a little farther away from Him. We saw the church of the papacy of the Dark Ages, and then the Reformation Church with Christ still more in the background as man took over leadership and demoted the authority of Christ and His Word. In this last church of Laodicea we find Christ on the outside - He is knocking at the door, trying to gain an entrance. Remember that this is Biblical Prophecy - this WILL happen and, in fact is what is happening in our church today. In Revelation 3:14-15 we read: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I wouldst thou were cold or hot." The word Laodicea means the voice of the people. It refers to the time when the voices of the people will be the deciding factor in directing the voices of the preachers. It will not be God's Voice nor the authority of the Bible that will be presented by the Ecumenical Church. The issue will be to do what the people want and to say what the people desire to hear, rather than "What saith the Lord?" "Thou art neither cold nor hot." The Laodicean church is lukewarm - a sickening condition of hot and cold. This is what is upon us today. Lukewarm Christianity. Christianity with a compromise.
WILLOW CREEK - An example of Christianity with a Compromise. (1996)
Although Christian Witness Ministries is showing this News item on their Web Site, it does not mean we agree with the writer or the sentiments expressed.
However if you would like to debate the above article , please write to CWM at <email@example.com>
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