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CBF leader voices support for Muslims, denounces SBC

ATLANTA (BP)–The executive director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has issued a statement “to express publicly a very different perspective on Muslim-Christian relationship than the one conveyed recently at the Southern Baptist Convention,” according to the CBF’s Internet news page.

Daniel Vestal, who has served with the CBF since 1996, issued the statement June 20 in response to remarks by Jerry Vines, former president of the SBC in St. Louis June 10. Vines referred to Muhammad as a “demon-possessed pedophile” and claimed that the religion of Islam breeds terrorism.

According to the CBF news page, the statement was distributed to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Islamic Society of North America, The Muslim American Society and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Vestal’s statement read:

“As a Baptist Christian who formerly was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, I wish to convey my deepest sorrow and regret over recent statements made by Southern Baptist leaders. This rhetoric is not in the Spirit of Christ, and it negatively affects the mission of the Church in the world.

To malign or denigrate the historic or current leaders of Islam contradicts our Christian commitment of love for all people. We desire the highest good for all Muslims and grieve with you over the pain such remarks have caused. Please be assured of our respect and our desire for true friendship as well as open, courteous, sincere dialogue.”

Vestal could not be reached to elaborate further on his statement, and Lisa Jones, associate coordinator of news and information for the CBF, said that the leadership of the fellowship would issue no further statement on Vine’s remarks.

“The statement stands by itself and we have no further comment on the matter,” Jones said.

Jones also would not speculate on whether or not Vine’s comments about Muslims will be a topic of discussion at the fellowship’s annual gathering in Fort Worth, Texas.

Judy Battles, who serves as the fellowship’s coordinator in Texas, was quoted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram June 24 as saying that the CBF convention would be more than just a reaction to the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I think Dan [Vestal] spoke out to let people know that there are different kinds of Baptists. We don’t need to condemn Muslims,” Battles said.

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  • Gregory Tomlin