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Conferences on Islam slated by LifeWay, NAMB

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Some 15 percent of Americans profess a belief other than Christianity — including 1.5 percent who are Muslims — according to a January 2002 Barna poll and the 2003 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Since 1900, the numbers of Muslims living in America have grown from 10,000 to about 4 million, Britannica figures show, a fact Rudy Gonzalez, North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention interfaith evangelism department, knows well.

“The Muslim community [those who adhere to the Islamic faith] in the United States is increasing, and we’re more apt to come across a Muslim today than we were before,” Gonzalez said.

The changing demographics present an interesting challenge to evangelical Christians, he said. That’s why LifeWay Christian Resources and NAMB are offering two conferences on Islam for pastors, church leaders and interested laypeople, Aug. 15-17 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina and Sept. 19-21 at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico.

“In light of everything happening in the world, Islam has been pushed to the forefront of religious debate in the United States, and there are conflicting accounts,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of confusion.”

In the world, Muslims now outnumber Roman Catholics by about 2 million, according to 2001 Britannica figures in which Muslims weigh in at 1.2 billion, Catholics at 1 billion, and Christians, including Protestants, Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans and independents, at 2 billion.

By presenting the two conferences on Islam, LifeWay and NAMB seek to ease that confusion by educating and informing pastors and church members about Islam, its practices, theology and beliefs. Sessions will include keynote addresses by Carl Ellis, president of Project Joseph, at Ridgecrest and Samy Tanagho, a former Muslim, at Glorieta.

Participants can also attend breakout sessions that include informational discussions about jihad, effective witnessing strategies and understanding the Islamic view of the Trinity. The keynote speakers and NAMB employees will lead the sessions.

“This is an opportunity for our Southern Baptist pastors and laypeople to become more informed about the nature of Islam in the United States, to understand the challenges it poses to Christianity,” Gonzalez said. “There will be opportunities for questions with answers from experts in the field. Having pastors, leaders and laymen who are knowledgeable about Islam will help us present the gospel with sensitivity.”

The Ridgecrest conference on Islam will include a special format designed to allow as many staff and lay leaders possible to participate. Church staff members are encouraged to attend the Friday and Saturday sessions, which will then be repeated on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, allowing more laypeople to take part.

The registration fee is $61, and meal plans, room rates and package prices are available. Ridgecrest is located 17 miles east of Asheville on Interstate 40, and Glorieta is located 18 miles northeast of Santa Fe. For more information, call Ron Pratt at (615) 251-2065 or visit www.lifeway.com and click on the conference center tab.

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  • Mandy Crow