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Consultation on American Evangelicals and Islam

One of the blessings of this consultation for me, and perhaps of special interest for readers of The Pneuma Review, was the participation of other Pentecostals. These included Antipas Harris, Associate Professor, Practical Theology and Ministry at Regent University, Associate Director, Doctor of Ministry program, and Founding Director, Regent Youth and Urban Renewal, and Clifton Clarke, Associate Dean for the William E. Pannell Center for African American Church Studies and Associate Professor of Black Church Studies and World Christianity, Fuller Theological Seminary. An ordained Bishop in the Church of God, Dr. Clarke has served as a pastor in England, Ghana, and the United States. He is also CEO of the Global Empowerment Network, where he has trained Christian leaders internationally to effectively engage the Muslim world for Christ. He gave a rousing presentation on the Nation of Islam that was especially riveting.

Overcome the paralyzing reality of fear through the power of the Holy Spirit in authentic relationship.

My own panel presentation stressed overcoming the paralyzing reality of fear through the power of the Holy Spirit in authentic relationship. I identified the root of fear in the insecurity and uncertainty of exposed and ashamed humans in the holy presence of God (Genesis 3:10). Thus, theologically the root of fear may be described in terms of human insecurity and anxiety before God. Understandably, those who are least secure in their relationship with God may be most fearful. Perfect love casts out fear. I warned against projecting one’s fear (or lack of godly fear) onto religious others as in Abraham’s unfortunate encounter with Abimelech. He assumed that Abimelech lacked true godly reverence (lit. fear). Thus Abraham sought to justify his own unrighteous behavior (deception and manipulation) toward someone of another religious background (Gen 20:11). Yet God lovingly warned the religious other, who appropriately reprimanded Abraham. Could it be that Islamophobia, especially if entertained by Christians, is repeating ancient history? If so, who will God warn and who will be rebuked? Furthermore, I described the work in Knoxville, Tennessee of local Focus Group Pastors dealing with Islamophobia in the region at the congregational level, community relational efforts through local meals and conversation (“A Seat at the Table” or ASATT), and cooperation with local Muslim neighbors and partners, as examples of authentic relationship building in settings of religious diversity that are, by God’s grace and goodness, producing positive results.

With everywhere I’ve been, and everyone I’ve met, and every religion that I’ve encountered, I am more convinced than ever that the gospel of Jesus Christ is still the best thing around!

Most of this consultation was an “invitation only” discussion between “experts”. Accordingly, the public forum on Friday evening, which was very well attended, filling CTS chapel, was particularly delightful. I greatly enjoyed the panel discussion led by Dr Rich Mouw on “Learning to Engage Our Muslim Neighbors”. It was a diverse and experienced panel, including Michal Muelenberg, with an earned PhD in Muslim-Christian Relations and active in the field of Muslim-Christian peacemaking; John Azumah (see above); Rich Mouw (see above); Marion Larson, Professor of English and Co-Chair of the English Department at Bethel University (St. Paul, MN), who has been involved in interfaith engagement efforts; and Rick Love, a professional Mediator and Conflict Resolution Practitioner and President of Peace Catalyst International, an organization focused on peacemaking between Christians and Muslims. John Azumah, who converted to Christ out of Muslim family background, offered some particularly startling insights from that perspective. It was a special blessing for me personally to have The Pneuma Review editor, and my good friend, Raul Mock, present during this provocative and informative public panel discussion.

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2017

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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