Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Are We Witnessing a "King's Way" Cover-up?

Article by Erin Benziger (from the Do Not Be Surprised blog, printed in full)

Could it be that Saddleback Church's interfaith initiative, known as the King's Way document, has been a bit more trouble than it's worth?

Last week, Orange County Register reporter Jim Hinch broke a story that quickly went viral. Saddleback church, he reported, in conjunction with the Islamic Center of Southern California, had co-authored a historic interfaith document. Hinch's report reads in part: 
The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America's most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. 
The effort, informally dubbed King's Way, caps years of outreach between Warren and Muslims. 
The effort by a prominent Christian leader to bridge what polls show is a deep rift between Muslims and evangelical Christians culminated in December at a dinner at Saddleback attended by 300 Muslims and members of Saddleback's congregation. 
At the dinner, Abraham Meulenberg, a Saddleback pastor in charge of interfaith outreach, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles, introduced King's Way as "a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians." (Online Source
Rick Warren quickly responded to this post with the following: 

This post by Warren was later removed. Warren followed this up by producing a white paper which first appeared on the blog of Ed Stetzer, and later also appeared on Warren's own blog. Part of this white paper reads as follows:
QUESTION: A recent newspaper article claimed you believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God, that you are "in partnership" with a mosque, and that you both agreed to "not evangelize each other." You immediately posted a brief refutation online. Can you expand on that? 
WARREN: Sure. All three of those statements are flat out wrong. Those statements were made by a reporter, not by me. I did not say them ... I do not believe them... I completely disagree with them ... and no one even talked to me about that article! So let me address each one individually: First, as I've already said, Christians have a fundamentally different view of God than Muslims. We worship Jesus as God. Muslims don't. Our God is Jesus, not Allah. Colossians 2:9 "For in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Second, while we urge our members to build friendships with everyone in our community, including Muslims and other faiths, ("Love your neighbor as yourself"), our church has never had any partnership with a mosque. Friendship and partnership are two very different levels of commitment. Some of our members have hosted a Bible study with Muslim friends, which I applaud, but I've never been to it, and a Bible study certainly isn't any kind of partnership or merger! It's just crazy that a simple Bible Study where people explore Scripture with non-Christians would be reported as a partnership and others would interpret that as a plan for a new compromised religion. Just crazy! Third, as both an Evangelical and as an evangelist, anyone who knows me and my 40 year track record of ministry that I would never agree to "not evangelizing" anyone! I am commanded by my Savior to share the Good News with all people everywhere, all the time, in every way possible! Anyone who's heard me teach knows that my heart beats for bringing others to Jesus. (Online Source)
While Warren's words seemed to contradict previous actions, this statement nevertheless was acknowledged by those who initially reported on the story. Not long after this, however, Ken Silva ofApprising Ministries corresponded with OC Register reporter Jim Hinch, who shared with Silva an excerpt of this elusive King's Way document. Upon reading this excerpt, it is not difficult to see why or how Hinch arrived at the conclusions that he did when he stated in his article that the document proposed, "a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God." Below is the excerpt of the King's Way document that was sent by Jim Hinch to Ken Silva:
The document, which was given to me [Jim Hinch] by a source for this story on condition it not be published in its entirety, outlines several areas of theological agreement between Christians and Muslims and commits members of both faiths to three goals: becoming friends; making peace; and sharing “the blessings of God with others.” Here is how the document describes the points of theological agreement: 
I. WHO: we believe in ONE GOD: 
1. God is one (Mark 12:29; Muhammed 47:19) 
2. God is the Creator (Genesis 1:1; Al Shura 42:11) 
3. God is different from the world (1 Timothy 6:16; An An’am 6:103) 
4. God is Good a. God loves (1 John 4:16; Al Buruj 85:14) b. God is just (1 John 1:19,Romans 3:26; Hud 11:45) c. God’s love encompasses God’s judgment (1 Peter 4:8; Al A’raf 7:156; Al Ghafir 40:7) 
The Register story based the phrases “same God” and “one God” on the phrasing in this document, which states that Christians and Muslims believe in one God. (Online Source)
Thus far, the contents of this King's Way excerpt have not been addressed by Rick Warren. This is unfortunate, as clearly some further explanation is necessary.

Today, however, has yielded another interesting discovery. In the post, "Historic Interfaith Document was One Year in the Making," it was noted that the following post was found in the December 2011 archives of the blog of the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC):
Last Sunday, a historic event took place at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. Saddleback is known for its famous pastor, Rick Warren, who delivered the prayer at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. The Church hosted a number of Muslim communities in based in Southern California for its second annual celebration of Jesus (pbuh). This event is significant because Saddleback is a large evangelical church with over 22 thousand members. Although only a select number of individuals were invited to this dinner, it demonstrates the new theological position of Saddleback. At the celebration, a document one year in the making was presented which encourages Christians and Muslims to appreciate the similarities of our faiths. 
The document encouraged that our communities work together towards the common good and to combat bigotry in a 1-2-3 plan. The first step in the plan identifies the belief in one God. The second step acknowledges God’s commandment to love God and your neighbor. Finally, step three is for our communities to commit to three things: making friends, building peace, and serving the world at large together. 
This relationship with Saddleback Church was initiated over a year ago with a friendship between one of the pastors, Abraham Meulenberg, and the ICSC’s Jihad Turk. Pastor Meulenberg reached out having heard about the Center and our interfaith work. From this friendship developed an institutional link between their respective organizations. (Online Source. To view pictures of this event, visit here.)
If one attempts to click on the links above, which initially led to the original blog post and to the ICSC Flickr page containing pictures of the event, it will be noticed that these links either lead to a different blog post, or, in the case of the pictures, the link no longer works.

Is this a mere coincidence? If Rick Warren is being so honest with his denials of the claims of the OC Register story, then why is all of the evidence of the King's Way document suddenly disappearing? Well, thanks to today's technology, the missing ICSC blog post has been preserved, captured, and can be viewed right here:
(Click to Enlarge)
This blog post by the ICSC is not just a mere blog post, however. It is important to note some of the language used within this post, specifically the following statement:
This event is significant because Saddleback is a large evangelical church with over 22 thousand members. Although only a select number of individuals were invited to this dinner, it demonstrates the new theological position of Saddleback.
new theological position? For a Christian church? Perhaps the members of the ICSC misunderstood the intent of this entire endeavor. If so, one wonders why Saddleback did not seek to clarify such a misunderstanding sometime between December and today.  One also must surely wonder why the King's Way excerpt that has emerged has been ignored by Warren and his team. Finally, it cannot help but be questioned why it is that the ICSC has suddenly deleted this clear, boastful evidence of the December event and this "historic interfaith document." In the interest of Christian ethic, we certainly hope that there is no "King's Way Cover-up" underway.

 Additional Resources 

Rick Warren Says No King's Way Document and No Saddleback "Staff" Involved

Is King's Way an Interfaith Document or Not? You Be The Judge.

Recent Document Shows Rick Warren's Compromise with Muslims

New Theological Position of Saddleback Church Concerning Islam

Rick Warren Addresses Chrislam Controversy