The nation's largest evangelical body is urging the Florida church behind "International Burn A Quran Day" to cancel its plans.
Plans to burn Islam's holy book on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11 shows "disrespect" for Muslims and would only "exacerbate tensions" in Christian-Muslim relations worldwide, stated the National Association of Evangelicals on Thursday.
"It sounds like the proposed Quran burning is rooted in revenge," said NAE President Leith Anderson, in a statement. "Yet the Bible says that Christians should 'make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else' (I Thessalonians 5:15)."
Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, Fla., recently announced it will host a Quran burning event on its church property in observance of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to warn Americans about the dangers of Islam.
In an interview with The Christian Post this week, Senior Pastor Dr. Terry Jones explained, "We only did it because we felt there needed to be an outcry against Islam, because Islam is presenting itself as a religion of peace."
The Dove World Outreach Center has a history of provocative public protests against what it considers sins. In the past, it has put up a sign on its property reading, "Islam is of the Devil," and has joined the extremist Westboro Baptist Church in protesting homosexuality. Its purpose, as the church explains on its website, is to get Christians to stand up for the truth of the Bible.
"The message of the truth that there is only one way to God, only one way to salvation, and that is through the blood of Jesus. Through the repenting of your sins and being born again. It is time that all Christians unite, stop being passive and selfish and stand up and fight for the truth.
"Any religion which would profess anything other than this truth is of the devil."
Not surprisingly, there has been public outcry against the planned Quran burning event and, in the past, against the "Islam is of the Devil" sign.
The Council on American-Islam Relations, the nation's largest Muslim advocacy group, plans to counter "International Burn a Quran Day" with a "Share the Quran" dinner on Sept. 11.
Orlando-based Pastor Joel Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed, who is a member of the NAE Board of Directors, commented, "We have to recognize that fighting fire with fire only builds a bigger fire."
"Love is the water that will eventually quench the destruction," he said.
In asking the Gainesville church to call off the event, the NAE, which represents more than 45,000 local churches from over 40 denominations, cited its 1996 resolution on religious persecution. In the resolution, the evangelical body pledged to "address religious persecution carried out by our Christian brothers and sisters whenever this occurs around the world."
"If people are to fulfill the obligations of conscience, history teaches the urgent need to foster respect and protection for the right of all persons to practice their faith," the resolution reads.
Muslims worldwide would be "profoundly" offended by the burning of Qurans, just as Christians would be deeply insulted if another faith group burned Bibles, the NAE stressed.
"The most powerful statement by the organizers of the planned September 11th bonfire would be to call it off in the name and love of Jesus Christ," Anderson urged.