Some prominent evangelical leaders are criticizing the heads of the National Association of Evangelicals for signing a letter to Muslim leaders containing controversial language.
The critical leaders include Dr. Albert Mohler, Gary Bauer, and Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo who voiced opposition to the apology in the letter for the sins of Christians during the Crusades and for "excesses" of the global war on terror, without mentioning Muslim acts of violence.
Moreover, the leaders contend the letter compromises the importance of Jesus in Christianity in order to appease Muslims.
Mohler noted that the letter "sends the wrong signal" and contains basic theological problems especially in "marginalizing" Jesus Christ, according to Focus on the Family's Citizenlink. He also rejected the apology for the Crusades.
"I just have to wonder how intellectually honest this is," he said. "Are these people suggesting that they wish the military conflict with Islam had ended differently – that Islam had conquered Europe?" asked the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In November, over 100 theologians, ministry leaders and prominent pastors signed a response letter issued by the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. The Christian letter was a response to an unprecedented letter signed by 138 representative Muslim leaders that called for peace between Muslims and Christians.
Among the Christian response signers were NAE president the Rev. Leith Anderson and the NAE vice president the Rev. Richard Cizik.
When signing the letter, Anderson had qualified acknowledged in a public statement that there were parts of the letter that he did not support.
He also explained that it was "nearly impossible" for more than a hundred busy theologians and Christian leaders to "keep going back [and forth]" with the "addition and subtraction and rewriting of words and paragraphs."
In the end, Anderson said, "Sometimes we all sign onto things that are not all that we would like them to be."
According to Citizenlink, the name of the Muslim letter, "A Common Word between Us and You," is from a verse in the Koran that condemns "people of the Scripture" (Christians) for polytheism (the belief in the trinity).
Campaign for Working Families, Gary Bauer, responded to the NAE leaders' support by saying he has been lately concerned with the NAE's recent involvement in social issues, such as global warming, and that the Muslim letter was another such cause for concern.
"Many of us have been concerned about the NAE getting into all sorts of areas where it has had no previous expertise," Bauer said. "And now, I'm afraid, I see signs that they're going down the same road that the National Council of Churches (NCC) is going."
NCC has been criticized by many Christian conservatives for being too liberal and partnering with socially liberal organizations.
Meanwhile, Islam expert Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, an Anglican priest and director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, called the letter a "betrayal" and a "sellout."
Sookhdeo called for the Christian leaders to withdraw their names from the response, saying the admittance of guilt betrays the Christian faith and puts fellow Christians in the Muslim world in danger.
However, Anderson said other evangelical leaders more knowledgeable in Islam than him had encouraged him to sign the statement and said it would help Christians who live and minister in Muslim majority countries.
"In fact, some suggested that not signing could be damaging to these Christian brothers and sisters who live among Muslims," the NAE president recalled.
"So, I agreed to add my name to the letter," he said. Yet he admitted that, "There simply was not an easy way to process the complexities of this inter-faith communiqué on short notice."
The NAE leader further noted in his explanation letter that he anticipated misunderstandings and criticisms about his support for the letter and ended by stating that he believes Jesus Christ is his savior and Lord. He also said he wanted Muslims to know about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.