By Mateen Elass, posted on his personal blog.
My last two blogs apparently caused a bit of a ripple in the world of liberal PCUSA leaders. I learned on July 1 that General Presbyter Mike Cole, executive of the New Covenant Presbytery (whom I have met in the past and found to be a congenial fellow), recently sent an email missive [it has since been posted online] out to presbytery members in response to the stir caused by the worship leadership of a Muslim at the PCUSA General Assembly (GA), and by my interpretation of the import of that Muslim man’s prayer. Likewise, a group of theological liberals in a Facebook group pilloried my comments, complaining that I wasn’t being accurate or fair.
Apparently, my words cannot be trusted for the following reasons:
- I am no longer a PCUSA minister, having committed the unforgivable sin of pastoring a church that decided to leave the PCUSA for a new denomination (ECO) during my tenure there, and having had my ordination credentials transferred from the PCUSA as well.
- I am no longer even a pastor at that church, having left it in obedience to God’s new call on my life and ministry. Mr. Cole describes it this way: “His ministry is the conversion of Muslims and he regularly blogs on the evils of Islam.”
- My perspective cannot be trusted because of my “background.”
- The clause “lead us to the straight path,” which Mr. Said prayed in Arabic as the opening recitation from the Fatiha, does not mean what I think it does but is capable of a wide range of meanings.
- Mr. Said would never pray to Allah for the conversion of Presbyterians (or any non-Muslims) because many of the GA commissioners personally met him and he is a nice man. Indeed, Mr. Said is “Exhibit A” of a moderate Muslim whose participation in the GA interfaith service demonstrates his denunciation of violence and terrorism, and opposition of radical Islam. How deplorable that someone like me would speak ill of a Muslim wanting to be part of the solution to terrorism rather than part of the problem.
- Muslims really love Jews and Christians, because according to one Muslim scholar Mike Cole consulted, “The Quran refers to both religions as good and worthy of following.”
- The scholar further declared with no apparent irony, “Islam orders us to respect other faiths. We believe that everyone is entitled to choose their faith and belief system.”
- The clear intention of the Muslim’s prayer was to “…affirm Presbyterians in faith and stand with us for peace and justice and against violence.” My blogs by contrast were shameful, demonstrated by the fact that I would “…choose to twist the intent to be something nefarious and devious.”
The first three claims are ad hominem attacks leveled against me as an untrustworthy source because of who I am. It’s always the sign of weak argumentation to attack the messenger rather than the message. Truth stands or falls on the basis of its own merits, not on the merits of the speaker. Balaam’s ass did not have much pedigree to recommend itself as a divine messenger, but Balaam would have ignored it to his own peril (see Numbers 22:21-34). What Mike Cole says about me is true, though slanted. I served as a PCUSA minister from 1982-2000, then as an EPC minister from 2000-2007, and then again as a PCUSA minister from 2007-2013. Since 2015 I have been working in a mission to the Muslim world, seeking to introduce Muslims to Jesus Christ and to warn the larger world of the dangers of Islam as a system of beliefs and behaviors that point away from salvation in Christ and toward eternal destruction. I would hope that Mike Cole, as a fellow Christian, would wholeheartedly applaud that endeavor.
The claim that my background disqualifies my comments as “biased” leaves me almost speechless.