Support Weakens For Christian-Muslim Accord

Wheaton College administrators remove their names from controversial document.

The president and two other administrators of prestigious Wheaton College have asked that their names be removed from a controversial statement staking out so-called common ground between Christians and Muslims.

President Duane Litfin made the announcement in Friday’s edition of The Record student newspaper, saying he’d “moved too quickly” in endorsing the flawed document. Provost Stanton Jones and Chaplain Stephen Kellough followed suit in having their names removed.

The Christian response to the October initiative from 138 Muslim scholars and leaders — A Common Word between Us and You — was led by scholars at Yale Divinity School. It prompted strong criticism from prominent evangelical leaders, including Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. John Piper, who objected to its apology for the Crusades and other “sins of Christians,” and its theological problems, like leaving the deity of Christ open for discussion.

Upon further review, Litfin said, he found the statement was “not carefully enough crafted to avoid encouraging that basic premise of civil religion, i.e., that we are all worshiping the same God, climbing the same mountain, just taking different paths. It appears to me that the statement could have been written so to avoid this problem while still reaching out a gracious hand to these Muslim leaders. …

“To speak unqualifiedly of ‘our common love for God,’ as if the Quran’s Allah and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ are one and the same, and as if what it means to ‘love God’ in these two faiths means the same thing, is to say more than I am willing to grant. I do not criticize others who do not share these qualms. But as for me, I needed to back away.”

Litfin conceded that his signing was a mistake, though well intentioned. “I did not savor the document’s unnuanced apology section, but swallowed that in order to be part of reaching out a hand to those Muslim leaders who had courageously taken the initiative.”

Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, an Anglican priest and director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, maintains that the statement and its apology put Christians at risk in Muslim areas of the world. Sookhdeo, a former Muslim, has appealed to Christians to withdraw their names. He commended the decision by Wheaton.

“We thank God that these and other Western Church leaders are choosing to consider more closely the text, traditions and history that informs Islamic outreach,” he told CitizenLink. “We pray that this will bear the fruit of greater wisdom, love and fellowship in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Still on the list of Christian supporters of the declaration are Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE); Richard Cizik, NAE vice president; and various high-profile Christian leaders, including Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, David Neff (Christianity Today) and Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, and six Fuller scholars.

Read the Yale document and the updated list of signers. You also can read the original Muslim statement.