American Baptists, Episcopalians show support for Muslims

Posted: Friday, June 21, 2002

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Episcopalians and American Baptists are among the religious groups showing support for Muslims after a Southern Baptist minister called the Prophet Muhammad a ''demon-possessed pedophile.''

The Rev. Jerry Vines of Jacksonville, Fla., was addressing pastors at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 10 in St. Louis when he made the comment.

Roy Medley, General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, responded to Vines' speech by urging members of his denomination to affirm their tradition of respect for other religions.

Missouri Episcopal Bishop George Wayne Smith, speaking for an interfaith group of Protestants, Muslims, Jews and others, said statements like Vines' violate Christian values.

God ''calls us to love one another and to break down the barriers that separate us,'' said Smith, a former Southern Baptist minister.

Muslim groups called Vines' comments bigoted, and Jewish leaders also protested.

Still, the newly elected Southern Baptist president, the Rev. Jack Graham, defended Vines' speech, calling it ''accurate.''

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