When an Orange County Register article about Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church’s mission to heal differences between evangelical Christians and Muslims was published, some of the pastor’s critics saw it as more evidence of a blurry vision of “Chrislam,” a blending of Christianity and Islam, despite his repeated denials.
The Feb. 23 article cited Saddleback documents that see similarities between Christianity and Islam. One co-authored by Jihad Turk of the Christian-Muslim Consultative Group in Los Angeles and Abraham Meulenberg, pastor of Interfaith Outreach at Saddleback claims the two religions “worship the same God.”
While many supporters of Warren insist that claims in the article are false, the Register reporter and an editor at the paper told WND that Saddleback Church leadership confirmed that the article was “factually accurate.”
“Folks at Saddleback initially made but then withdrew a request for a clarification to the story’s first paragraph,” reporter Jim Hinch told WND in an email.
“Instead of the words ‘Muslims and Christians worship the same God’ they wanted the story to read ‘Muslims and Christians believe that God is one.’ The rest of the story, they said, is factually accurate.”
WND calls and emails to Warren were not returned.
Despite his staff’s acknowledgement to the Register that the article is factually accurate, Warren denied claims in the article by pointing the finger at the reporter for “getting it wrong.”
“This is an example of why I always doubt what I read in newspapers and blogs about ministries,” Warren said in a statement sent to church members.
“Secular reporters trying to cover churches and theological issues often get it wrong,” he said.
“But then Christian bloggers, instead of contacting the ministry, blindly believe, quote and repost the errors made by secular reporters. Then those errors become permanent, searchable, and global on the Internet,” he continued.
“I couldn’t count the number of times a secular reporter has gotten a story about Saddleback wrong but then it is perpetuated by Christians who never fact-check. And the three factors I mentioned about the Internet make it impossible to correct all the misperceptions, and outright lies that get repeated over and over.”
The Register’s Hinch, who has worked as a senior editor at Guideposts magazine, told WND that numerous pastors at Saddleback were contacted about his article, and each one of them told him Warren would not be made available for comment for the story.
One pastor even emailed Hinch to say that “leadership decided they don’t want the work of King’s Way to be published.”
“King’s Way” is a document that was a central focus of the Register story.
The document was unveiled at Saddleback Church in December to an interfaith audience of more than 300 Muslims and Christians. It reportedly was co-authored by Meulenberg and Turk.
The five-page document, which outlined similarities between the two religions, was introduced through a slide presentation at the event.
Under the heading “A Path to End the 1,400 Years of Misunderstanding Between Muslims and Christians,” the presentation included Bible verses and Quran verses side by side to make the case that the God for both religions are one in the same.
One example was titled “Who we believe in,” followed by “God is the Creator – Genesis 1:1, Al Shura 42:11”
The two verses read:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1
“The originator of the heavens and the earth…” – Al Shura 42:11
Another example was titled “God is One,” followed by “Mark 12:29, Muhammed 47:19”
The verses say:
“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear O’ Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” – Mark 12:29
“So know that there is no Diety except Allah” – Muhammed 47:19
Hinch told WND that he obtained a copy of the “King’s Way” document from a confidential source on the condition that it not be published in its entirety.
He said the document “outlines several areas of theological agreement between Christians and Muslims and commits members of both faiths to three goals: becoming friends; making peace; and sharing ‘the blessings of God’ with others.”
“The Register story based the phrases ‘same God’ and ‘one God’ on the phrasing in this document, which states that Christians and Muslims believe in one God,” Hinch said.
WND’s repeated requests to Saddleback for a copy of the document went unanswered.
After the Register article was published, Warren issued a statement through a Christian Post reporter in an interview format.
Warren said, “A few days ago, an article appeared in the Orange County Register that included some outrageous statements about Saddleback that were incorrect.
“Of course, the media rarely gets everything right, and there’s no way we could respond to every false statement made about us. But I felt this article created so many misperceptions that I agreed to do an interview in response.”
The interviewer also asked Warren if people of other religions worship the same God as Christians, to which Warren replied, “Of course not. Christians have a God that is unique.”
Steve McConkey, of bigworldwatch.com, a news gathering site, said of Warren’s response to the article: “A person should not say one thing one time and another thing later and then blame the reporter.
“The problem that we have is that he has a case of doublespeak. Warren denies the Orange County Register article’s contents, but the document he signed ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’ says differently,” said McConkey.
McConkey was referring to a much publicized 2007 document signed by Warren, among many other Christian leaders. Within the first few lines it says that “many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors.”
“Before we ‘shake your hand’ in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world,” the document states.
The lengthy document then outlines how both Muslims and Christians serve “one God” and makes an argument that the two are one in the same, much like the “King’s Way” document unveiled in December at Saddleback Church.
It is that perspective that some Christians have called “Chrislam.”
Saddleback and Warren declined numerous WND attempts to speak about the issue. But in the Christian Post, he responded.
The publication asked, “Are you promoting Chrislam?”
“Of course not. It’s the lie that won’t die,” he said.
Yet his staff has acknowledged the Register article is correct, he had a role in the “King’s Way” document and he signed “Common Word.”
The Register story mentions that both Turk and Gwynn Guibord serve an organization called Christian-Muslim Consultative Group.
WND reached Guibord regarding her interview with Hinch. In the interview she states that her group has avoided inviting evangelical churches to join their endeavor to “foster relationships between churches and mosques” but is now changing that opinion because “Saddleback’s effort is unprecedented.”