[Editor's Note: The following letter was written in response to the planned Koran burnings in Florida this weekend. The letter, written by Pastor Mike Gaston of Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita, California, was then circulated and signed by pastors in eight other local churches. Pastor Gaston was very warmly received by a representative of the local Muslim community when he hand-delivered the letter on Thursday. Clearly, the letter speaks not only for these pastors in California, but for conscientious Christians everywhere. ~ Alex Crain, Editor for Christianity.com]
We have followed with a heavy heart the developments in Gainesville, Florida, where the pastor of a small church has announced plans to burn 200 copies of the Quran this coming Saturday evening. Despite the national and international outcry provoked by his outrageous plan, including opposition from Christian leaders across the country and around the world, Pastor Terry Jones seems determined to move forward. We sincerely hope that he will change his mind, but as of the date of the writing of this letter, he refuses to listen to reason.
We are writing this letter to assure you that Pastor Jones does not speak for the Christian community, and that he definitely does not speak for us, or for the members of the churches that we represent. His plans are offensive to us, and should be offensive to Christians everywhere. We are embarrassed by his actions, and sincerely hope that the local and international Muslim community will see them for what they are: a publicity-seeking provocation by an unreasonable man of no standing in the Christian community.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe that we are called to represent Him by embodying His principles. The Jesus of the Bible did not burn the sacred books of other religions. He spoke the truth in love, prayed for His enemies, and forgave those who persecuted Him. We believe that His death on the cross made it possible for rebellious human beings to be reconciled to their Creator. This good news can sadly be obscured by offensive acts done in His name by people who claim to represent Him.
Whether or not the burning takes place, the very thought of it has done damage around the world. We are grieved to see that damage, and will do all in our power to counteract it as we strive to represent the One who said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We wish Pastor Jones would remember these words. We pledge to do our best to live by them, and hope that you, our Muslim neighbors, will notice the difference.
Pastor David Hegg, Grace Baptist Church
Pastor Bob Childress, Evangelical Free Church of the Canyons
Pastor Jim Ryan, Heart of the Canyons Church
Pastor Scott Basolo, Santa Clarita Baptist Church
Pastor Doug Main and Pastor Luis Espino, Cornerstone Church SCV
Pastor Scott Ardavanis, Placerita Baptist Church
Pastor Todd Smith, Crossroads Community Church
Pastor Steve Jackson, Faith Community Church