Churches Loan Buildings to Muslims for Worship

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Some American churches have taken a controversial step to reach out to their Muslim neighbors.

At least two congregations received national attention recently after they opened their doors to local Muslims, letting them use their church buildings to hold Muslim worship services.

Carlos Campo, president of Regent University, sorted through the implications of sharing worship space and discussed the best ways to display Christian outreach.  Click play for his comments following Heather Sells report. 

Muslims made major headlines last year when they tried to build a mosque near Ground Zero, the site of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York City, and a mega-mosque in the heart of the Bible belt in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

In Alexandria, Va., a local Islamic center decided to build its own mosque. In the meantime, it asked the Aldersgate Methodist Church if it could use its building for Friday prayers.

"I feel like we are embodying Christianity by being welcoming," said Diane Bechtol, a member of Aldersgate Methodist.

Bechtol, also a member of the church's newly founded Muslim dialogue committee, said the church was surprised when the request was made. She said the church wants to get better acquainted with its Muslim neighbors.

"It's very easy to categorize a group, to demonize a group, to suspect or just not know a group," she said.

Bechtol said she does not think sharing worship space compromises her faith.

"Jesus called us to give hospitality to strangers. To feed the poor and help the sick and this is walking the walk," she added.

In Cordova, Tenn., outside of Memphis, the Heartsong Church received a similar request. Pastor Steve Stone said loaning out their worship space to Muslim neighbors is a great way to share the gospel.

"Our Muslim brothers and sisters know that we're Jesus followers," Stone said. "They know that we're not trading. 'Hey, you take the Trinity and we'll take internal jihad.' Everything we do is a witness to Jesus and they know that."

However, not everyone agrees that this is a biblical means of outreach.

"It is not self-evident that this duty to love your neighbor requires us to provide property for false worship," said Jason B. Hood, a writer for Christianity Today.

Hood also pointed out that good works should not lead other believers to stumble.

Christians across the country may be forced to debate and decide these questions sooner rather than later -- as more Muslim communities continue to grow and expand.

--Originally published Jan.24, 2011

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