Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wait, never mind...

Seems Hyde Park Baptist Church changed its mind about letting one of its facilities be used for an "interfaith" Thanksgiving celebration:
Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, the city's largest interfaith organization, announced Thursday that its annual Thanksgiving celebration Sunday had to be moved because Hyde Park Baptist Church objected to non-Christians worshipping on its property.

The group learned Wednesday that the rental space at the church-owned Quarries property in North Austin was no longer available because Hyde Park leaders had discovered that non-Christians, Muslims in particular, would be practicing their faith there. The event, now in its 23rd year, invites Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Bahais and others to worship together.

Organizers had booked the gymnasium at the Quarries in July and made the interfaith aspect clear to Quarries staff at that time, said Simone Talma Flowers, Interreligious Ministries' interim director.

Several Muslim groups were acting as this year's hosts for the event. Kent Jennings, associate pastor of administration at Hyde Park, released a statement Thursday that said church leaders received a postcard about the service Monday and only then realized that it "was not a Christian oriented event."

The postcard also "promised space for Muslim Maghrib prayer and revealed that the event was co-hosted by the Central Texas Muslimaat, the Forum of Muslims for Unity, and the Institute of Interfaith Dialog," according to Hyde Park's statement.

"Although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, the church cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property," the statement said. "Hyde Park Baptist Church hopes that the AAIM and the community of faith will understand and be tolerant of our church's beliefs that have resulted in this decision."
Be tolerant of what, exactly? Your unwillingness to tolerate others? "Uh, sorry, but my religion says you can't come in here, and even though I already said it was okay, please be tolerant and understanding of the fact that I now have to kick you out." Put another way, "my imaginary friend who lives in this building doesn't want your imaginary friend to come in, so nyah."

Say it with me, Baptists: interfaith, meaning "shared by, involving, or derived from two or more ." Luckily for the organizers, a new location was available rather quickly. It would have been interesting to see what God might have actually done if Muslims had been allowed to pray at that facility, but I'm sure the church sank a big investment into it and don't want to see it lost to raining fire or anything.

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