Episcopalians under fire for hosting Muslim convention

PASADENA, Calif. — Leaders of a flagship progressive Episcopal church are defending themselves against charges of sympathy for terrorists in their decision to host the annual Muslim Public Affairs Council convention.

All Saints Church has received dozens of emails accusing it of condoning terrorism for hosting MPAC’s 12th annual convention on Dec. 15, the first held in a Christian church.

Ryan Mauro, national security analyst at RadicalIslam.org, contends that MPAC is “taking advantage of naive Christians,” and that Islamists seek to protect themselves from critics by forming an “interfaith bloc.” He criticized MPAC statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and accused its leaders of being part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot to destroy the West from within.

While many Muslims in the public eye have come to expect such condemnation, other religious leaders feel a responsibility to stand up to concerted efforts to demonize Muslims. “This is not just a few random cranky Christians,” the Rev. Susan Russell, a senior associate of All Saints Church, told reporters on Thursday (Dec. 6).

“Just because it’s directed at Muslims now, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be directed to other faith communities at other times,” added Rabbi Sarah Bassin, executive director of NewGround, a Muslim-Jewish dialogue organization.

“This is a teachable moment,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, “to stand against ignorance and bigotry.” The church held a press conference to note this “historic moment” for America’s religious pluralism and interfaith peacemaking.

It’s also a “teachable moment” in terms of shining a light on how the “fear-mongers,” that is, the Islamophobia network in the United States, works to try to disrupt and discredit strong interfaith work among religious groups at the grassroots.

Still, All Saints Rector Edwin J. Bacon Jr. said the emails to All Saints were unexpected