An Episcopal church in Pasadena, Calif., has been receiving a rash of hate emails for opening its doors to participants of the upcoming Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Convention in December.
The Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church told CBS Los Angeles that the emails are "toxic stuff," ranging from "scapegoating Muslims, totally misreading what Islam is all about, telling us we can't call ourselves a Christian body because we've allowed Muslims into our church."
"They're saying we have abandoned our Christian roots, that we are gullible and being used by terrorists, all of which is totally unfounded," the Rev. Bacon told CBS.
In addition, the Rev. Bacon said in his sermon on Sunday, Dec. 2:
"To be a member of All Saints Church is to be a member of the peacemaking community in the world, and to that end, I also believe that to be religious in the 21st Century is to be inter-religious. MPAC is one of our integral partners in interfaith peacemaking."
Another reverend at the church, Susan Russell, wrote an opinion piece for The Huffington Post condemning the action of those who have sent the church hate mail while attempting to explain the purpose of the convention.
Russell contends that the purpose of the convention is to show hope that "there actually are people of faith refusing to be polarized over differences and instead choosing to mobilize over shared values of love, justice and compassion."
"Join us in speaking out against Islamophobia with all its hatred and ugliness," Russell added.
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Glendale), who represents the city of Pasadena, released a statement in response the recent hate mail sent to All Saints Church.
"I commend All Saints Episcopal Church for hosting the Muslim Public Affairs Council convention as part of its efforts to build an interfaith understanding based on shared values," Schiff's Dec. 6 statement read.
"I was deeply distressed to learn of the hateful and vitriolic messages that the church has received. Yet, these odious emails will only increase our determination to fight bigotry and increase understanding," the congressman added.
Many critics of All Saints Church argue that the church is being naive and the hope of forming alliances among Christianity and Islam is an idealistic pipe dream.
"Yet again, the Islamists are taking advantage of naive Christians with a desire to show off their tolerance," the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), a Christian think tank, wrote in a Nov. 30 article.
The IRD claims that the MPAC was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative Islamic political party in the Middle East.
"If MPAC's convention is like past ones, Islamists will again be given a platform to rally Muslims to their cause but this time, it won't be in a mosque or a hotel conference room. It'll be from a church pulpit," the institute writes.
Additionally, Mark Tooley, president of the IRD, wrote in The American Spectator that "this church, like most of the Religious Left, chooses to look the other way, preferring dreams about diversity to realities of culture clash."
Tooley also told The Huffington Post that he would like MPAC to declare that it has no connection to Hamas or Hezbollah, two extremist Muslim groups classified by the U.S. as terrorist organizations.
In a response statement, Salam al-Marayati, president of MPAC, told The Huffington Post that the Muslim organization has no terrorist ties and that it
"is a movement for peace, for justice and for understanding -- much like Jews and Christians and others are trying to promote values in our society."
The Muslim Public Affairs Council has previously hosted speakers such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and American philosopher Dr. Cornel West.
The speakers at this year's convention will include Congressman Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley) and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-East Los Angeles).
According to the MPAC's official website, the purpose of the convention is "to bring our communities together to discuss the important issues we face today involving religious pluralism, violence and bigotry."
"The future of our country is dependent on work with both the interfaith and civic leaders, now more than ever," the website's statement adds.
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