Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vines Stands by Remarks, but Softens Tone of Criticism Pastor Explains Critique of Islam

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vines Stands by Remarks, but Softens Tone of Criticism Pastor Explains Critique of Islam

Article excerpt

Byline: David DeCamp, Times-Union staff writer

A Jacksonville pastor whose condemnations of Islam prompted Muslim backlash stood behind his remarks, but tempered his tone yesterday.

After citing a recent book and Islamic writings to back his criticism, the Rev. Jerry Vines of First Baptist Church said, "I love Muslim people. I have found many of them to be kind, gentle and loving people. . . . Many Muslims have come to our church to hear of the love, joy, peace and saving grace available to all in Jesus Christ."

The brief statement Vines read at the morning service -- his first comments since drawing flak -- contrasted the remarks last Monday evening that drew national attention and rebukes from Islamic leaders and some clergy of other Christian denominations.

The spiritual leader of the 25,000-member church, perhaps Jacksonville's most recognized, said he wanted members to hear him first.

At a pastor's conference of the Southern Baptist Convention last week, Vines told pastors that many of America's problems can be blamed on religious pluralism. He said Islam is not as good as Christianity, and called Islam prophet Muhammad a "demon-possessed pedophile" who had a 9-year-old girl as his wife. He also equated Islamic faith and terrorism.

Shakur Bolden, president of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, said he had hoped for an apology. He described Vines' first remarks as "most unfortunate." The center rebuked Vines' first speech as hate-filled rhetoric, and took out a full-page ad in Saturday's Times-Union to challenge his arguments and ask for a meeting with him.

"Everybody has to live, they have to look inside themselves and do what is right," Bolden said of Vines' statements yesterday.

With a choir of 234 people behind him, Vines said his remarks came from the book Unveiling Islam, the Quran and the Hadith, a source about Islam and Muhammad. Unveiling Islam was written by two former Muslim brothers who converted to Christianity. One, Ergun Caner, spoke at First Baptist during a post-Sept. 11 service in November.

"If I have misread this information, I would be glad for Muslim scholars to explain their own documents to us all," Vines said. …

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