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Ex-S. Baptist Leader Chides Church

October 23, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Southern Baptist Convention’s targeting of Hindus, Jews, and Muslims for conversion on their holiest days is deliberately aggressive and runs counter to the spirit of the Gospel, a former convention official said Friday.

``We need to cultivate personal relationships rather than launch a new crusade that’s confrontative and abrasive,″ said Keith Parks, who spent 13 years as president of the convention’s International Mission Board.

This week, the International Mission Board released a booklet urging members to pray for Hindus on their major festival, Divali.

Last month, the board enraged Jewish leaders by releasing a booklet aimed at Jews during the High Holy Days. Earlier, it targeted Muslims on Ramadan.

Parks compared the efforts to Muslims trying to convert Christians to Islam at Easter.

``It’s important that we do not caricature other religions,″ he said in an interview.

Convention representatives say they don’t want to offend, but to answer a divine calling _ even in the face of criticism.

Parks makes no apologies for spreading his faith as a missionary in Indonesia, but he objects to condemning other religions and singling out any group for conversion.

He said he’s not sure Hindus, Jews, and Muslims would like his claim that he has access to the true God through Jesus Christ, but he said it’s essential that a Christian’s descriptions of other faiths be acceptable to members of those faiths.

Parks said that many Baptists may also disagree with the confrontational outreach strategy, but few have said so publicly.

Parks left the Southern Baptist Convention to join the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship after, he said, he was ``no longer acceptable″ to convention leaders who came into power in 1990.

``They were pushing a fundamentalist agenda,″ he said. ``Recent convention actions are an expression of that agenda. They emphasize more a confrontative kind of evangelism with less emphasis on living out the gospel.″

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