Episcopalians Bail Out Of Omaha Tri-Faith Initiative

Joe Herring | Independent Policy Analyst

The Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha may become a “Bi-Faith” Initiative thanks to the efforts of Dr. Mark Christian, the Executive Director of the Omaha-based Global Faith Institute.

The Tri-Faith Initiative is a project that planned to co-locate a Jewish Synagogue, an Episcopal Church and an Islamic Mosque on the same campus, with a common building for the use of all three faiths at its center.

Dr. Christian’s discovery, of links between the Mosque organizers and the Muslim Brotherhood, was detailed in an earlier article published here at the Daily Caller. The article drew some overdue attention to the un-vetted project from the citizens of Omaha, sparking a lively debate on a local radio program that featured Dr. Christian, Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, the Senior Rabbi of the Synagogue at the heart of the project, and a member of that Synagogue, Robert Freeman, who also serves as the President of the Tri-Faith Initiative.

Even Robert Spencer, noted author and expert on radical Islam, weighed in on the discussion via telephone.

One notable absence from that discussion was any representative of the Christian portion of the project. The Episcopal Diocese of Omaha might have been expected to defend their decision to participate in the Tri-Faith Initiative after the disturbing revelations about the Mosque’s ties to groups involved with funding terrorism through the Holy Land Foundation.

With the knowledge that Islamists have no reservations in using religious and charitable fronts to conceal their operations, the Jewish and Christian congregants could certainly be forgiven for questioning the prudence of partnering with a Mosque that refuses to disavow involvement with groups that were named as unindicted co-conspirators in the largest terror funding trial in American history.

The Islamic representatives continue to ignore calls to disassociate themselves with known bad actors in terms of national security and the support of violent jihad around the world.  They have shown a stubborn refusal to engage with the very reasonable concerns of the citizens of Omaha.

Yet the Episcopalians have now chosen a different path. Two weeks after the publication of my previous article (and the radio discussion that followed), they have chosen to bail on the project, and are actively soliciting a buyer for their portion of the campus.

This a major reversal of fortune for the project as a whole, and threatens to derail it altogether. Without a Christian element to the project, the Mosque stands greatly exposed to further scrutiny.

Enter Countryside Community Church, a local Omaha congregation belonging to the United Church of Christ. With a reputation for being a tolerant and liberal denomination, they might be relied upon to overlook dangerous associations on the part of one of the Tri-Faith participants in the name of unity and love.

It is precisely this aspect of Christianity that has been exploited time and again by Islamists around the world as they seek to further Islam by any means available.

Dr. Christian has repeatedly stated his hope that the organizers of this Mosque have no intention of behaving in such a fashion, but their present intransigence about their radical associations does nothing to allay reasonable concerns and suspicions on the part of their neighbors.

Countryside Church has now entered into a 40 day period of prayer and reflection in order to, in the words of their pastor, not be influenced “by one or more groups outside our congregation who are deliberately trying to interfere with our discernment process.”

In a missive to his parishioners, the pastor warned about the dissenting voices, saying “If it sounds crazy, it probably is.” He went on to urge them to remain calm and patient when “people from outside the congregation are demanding that we become just as hysterical as they are.”

At the risk of sounding “hysterical,” I would also urge Countryside’s congregants to examine their level of comfort with the project’s mandated restrictions on their expressions of faith, such as the prohibition against having a Cross displayed on the outside of their house of worship.

Christians are charged by Jesus to share the Gospel. How does the good pastor’s flock feel about having that charge summarily countermanded at the insistence of the Muslim component? These are just a couple of the prohibitions already demanded by the Mosque organizers.

What if those demands grow more strident — perhaps restricting worship times, or requiring adherents of other faiths to behave in a Sharia-compliant fashion — will the parishioners of Countryside, having invested many millions into their feel-good project, simply knuckle-under to the will of their Muslim partners, or will they resist, even though that resistance might require the abandonment of their investment?

Were I a member of Countryside Community Church, I would be asking hard questions such as these. Above all, I would make any involvement in the project wholly conditional on the Mosque organizers coming clean about their plans and their associates.

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