North Carolina Baptists Target Other Christians

Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) : Two Southern Baptist congregations are preparing a crusade to teach their members how to convert "cult" members, including Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. The Cult Awareness Impact Crusade is scheduled for Feb. 6-8 at Calvary Baptist Church and Oaklawn Baptist Church.

Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christians, say the Rev. Mark Corts, Calvary's senior pastor, and the Rev. Philip Henry, assistant pastor for evangelism and new-member assimilation. They want to help prevent their members from joining those religions and teach them how to convert Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons to Christianity.

"This would be like the U.S. Army holding a seminar on Russian military tactics or something," said Henry. "In the military realm, they would call that understanding your enemy, but we do not consider them our enemy."

Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses members objected to the congregations' plans. "I'm disappointed that they would go to that approach," said Gary Smith, president of the Winston-Salem stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Robert Shields, one of the overseers of the South Congregation of Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Winston Salem, said he wasn't bothered by the cult designation. "But a cult follows a human leader. We follow Jesus," he said. The local crusade comes as the Southern Baptist Convention has been criticized for its effort to convert Jews, Muslims and Hindus.

The convention angered Jews last year by asking its members to pray that Jews convert to Christianity during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The denomination also issued a booklet last year saying Hindus have "darkness in their hearts that no lamp can dispel."

Published January 22, 2000