More pastors are coming to Romney's defense after Pastor Robert Jeffress's comment about voting for a candidate who happens to be a Momon.
Today, Rev. Myke Crowder, who is the executive council member of the the National Clergy Council, representing church leaders from all Christian traditions including fundamentalist and evangelical, and is also a senior pastor in Utah, released a statement condemning Jeffress:
"As an evangelical, born-again, Bible-believing Christian, and a pastor with more than 25 years' experience living with and ministering among a majority Mormon population, I find the comments by Pastor Jeffress unhelpful, impolite and out of place," he said. "Insulting Mitt Romney adds nothing to the conversation about who should be president. We're picking the country's chief executive, not its senior pastor."
So are Mormons Christians? For me, that’s a complicated question.My Mormon friends and I disagree on enough subjects that I am not prepared to say that their theology falls within the scope of historic Christian teaching. But the important thing is that we continue to talk about these things, and with increasing candor and mutual openness to correction.No one has shown any impulse to walk away from the table of dialogue. We do all of this with the blessing of many leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of whom have become good friends.While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior.I find Mormons to be more Christ-centered than they have been in the past. I recently showed a video to my evangelical Fuller Seminary students of Mormon Elder Jeffrey Holland, one of the Twelve Apostles who help lead the LDS church. The video captures Holland speaking to thousands of Mormons about Christ’s death on the cross.Several of my students remarked that if they had not known that he was a Mormon leader they would have guessed that he was an evangelical preacher.The current criticisms of Mitt Romney’s religious affiliation recall for many of us the challenges John Kennedy faced when he was campaigning for the presidency in 1960.Some well-known Protestant preachers (including Norman Vincent Peale) warned against putting a Catholic in the White House. Kennedy’s famous speech to Houston pastors clarifying his religious beliefs as they related to his political leadership helped his cause quite a bit.But the real changes in popular attitudes toward Catholicism happened more slowly, as Catholic Church leaders and scholars engaged in a new kind of dialogue with each other and representatives of other faith groups, most dramatically at the Second Vatican Council during the early years of the 1960s.Cults do not engage in those kinds of self-examining conversations. If they do, they do not remain cults.
Pat Robertson, who recently stated that he is no longer directly endorsing political candidates, stated that he accepted Mitt Romney as a Christian:
Robertson said he would continue to comment on the news of the day and noted he likes Mitt Romney's politics. He said he considers the Mormon candidate "an outstanding Christian," but declined to say if he would be OK with a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the White House.
Other well known religious people have, in the past prior to Pastor Jeffress's comments, defended the claim that Mormons are Christians: For example, President Jimmy Carter criticized the Southern Baptist Convention for not accepting Mormons as Christians in 1997:
"Too many leaders now, I think, in the Southern Baptist Convention and in other conventions, are trying to act as the Pharisees did, who were condemned by Christ, in trying to define who can and who cannot be considered an acceptable person in the eyes of God. In other words, they’re making judgments on behalf of God. I think that’s wrong." Carter testified that "the people in my own local church have no interest in trying to condemn Mormons or trying to convert Mormons to be good old Baptists like me." Carter criticized SBC leaders for becoming "narrow in their definition of what is a proper Christian" and for believing "that every verse in the Bible has to be interpreted literally."
During the 2008 Presidential elections, people of different faiths stepped forward to rebut the claim that Mormons aren't Christians. For example, the Rev. Rob Schenck, an evangelical minister is part of the National Clergy Council, issued a statement to Reverend Al Sharpton during the 2008 Presidential election because Mr. Sharpton made some disparaging comments about the LDS faith:
The Rev. Rob Schenck, an evangelical minister who heads the National Clergy Council, issued a statement calling on Sharpton to “immediately apologize to Mr. Romney and the good people of the LDS Church and repent before God for such sinful hubris.”
Schenck, who has met privately with Romney to talk about Mormonism, also said that “while many other Christian groups may have differences with LDS doctrine, to question someone else’s sincerity of belief in God is the height of pharisaical arrogance.”
Another example is Mr. Bill Donohue, President of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, during the 2008 Presidential election, had this to say about candidates who attempt to use religion to either scare voters away from other candidates or to get support from voters:
"You know what, sell yourself on your issues, not on what your religion is."
Finally, Joel Osteen, a world famous Pastor, had this to say about Mitt Romney during the 2008 Presidential election: