“Wide Is the [Straight] Path…”

The Presbyterian Church USA has hammered one more nail into its own coffin — one wonders whether there is space for any further nails. Last Saturday, at the opening business session of its 222nd General Assembly in Portland, OR, oregon_convention_center_horizontalthe denominational leadership orchestrated an event which denied the gospel and lordship of Jesus Christ. Here’s what happened.

The Stated Clerk had asked the staff of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Ministries of the PCUSA to create a liturgy of repentance/remembrance for the recent victims of gun violence in Orlando (and last year in Charleston, SC) as the first order of business for the GA. It was predictably leftist in its political emphases, with no wrestling over the impact of radical Islam, which was to be expected. ga222Indeed, as a token sign of its expansive tolerance, a Muslim was invited to participate in leading this liturgy. His name is Wajdi Said, president of the Muslim Educational Trust in the Portland area.

When it was his turn to lead, Mr. Said began by chanting in Arabic, most but not all of which was translated into English on the screen for the ignorWajdi_Finalant participants. Hardly anyone there, I’m guessing, had any idea where the words Mr. Said chanted came from. The first sentence was not translated — apparently, Wajdi threw that in on his own. This is what he said: “I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the accursed.” Within the Muslim world this is a common interjection when one fears the presence and power of evil spirits. Since Islam teaches that Christians and Jews who reject the claims of Muhammad are the vilest of creatures, under the sway of Satan, it is not surprising he would begin with this intercessory prayer for himself. Apparently, he need not have worried.

The remainder of his Arabic chanting was the most well-known chapter of the Qur’an, the Fatiha, which observant Muslims recite a minimum of seventeen times a day. Often called “the Mother of the Qur’an,” this chapter, composed of seven verses, is a prayer to Allah. Its main request is that the petitioner be led on “the straight path,” that is, the path revealed through Muhammad, and not be misled on the paths either of those who have incurred Allah’s wrath (popularly understood to refer to the Jews), or of those who have gone astray (popularly understood to mean the Christians). So here at the start of the business of the PCUSA General Assembly is a Muslim man praying to the Allah of the Qur’an that the gathered delegates be led to Islam and away from the cursed Jews and the wayward Christians. What an uplifting way to begin the national meeting of a denomination once faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ….

After he finished this chanted prayer of Islam, Mr. Said then spoke a seemingly extemporaneous prayer in English seeking blessing, where he once again invoked Allah’s power to “…lead us to the straight path, the path of all the prophets, Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, Moses and Jesus, and Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Amen.” To the untrained theological ear, this may sound somewhat innocuous. But in his prayer Mr. Said made three bold claims antithetical to the gospel:

  1. Praying to Allah (a god different from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ), he was pleading that the Presbyterians gathered there would be converted to the straight path, i.e., become Muslims. That is the definition of chutzpah, to use a Yiddish term.
  2. He revealed the Islamic belief that all true prophets were in fact Muslims, i.e., believers in the straight path that Muhammad taught. In other words, there is no plan of salvation that God is unfolding, pointing to the coming of a Messiah for the world, but only a static message which prophets have been repeating unchanged from the time of Adam, the message of surrender to Allah and his will, to be rewarded or punished for eternity depending on how well or poorly you please him.
  3. Jesus is only one among these numerous prophets. To be sure, he has high ranking in the prophetic pantheon, but like all the rest he is only human.According to Islam,  Jesus is no mediator between God and humanity, he has no divine nature, he did not die for the sins of humanity, he was not raised from the dead, he did not open the way for the Holy Spirit to indwell and transform human beings into his likeness, he is not the Lord and Savior of humanity.

But Mr. Said was not finished. The remainder of his liturgy, printed and projected on the screens, was apparently written by him and vetted by the PCUSA staff. He read it, with a few ad libs based on the original Qur’anic texts from which the material was taken. Here’s a breakdown of the readings which he led for the GA:

“In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful: Let us praise the Lord of the universe who….” This comes directly from the Sura 1, the Fatiha, which opens with “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All praise belongs to God, Lord of the Universe…” (1:1-2).

“who has created us and made us into tribes and nations, that we may know each other, not that we may despise each other. Incline towards peace, and trust in God, for the Lord is the one who hears and knows all things.” This is a conflation of two verses from the Qur’an: “O mankind! We have created you male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another…. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware” (49:1), and “And if they [the unbelievers] incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He, even He, is the Hearer, the Knower” (8:61). Interestingly, the GA text left out the phrase from the Qur’an “male and female,” but Mr. Said added that in as he read out loud. I’m guessing the PCUSA leadership didn’t want to be accused of “gender binarism” but Mr. Said hasn’t yet learned that latest quirk of political correctness, so he quoted the Qur’an faithfully.

“And the servants of God most gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when we address them, we say ‘Peace.'” Sura 25:63 is the source for this: “And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!'” Note the difference at the end. The Qur’anic text focuses on how the servants of Allah (i.e., faithful Muslims) are to respond when the ignorant verbally demean them — they are to respond with words of peace. Mr. Said understood this, because he “ad-libbed” at this point, saying, “…when the bigots and hateful and Islamophobes address them, they say ‘Peace….” Who are the ignorant, according to Mr. Said? Those who are opposed to Islam. This apparently flew completely over the heads of the Presbyterian creators of this liturgy, who tried to turn this Qur’anic verse into a demonstration of our own peaceful approach to the Muslim world.

The following facts should lead members of the PCUSA to indignation and outrage at the theological incompetence and infidelity of their leadership:

  • a practicing Muslim is invited to lead the worship of Christians
  • he invokes the name of Allah in Islamic prayer, and prays the anti-Jewish, anti-Christian prayer of the Fatiha
  • he asks Allah to convert the assembly
  • his prayer implicitly denies biblical  salvation history pointing toward the culmination of the Incarnation of God the Son into this world for our salvation
  • he disparages the person of Jesus by demoting him as “one of the prophets” without any corrective from Christians present
  • the liturgy he leads is woven from Qur’anic passages, with no Biblical input
  • so far there has been no clamor from the assembly or apology from the podium for allowing this to transpire.

Many liberal Presbyterians have castigated evangelicals for leaving the denomination over the diminished place accorded Jesus in the life of the PCUSA. The theological left says this is nonsense, that the PCUSA still stands for the unique lordship of Jesus, and for the truth that salvation is uniquely through him. But if the denomination lets stand this travesty, they will show once and for all that their words have no meaning.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the path is easy1 that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the path is hard that leads to life, andithose who find it are few” (Mt.7:13-14).

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’….and I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Mt. 7:21-23).

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56 Responses to “Wide Is the [Straight] Path…”

  1. Tim Harrison says:

    Thank you Mateen! There are few people who have the experience and knowledge to unpack this event. Bless you my friend.


  2. Frank Norment says:

    Thanks again Mateen. Many years ago when I was trying to decide whether to stay or go from PCUSA, I followed your comments and now, having left that denomination , I am again reading your every word and am learning a great deal, keep it up and God be with you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brad Nelson says:

    That satisfies one of the goals and strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood.to infiltrate the churches, schools and government agencies. I hope the General Assembly picks up on what they are trying to do. God Bless you Mateen!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brad, suffice it to say that although the Stated Clerk offered an apology to those who were offended by a prayer on Saturday, neither the Imam nor the specific prayer were identified in the apology. Further, the apology was that people were offended.
      Gradye Parsons’ cryptic Wednesday apology, offered as people were packing up for dinner, included an explanation that “sometimes mistakes can be made in ecumenical relationships,” “it was never the intention to offend anyone” and “we offer an apology to those who were offended.”
      Notably, its not ecumenical. Islam is not a branch of the Vine.
      And, as you allude to, how could Gradye possibly know the “intent” of the Imam?

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Leslie Day-Ebert says:

    Excellent article. Thank you, Mateen. With your permission I’d like to share this so those unfamiliar with what’s happened to our former denomination can better understand why we left.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. will spotts says:

    Thanks for this, Mateen.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Dale Ridenour says:

    Thanks, Mateen. Once again the deception of the Offices of G.A. are in evidence. Is there no shame or even a willingness to get along with evangelical colleagues? Maybe the only nail in the coffin the officers of G. A. will ever see is when the final nail is in place and G.A. can no longer be funded. Dale

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chris Davis says:

    Mateen, I’m at the assembly as a commissioner, and while what you write is mostly accurate it should be noted that in the afternoon session of Plenary on Wednesday, June 22, an apology from the Clerk was issued in response to a letter than was written by a Korean commissioner, and signed on by a number of commissioners, myself included. The bills and overture committee was called into an emergency session in response to it as well. It seems clear that his prayer was off script (although I agree that he shouldn’t have been included in the service as a leader of worship at all).

    Liked by 1 person

    • mateenelass says:

      Chris, I’m so thankful to know you are a commissioner at this GA. Thank you for filling in some details. I obviously had not learned of Gradye’s “apology” when I wrote this at 2:30 am (last night), and I still have not seen a transcript of what he said, but word is that his apology was more a “if anyone was offended, we regret that. Such was not our intention.” In my mind, that doesn’t qualify as an apology with true penitence and conviction.

      I’m curious why the Bills and Overtures Committee would be called to emergency session over this — can you explain the import of that to me?

      Thank you for being one of the signatories to the protest letter. I wish there had been more of a groundswell of dissapproval.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chris Davis says:

        This information came to me (and the rest of the Presbyterian Coalition) via Gale Watkins, how is on the Bills and Overtures Committee. The Korean commissioners that penned the letter objecting to the prayer did it in a manner that was out of order. They should have filed a protest. It appears that the leadership of the Assembly was dismayed enough by the letter that they chose to accept it as being a legitimate form of protest, and to address it in the assembly and as a part of the record. I agree that the apology was not as strong as I would have liked to see, nor was it as impassioned as it could have been, but the fact that it was made at all is notable.

        I have to say that overall GA222 has been a much less oppressive event that GA221 is. Certainly things are still for more progressive than I like, and the choices that assembly leadership make in what to celebrate and how to structure worship are slanted, but amongst the commissioners there seems to be a willingness to listen to one another, and to try and talk with and not at each other.


  10. Gigi Merrill says:

    Were you there?


  11. Vioa Larson says:

    Thank you Mateen. Your posting so clarifies what was already offensive. It is now more so. I would also like to know why the Bills and Overtures committee was involved with the letter with an emergency session no less. I am feeling extremely sad for those in the PCUSA both those who are faithfully speaking for our Lord and those who are being poorly led by the wolves.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Robert Stowe says:

      Those faithful Christians who have stayed in the denomination must finally defend from a biblical standpoint why they remain. It would be very difficult to argue against the point that the PC(USA) is a left-wing political organization and no longer a part to the Church of Jesus Christ.


  12. Viola Larson says:

    There is a “L” in my name: )

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for the article. Being a former PC(USA) pastor who left the denomination for a host of reasons, I appreciated the broad sweep of your report and critique. There is one glaring error that bothers me a great deal..Your first listed error of Mr. Said is that he prayed to Allah. That is the generic Arabic word for God and if you go to any Arabic speaking or Arabic heritage church you will almost certainly hear prayers to Allah (although it’s typically transliterated “Ullah” in North American Christian churches so as not to offend the tender ears of the ignorant and judgmental), To call “praying to Allah” an error is no different than saying that a Latin praying to “Deus” or a Greek praying to “Theos” is a great error, or, for that matter, an Anglo praying to “God” is a great error. Of course the primary Muslim heresy is that they reject the Holy Trinity. But, that being said, one prayer that doesn’t explicitly include the Trinity does not a heresy create. Manifold prayers offered by Christians and included in venerable prayer books over the ages, particularly those rooted in the language of the psalms, have prayers to “God” (the equivalent generic English term to Allah) without formal reference to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If your point is that Muslims are not Trinitarian that’s fine … and utterly obvious. Unfortunately what you imply in this particular critique is that it is not okay to pray in a language other than English.


    • mateenelass says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have dealt with this argument numerous times. Here’s what I wrote on another comment site:

      While in the Arabic language “Allah” is the generic word which we would translate as “God”, in Islam “Allah” is seen as the proprietary name of the one they worship, and as such is defined by their “revealed” tenets. A hypothetical parallel would be if “Trinity,” shorn of any theological meaning, were the generic word in English for “God,” yet for orthodox Christians retains its deep, theological sense of one God in substance consisting of three persons. Would you assume that a non-Christian speaking of “Trinity” in such a scenario is thinking of the same being as Christians speaking of “Trinity”? Perhaps you’d say yes. But at the very least you ought to concede the likelihood that others would rightly doubt that the use of the same sounds conveyed by the letters spelling “Trinity” would convey the same meaning or sense to all parties involved.

      Even more telling to me is that the Allah of Islam is said in the Qur’an to curse anyone who believes in the divinty of Jesus and his atoning death for sinners, while the God of the Bible does exactly the opposite. How is it that anyone could conclude that we are talking of the same God, just because both groups use the same sounds made by three Arabic letters?

      If you’d like to think this through in greater depth, I invite you to read the following blog post: https://mateenelass.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/prodigal-love-for-a-prodigal-world/

      By the way, though Arabic-speaking churches do use the Arabic word “Allah” to mean God, they tend to prefer the term “Rabb” (= Lord) as a way of distinguishing the God of the Bible from the god of the Qur’an. The issue is not the term “God” in different languages, but rather the content explicitly associated with the usage of that word, regardless of whichever language is used.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You are correct that the issue is the content that people associate with and apply to God. I personally have not noticed that we use Rabb extensively vs. Ullah in the Antiochian Orthodox Church when we pray in Arabic (which isn’t that often, by the way, mostly when we have people in worship whose primary language is Arabic) and the really central prayers such as the Trisagion, are prayers to Ullah, so based on my own experience I suspect that’s a red herring. I suspect that Christians living in predominantly Muslim lands are hesitant to speak of God as Ullah both as a safety issue and as a sign of respect for their neighbors, but the prayers of the church have never been changed, to my knowledge, to accommodate Islam.

        Furthermore, you are correct that Islam does tend to consider the noun “Allah” to be proprietary. That’s one of the things Mohamed picked up from the Christian Church as he was formulating his religion. He understood that there is only one God and not.a multiplicity of gods, so any reference to God (even a false reference) has to be taken seriously and dealt with accordingly. Ah that the contemporary church could remember that lesson. When we attempt to create a god in our own image, we have no god at all, but only an idol. That is very different than the church giving me a pass and saying, “He has a different god.” When Islam or the Oneness Pentecostals pray to God they are indeed inviting a curse upon their heads. (That’s one thing that Islam and the Orthodox Church have in common: a profound understanding that there is and can be only one God, and if Christianity is correct then Islam is a heresy, and vice versa.) Changing the generic word we use to refer to God has no bearing on that profound reality.


    • Dpompa says:

      Also, if you look at Muhammad’s era, all the nomadic family groups had “house gods”, and Allah was his. So when he sought to promote himself he took his god along with him. So when they pray to Allah, it is no different than someone praying to Zeus or Odin. It is not the same as praying to the God of the gospel.


  14. Aahmes Overton says:

    Marilyn and I are so grateful, Mateen, for your remarkable background, scholarship and discernment. The decline of the PCUSA troubles us increasingly. I struggle with whether or not I have anything left to contribute that would slow or help reverse the decline. Please continue to help us see these matters more clearly.
    Aahmes Overton


    • mateenelass says:

      You are so gracious, Aahmes. Your presence alone is a blessing to the PCUSA, but I don’t know what else could be tried to decelerate or reverse the slide. Thank you for your encouragement on my work!


  15. Thank you for bringing this matter to the attention of people who have loved this denomination. While many people are no doubt upset, no one should be surprised. Since reunion in the early 1980’s, the (now) PCUSA has been lurching toward something less than the full Gospel. Many of us remember the Sophia (Milk and Honey in place of wine and bread) fiasco. Then too, there was an apology although it was much slower in coming. While it cost us over $2 million, we are now in ECO and can move on. I do grieve for friends and relatives who don’t have the resources to pay off the scoundrels.


  16. Dr. Thomas Peavy says:

    PCUSA apparently has become a political entity masquerading as a religious denomination and bowing to the secular left as its new found god. I have been in PCUSA for 40 years and now have decided to leave after the theological and political insanity of this GA. As a Ruling Elder and Commissioner to Presbytery, I can no longer accept the authority of this PCUSA as legitimate. The denomination has morphed into a bastion of Secular Progressive and Leftist ideology which interprets and twist scripture to suit its secular agenda and please it handlers in government. Though spoken, the separation of church and government appears to have vanished between the PCUSA and the political left. If one were to remove the Hood of denomination from the PCUSA it would likely find an operative of a left wing political party wearing a clerical collar just under the hood. My heart is broken for the good people of PCUSA who have had their denomination hijacked by Secular Progressives who are more concerned with satisfying man and his hedonism than in pleasing the God that is the head of the Church. My prayers to those who may leave PCUSA given this GA and its decisions. May you be led to that church home which will rely on Scriptural Authority and God’s Grace as its guidance to worshipers.


    • mateenelass says:

      Dr. Peavey, I grieve with you over the destruction of a beloved, once faithful and God-honoring denomination. But the Church of Jesus will continue on, and the gates of hell will not be able to withstand it.

      Liked by 1 person

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  18. Pingback: Gradye Parsons and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Apology | the personal blog of Mateen Elass

  19. William Bergner says:

    Thank you Mateen. May God continue to bless your work.


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  21. David Austin says:

    great post, keep up the great work


  22. Peter says:

    Repent PCUSA! You are committing idolatry.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Pingback: Gradye Parsons and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Apology - The Layman Online

  24. Pingback: Muslim Prays to Allah at PCUSA Gen Assem for victims of Orlando and Charleston | Leadingchurch.com

  25. ken waller says:

    reminds me of a famous quoye from a sunday comic character, Pogo the opossum “We have met the enemy and he is us”

    Liked by 1 person

  26. David Richard says:

    Thank you, Mateen, for your insight and discerning words. It hurts to see the continuing decay of PC(USA) – but you shine the light of truth, and there’s no hiding, or shadow of turning, from what we see.

    I don’t see, with my physical eyes, much left in the denomination worth keeping, but my hope and prayer is that there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Mary says:

    Thank you. One small request: when God is refered to as His or Him, please capitalize it. I believe it shows a further respect and our intentions to put God where He belongs in our church and in our lives.


    • mateenelass says:

      Mary, my normal practice when speaking of Allah or any false god is to leave the common noun “god” and related pronouns in lowercase. When I refer to the God of the Bible, I always capitalize related pronouns. Typically, when I use pronouns of Jesus I use lowercase, in acknowledgement of his true humanity as well as divinity. If you find a place where I have deviated from this practice, please let me know.


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  31. Bill Kerschbaum says:

    Mateen, thanks for your good word. Very enlightening and helpful. I have family in the PCUSA, and it’s very disheartening to see them being led by a church that has abandoned its first love for a lifeless idol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mateenelass says:

      Bill, so good to hear from you. I hope you are well. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts — may the Lord watch over your family members still in the PCUSA!


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  37. Amy says:

    I belong to a church that is part of the Presbyterian USA but my church in particular has taken a direct stance against what the Presbyterian USA is standing for. For example, we stand for traditional marriage between a man and woman as spoken of in God’s Word, and also we are actually hosting you at our church in a couple of weeks which I look forward to hearing you speak because I need to be reminded of the truth and also I have a deep passion to share the truth with Muslims. I hope to talk to you in person and also I have some questions to ask you about the Presbyterian USA and Presbyterian beliefs in general. I was not raised Presbyterian but actually was raised in a non-denominational bible Church and also have been Baptist, so I am more evangelical than Presbyterian if you get my drift. I have been praying for several years for a revival to break out in my church and for people to truly be awakened to their need for Jesus and a hunger to share the gospel again. I have been wrestling with whether to leave or stay. I would appreciate any advice or encouragement you have to give me. Reading your articles that you posted of the controversial speaker at the General Assembly greatly encouraged me and I was relieved to know that I was not the only one upset about that. I am praying for you and that when you come and speak at my Church, people’s eyes will be open and that I too will once again taste of the Love of Christ and the power of the gospel and that I will be awakened and renewed in my desire to share the gospel. Thank you so much for preaching the truth. It is not popular nor is it politically correct but I so appreciate it! God bless and I will be praying for you and your family. For protection and for peace and that God will use your words to wake up people before it’s too late. It is much easier to stay quiet, to live in fear, and be like the world, but it is far better despite a great cost to stand up for the truth, to proclaim freedom to the captives, and to follow the Word of God in a pluralistic society that wants nothing to do with absolutes and wants only to stuff themselves with entertainment and lies. I am convicted of my need to truly fall on my face and cry out to God to awaken in me a sense of renewed purpose of living for Him no matter what the cost. I could continue writing, because I feel like I have so much to share but I will leave the rest for when I hopefully am able to talk with you face to face. May the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
    In Christ,


  38. Jesus of the Gospels is the answer – not Muhammad, Paul, Mary, or any other “special person” with “special writings.”

    Poem – What is love?

    Two men came to Jesus
    With different motivations.
    They asked Him the same question
    Relevant to all the nations:

    Which is the Most Important?
    The answer was the same.
    Jesus did not manipulate
    He was not there to play a game.

    “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
    as He quoted from The Law –
    to fulfill and not abolish
    was His purpose, full of awe.

    Jesus did not make all Scripture
    Into one new great commandment.
    He summarized The Law and Prophets
    “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

    The Love of God is higher
    Than the love of any man.
    Receive from God, give back to God-
    Then to others, that’s His plan.

    The Love of God involves much more
    Than simply “love your fellow man.”
    Worship, trust, and pray to God,
    and obey Him – that’s His plan

    To worship and pray to neighbors,
    Whoever they may be,
    Or trust and obey our enemies
    Would be idolatry.

    The love of God is first and greatest,
    And the love of man is second.
    “All we need is love” are words
    of dead Beetles on the pavement.

    “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
    are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
    It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
    an “accuser of our brethren.”

    “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
    in his chapter to the Corinthians.
    “I will show you the most excellent way”
    is the road to eternal perdition.

    Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
    Nowhere in view of the eye.
    Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
    “I, I, I, I.”

    Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
    Not the words of a Pharisee.
    The words of Jesus are very clear.
    Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”


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