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Inroads Made in Mormon-Evangelical Relations

Thanks to my Google news alerts, I spotted an article that appeared in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News on Friday, September 4th. Those of you who attended the 2008 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation in Austin may remember Reverend Greg Johnson. I found him to be extremely personable, and was inspired (to say the least) by his workshop with Jacob Hess called “Attracting Conservative Citizens to Dialogue Events: Liberal-Conservative Campus Dialogue & Mormon-Evangelical Interfaith Initiatives.” (Look over a great summary of the workshop here.)

Rev. Johnson is continuing his groundbreaking work bridging Evangelical Christian and Latter-day Saint faith leaders, and his latest accomplishment is outlined in the article by Carrie A. Moore, titled “Evangelicals plan Salt Lake meeting in ’11.” Look over the article, and be sure to also check out the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B6VoeO7Bwk in which Rev. Johnson and Dr. Robert Millet discuss the importance of real dialogue between the Evangelical & Latter-day Saint faith.

Evangelicals plan S.L. meeting in ’11

By Carrie A. Moore

Deseret News
Published: Friday, Sept. 4, 2009 5:40 p.m. MDT

Despite a checkered history of interfaith relations between Latter-day Saints and some evangelical leaders, the board of the directors of the National Association of Evangelicals will hold its biannual meeting in Salt Lake City in March 2011.

The Rev. Greg Johnson of Standing Together ministries told the Deseret News that Salt Lake City has been chosen as the site for the meeting of top evangelical leaders. Johnson joined the board in recent years, and asked if they had ever met in the Beehive State, he said, adding he’d like to see the meeting help foster some good will in Utah.

“These are high profile people that would be known to the public,” he said, adding the decision “shows there is an excitement, interest and curiosity about how evangelicals living here and what’s the rapport with the local community. There will be lots of education going on.”

He said the scheduled appearance of evangelist Nick Vujicic in the Salt Lake Tabernacle next weekend “makes it feel more and more comfortable to engage in spiritual topics and not resort to conflict and arguing,” when members of the two groups interact.

Johnson, who has teamed with Brigham Young University religion professor Robert Millet to discuss the Mormon-evangelical divide publicly in recent years, is believed to be the first Utah clergyman to served on the NAE board. The two men have long advocated respectful dialogue and between the two faith traditions.

“It’s been a labor of love over these past 12 years,” he said, noting an academic dialogue group of Mormon scholars will meet in Chicago next month with an equal number of evangelical scholars at Wheaton College to discuss the topic, “Evangelism and Conversion.”

Johnson’s ministry, Standing Together, will also host the National Student Dialogue conference at Biola University in November, after holding it in Salt Lake City for the past two years. The meeting brings together LDS and evangelical college students to hear top scholars from both traditions address topics they then discuss.

LDS scholar and author Richard Bushman is scheduled to speak at that event, which typically draws several hundred participants, Johnson said.

The angst between Latter-day Saints and evangelicals has simmered for decades, but came to the public eye in the mid 1990s, when a leading evangelical charged that Latter-day Saints were “not Christians,” prompting a public rebuke from former President Jimmy Carter.

The Southern Baptist Convention came to Salt Lake City in 1998, creating headlines nationwide when participants decided to go door to door in the area to share their faith, much as LDS missionaries do.

Afterward, Johnson and Millet were among those on both sides who tried to help foster dialogue.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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