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Christians, Muslims move ahead on global talks

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"One of the best things that's happened is the opening of an avenue of discussion with denominations where we never thought it possible – with Evangelicals," Mr. Nakhooda adds.

The most in-depth Christian response, a letter authored at Yale Divinity School, included many prominent Evangelicals among the signers. But that response, "Loving God and Neighbor Together," has spurred debate among Evangelicals, whose views on Islam and dialogue with Muslims vary greatly.

"It's mostly been a cordial debate," says Joseph Cumming, director of Yale Divinity School's Reconciliation Program, who is coordinating planning for the July conference. "I think the Evangelical community is trying to think more deeply about how to engage with Muslims."

Some influential conservative leaders were distressed by the wording of the response. John Piper, pastor of a large Baptist church in Minneapolis, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the letter and any dialogue should speak from the unique Christian standpoint, including the nature of Jesus Christ and the Trinity. Given different understandings of God, "to talk as though the love of God is a common standpoint is wrong," Dr. Piper said in a video that's played on YouTube.

The president of Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical school, initially signed the letter but later withdrew due to concerns within his college community. Numerous influential evangelicals are on board, however, including megachurch pastors Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

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