Baptists disown pastor

By Brett Cox
Updated November 5 2012 - 8:11am, first published November 19 2008 - 11:52pm
Pastor Harris.

The Baptist Union of NSW has distanced itself from a Wollongong church whose pastor was alleged to have said Jews were "going to hell" and faced a fate "worse than the Holocaust" for not believing in Jesus.The union's president, Reverend Norm Nix, yesterday said the Illawarra Community Baptist Church at Farmborough Heights did not fall under his organisation's banner. And nor had its pastor, Kevin Harris, undertaken ministerial training with Australian Baptists."We love and respect Jewish people, and seek always to maintain good relations with people of other faiths," Rev Nix said.The controversial outcome of a "bridge building" meeting last Thursday between Pastor Harris and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief Vic Alhadeff has become global news - especially on Jewish websites.Mr Alhadeff said he was also offended by material he was given by Pastor Harris at the meeting, which included the Star of David with a skull.Pastor Harris says he didn't mean to offend and maintains his comments that "all sinners, including me, would deserve hell" had been misconstrued. He told the Mercury reports he had admitted making the remarks were false. "I knew after the meeting we had disagreed. But I love the Jewish people, I stand against anti-Semitism and I abhor the Holocaust," Pastor Harris said."I was asked about our beliefs and I told him the same thing I tell everyone else." The US-born pastor moved to Australia 10 years ago to set up the church, which opened its doors in 2000. It has a congregation of just 20.The church's website says independent Baptists follow teachings from the Bible more literally than Baptists under the union. Pastor Harris has only one regret from the episode: "I would've recorded the conversation we had."Mr Alhadeff said the meeting with Pastor Harris was a "chilling experience". "We asked him how he reconciled his professed love for the Jews with the fact that he wants to see all Jews disappear," he said."While one is only too aware that there are fundamentalist beliefs and extremist preachers out there, the fact that he is teaching, preaching and influencing others is of concern."Mr Alhadeff said he was welcomed by other religious leaders, including the Catholic Bishop of Wollongong, Peter Ingham.Yesterday, Bishop Ingham said inter-faith relations were important. "You have to respect where they are coming from but that doesn't mean you don't proclaim your faith."Mr Alhadeff agreed to revise a press release he had sent out listing the alleged anti-Semitic comments, at the request of Pastor Harris. A claim that Pastor Harris had said "Jews are a cancer" was changed. "The pastor called me yesterday and I accept his good faith that he did not intend to say that. He meant to say Jews have a cancer because they do not accept Jesus," Mr Alhadeff said.Pastor Harris said the press release had damaged relations between Jews and independent Baptists. "Which one of us has perpetuated these things?" Pastor Harris asked.

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