Illawarra religious leaders no closer to agreeing

By Michele Tydd
Updated November 5 2012 - 6:34pm, first published November 19 2008 - 10:46am

An attempt to build bridges between religions in the Illawarra has soured with a prominent Jewish official accusing a Baptist clergyman of "disturbing" teachings.NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief Vic Alhadeff met with Illawarra Community Baptist Church pastor Kevin Harris last Thursday as part of a tour of the region to consult religious leaders.On Monday this week Mr Alhadeff sent out a mass email quoting Pastor Harris, from the meeting, as saying Jews were "going to hell" and faced a fate "worse than the Holocaust".Yesterday Mr Alhadeff said he was also concerned that Pastor Harris had given him a brochure containing an image of the Star of David with a skull in the middle."I found these teachings both disturbing and disconcerting in the extreme," he said.Pastor Harris, who has worked in the Illawarra for nearly nine years, dismissed the claims, saying he had been "misquoted and misunderstood". "He is taking some statements I made and material I gave him and making them look like something else," Pastor Harris said."I want to get the message out that we Christians do not hate anybody."Pastor Harris said he never intended any offence and thought the meeting had gone well."It was meant to be a bridge-building meeting so I was surprised to have three journalists phone me yesterday after the email had been sent out," he said."From my perspective we had a good cordial talk, and we both understood that Christians and Orthodox Jews do not agree on the notion that Jesus is the Messiah." Pastor Harris said his comments were taken from the Bible and not supposed to represent his personal views on any group."I did say all of us have sinned - Christians and Jews - and our sins condemn us to hell, that means every human being who does not receive Jesus as their Lord and saviour."Pastor Harris said the Star of David image was one of many images in the brochure he gave to Mr Alhadeff."I support the written message in the brochure but I have no recollection of that particular image, which could have several meanings based on the Bible's teachings," he said.Mr Alhadeff yesterday said he was no expert on the Bible, but he was still disturbed by the comments and material he received."My concern is that he is influencing others, and the import of what he is saying shows a lack of respect for people who do not profess the same faith as he does." Mr Alhadeff said he did not accept Pastor Harris's explanation for the material containing an image of the Star of David with a skull in the centre."A skull is symbolic of death and it is disconcerting to see one at the centre of our religious symbol," he said."It fits with his clear message we received from him that we are destined to hell and that a terrible fate is awaiting us."