By Sara Horn
FARMERSVILLE, Texas (Christian Examiner) – Concerned citizens who packed into a local high school cafeteria for a town hall meeting in Farmersville last week to discuss a proposed Muslim cemetery agree on one thing – there is very little agreement to be found in the meeting itself, but they can agree fear and divided opinions remain.
With a population just over 3,000, the town made national headlines this summer when a proposal for to build a Muslim cemetery was brought before a May 28 Planning and Zoning meeting. Alarmed citizens have shown up at every public meeting since — with standing room only — to protest and voice concern.
Among those who are divided are two of the town’s Baptist pastors. Both men offered opinions on an Aug. 4 town hall meeting — the most recent attempt by the city and the Islamic Association of Collin County to quell fears and what they have said is misinformation.
TWO SOUTHERN BAPTIST PASTORS MILES APART IN REACTION
Pastors of two Southern Baptist churches in Farmersville share different views of the cemetery proposal, and of the climate in the community generated by the proposal.
Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church, toldChristian Examiner he looks at the situation as an opportunity to support religious liberty for all. David Meeks, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, toldChristian Examiner he has been critical of plans for the cemetery and does not trust Muslims.
“I think the town hall meeting pretty accurately revealed the division of opinion in our community,” said Barber, who described his attempts to be a calming voice for his congregation and community in the wake of erupting tensions. “I think there were people who were opposed to the cemetery who represented that position as well as it could be represented, and some [were] there who represented that position as poorly as it could be represented.”
Barber told Christian Examiner when the time came for questions from the public at the meeting, there were some who spoke in respectful opposition to the cemetery, based not on an “anti-religious liberty case but from a procedural or “land use case.”
“On the worst side of things, someone yelled ‘you’re not welcome here…’ people just doing shameful things that weren’t helpful and representing the worst aspect of our society,” Barber said.
Barber said some in Farmersville are afraid, and he understands, given a recent terrorist event in nearby Garner, Texas, where two men opened fire at an art exhibit depicting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
Still, he’s urging members of his church as well as those in the community not to see all Muslims “as enemies to drive away but to regard Muslims as people in need of Jesus, to embrace and invite to know Jesus as their Savior.”
“In order to do that, I’ve tried to make a biblical case and a constitutional case for religious liberty, that we support religious liberty for all people, and also help think about how they can share the gospel with Muslims,” Barber said. Click here to read the rest of the article Farmersville Cemetery