Florida pastor's fellow Pentecostals reject burning Quran

Like the tiny Florida church that shook the world last week with its pastor's threat to burn copies of the Quran, Central Church of God calls itself Pentecostal.

And like that 50-member Dove World Outreach Center, which put up signs equating Islam with the devil, this 6,000-member megachurch in south Charlotte is not bashful about cursing Satan or about praising Jesus with tears of emotion.

But, on Sunday, interviews with Pastor Loran Livingston and members of his flock turned up zero support for waging war against Islam by burning its holy book.

While insisting that belief in Jesus is the one true path to God, they said they are called as Christians to win converts by showing love, not make enemies by spreading hate.

"The church's business is to tell all people — Jews, Muslims everybody — that Christ loves them and God will save them," said Livingston, one of Charlotte's star preachers, who inherited a congregation of just 22 people when he became pastor in 1977. "I don't think Jesus meant for us to be divisive and militant."

Livingston said he was embarrassed that combative Pastor Terry Jones — the mustachioed man in the news who finally backed down from his plan to torch 200 Qurans — held himself up as a Pentecostal.

The fast-growing brand of Christianity takes its name from the feast of Pentecost, when Jesus' apostles received the Holy Spirit and were empowered to speak in foreign languages. In today's Pentecostal churches, many adherents speak in tongues or perform healings.

"We could get so much more done for the Lord if we would do it his way," Livingston said. "He told (apostle) Peter, 'Put your sword away. If you live by the sword, you'll die by the sword.' We're supposed to be peacemakers. We're supposed to love everybody... It doesn't matter what they've done to us or might do in the future. We're to love them."

During his Sunday sermon to a packed sanctuary and overflow satellite buildings, Livingston made it clear that he and members of his interracial congregation differ from other, non-Christian religions. That includes Islam, which honors Jesus as a great prophet but worships only Allah — the Arabic name for God — as divine.

"There is only one true God — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — whose son is Jesus," he told his flock, many of whom lifted their hands heavenward and shouted their approval. "In these days, (many) pick a god and put a name on it. No, his name is Jesus."

But in the next breath, Livingston said that same Jesus "teaches us to be kind, teaches us to be peacemakers... The Bible says we are to make peace with all men."

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