UPDATE: Oak Street Chapel Board President, Dace Julifs contacted Alpha News this morning. Pastor Todd Wooden has not resigned; however, the entire board has resigned and around half of the 80 member congregation have left or plan to leave the church. According to Julifs, the reporting of the event by The Brainerd Dispatch newspaper unfairly portrayed his congregation as intolerant, unloving people and focused too much on the more controversial statements made by Dakdok during his presentation. Julifs said that because of the backlash the church received from the negative depiction of the church and Dakdok’s presentation by The Brainerd Dispatch, he and the board feared for the safety of their congregation. Julifs stated, “I was not fully informed about the presentation as a board member, and though I agree that people need to be educated and informed, it seemed that even if he (Dakdok) had three hours of great educational material, all the (Brainerd) Dispatch focused on was the ‘hate.'” He went on to say, “It (asking Wooden to resign) was not an easy thing to do…We are only running off of what people were reading in the paper because that’s what people see…We were trying to protect our people.”
Furthermore, Pastor Wooden’s seeming refusal to work with the board members to remedy the situation and do some damage control for the congregation’s reputation within the community only made the situation worse. According to Julifs, the church board had already talked with Wooden about removing some of his more “politically charged” messages from his sermons, something which he said Wooden refused to do. Julifs said that the board members and those of the congregation who have decided to leave the church are “heartbroken” over the situation.
A September 29, 2016 Islam presentation titled “Lies in the Textbooks” by Usama Dakdok of The Straight Way of Grace Ministry at the Oak Street Chapel in Brainerd, Minnesota caused an uproar in the central Minnesota church. Church board members, calling the presentation “Anti-Islamic” called for the resignation of Oak Street Chapel’s longtime leader, Pastor Todd Wooden. Evidence suggests that Pastor Wooden has resigned over the incident.
Following the Sept. 29, 2016 event, Oak Street Chapel Board President, Dace Julifs, claimed that the church’s website and Facebook pages had to be taken down due to the number of angry and hateful comments and messages the church received. However, over the weekend, cached webpages still showed Pastor Wooden as the church’s pastor. On Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, both the church website and Facebook pages were back up, but any mention of Pastor Todd Wooden as church leader had been scrubbed from both places. A phone call to the church went to voicemail where “the Pastor’s” phone number still sends the caller to Pastor Todd Wooden’s phone, but calls to the phone went unanswered. Furthermore, Pastor Wooden’s personal Facebook page now lists his work experience as “worked at Oak Street Chapel” (emphasis added). (Alpha News unsuccessfully attempted to contact the church, Pastor Wooden and Dace Julifs regarding the appearance of Wooden’s resignation.)
A local group called “Defenders of the Constitution” sponsored the controversial free event. Oak Street Chapel member Daryl Bahma is part of the group and approached the church to get permission to use the facility for Dakdok’s presentation.
Usama Dakdok is an Egyptian Christian who founded The Straight Way of Grace Ministry in 2001. The mission statement of The Straight Way Ministries includes: “equipping Christians to be effective witnesses of Jesus Christ to their Muslim neighbors, as well as ministering to Muslims directly… We believe that every American needs to learn the truth about Islam and how it is destroying the entire Muslim world and quickly infiltrating the West.” According to the website, Dakdok has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and a Master’s Degree in Missiology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with the numerous presentations listed on the website, he also has authored two books discussing Islam and suggesting ways Christians can share their beliefs with Muslims: The Generous Qur’an, and, Exposing the Truth about the Qur’an, The Revelation of Error.
In YouTube videos posted by protester Robin Hensel, Dakdok’s presentation style is loud. He also calls Americans “stupid” as was reported by the Brainerd Dispatch, however, in the context of Dakdok’s presentation, he explains he believes it is “stupid” that 15 years after 9/11, most Americans have never read the Quran and don’t understand what is in it, and therefore, do not understand Islamic beliefs and the inherent danger it poses.
Throughout Dakdok’s presentation, he recites verses from the Quran and uses Biblical references to explain to his audience the differences between Islam and Christianity.
(Video Credit: Robin Hensel)
(Video Credit: Robin Hensel)
In interviews with the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper, Pastor Wooden defended the event saying that “Bahma has a right to use the church,” and that other church members who had attended the event gave “positive feedback” about the presentation.
“That was a pastor gone rogue” ~ Oak Street Chapel Board President, Dace Julifs, Brainerd Distpatch
Others had a different view of the Dakdok event. Board President, Dace Julifs claims that the event was not reflective of the values held by the church community, and that though he had been made aware of the event, he believed it was “an informative meeting about the Muslim community and how non-Muslims could co-exist with them.” (Brainerd Dispatch) Julifs also claims that after the event, the church’s website and Facebook pages had to be taken down due to a large number of angry and abusive comments directed at the church for hosting a Usama Dakdok event. According to the interview with the Brainerd Dispatch, Pastor Wooden stated that none of the board members actually attended the presentation themselves.
Five protesters also showed up at the event. A few got into shouting matches with Dakdok. One protester, Cody Robertson, asked Dakdok to name two sources where Islam is taught in schools. Another attendee responded to the question with a story of her daughter coming home from school with a packet on Islam that she was required to learn. Robertson continued to argue with Dakdok and ultimately accused Dakdok of being a “bigot.” A few minutes later, Dakdok produced video clips that showed the teachings in American textbooks related to Islam.
Another protester, activist and Little Falls City Council candidate, Robin Hensel, left after saying, “Get behind me Satan!” in response to what she called Dakdok’s domineering, anti-Islamic attitude and misrepresentation of Christianity.
In an interview with Alpha News, Hensel, who is not a member of the Oak Street Church, said that she had attended a previous Dakdok event and believes that he is using Islamaphobia to incite fear and division in communities in order to sell his books. Criticizing Dakdok for calling his presentations a “ministry,” Hensel stated, “Usama does not have an alter call. If he continues to present himself that way, he will never win anyone to Christ.” She went on to ask, “He claims to be a Christian pastor: where are his ‘fruits’?” She was an active organizer of the five protesters at the event, after calling the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace to find out if they planned to organize a protest. She has attended and protested at a previous Dakdok event at a VFW hall.
According to Hensel, “Usama was yelling at everyone who was there – what is the purpose of that other than to incite hatred and division?” She believes that the terrorism perpetrated by Muslim extremists is a result of “blowback” from the wars being waged by the US in the Middle East. On Oct. 1, 2016, Hensel stated on her blog (RobinHensel.blogspot.com):
Blowback from our ILLEGAL military activities is what is driving terrorism throughout the world. That’s why it is so important for the US to quit TERRORIZING other peoples and nations. US blood thirst for full spectrum world domination has to end…..NOW. US illegal wars/invasions/drone assassinations/torture are making us LESS SAFE. Counter productive and stupid.
In an interview with WLOX TV, Dakdok explains what he believes is the reason for Islamic terrorism.
New 4/9/16 Share-New on YouTube 7 minutes of Truth! Usama Dakdok on WLOX about the source of Islamic Terrorism: https://t.co/ivotYonQ5o.
— Usama Dakdok (@UsamaDakdok) April 9, 2016
Dakdok stated: “to perform jihad against the infidel…in Islam there is no such a thing as moderate Muslims because there’s no such thing as moderate Islam…”
He went on to say, “There two things in America we are living with: political correctness which is nothing but literally we’re digging our own graves for our children our grandchildren our own hand that is a political correct. The second thing is our ignorance: most American people, ninety-nine-point-nine PERCENT of the American people never read the Quran.”
One of Dakdok’s articles on his website sums up one of the points he made during his presentation:
We Christians are no longer light and salt for we must be tolerant to please everybody.
What is political correctness? In my simple words, it is a foolish action of ignorant Americans who load their guns with their own bullets to shoot and kill their own children and grandchildren to please the Moslem enemy. I do not support the physical war in Muslim countries for I do not believe we are in a physical war with Muslims. I do not believe that war against Islam can be won with bullets. It can only be won when we get rid of fear which Americans call political correctness and have the freedom to speak and to teach the truth about Islam by simply reading the Qur’an and the Hadith and spread the truth about Mohammed and his followers throughout the media. For the Bible says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledgUpdated October 4, 2016 12:30pm for you rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.” The problem in America is nothing but lack of knowledge. ~ “Living in Fear or Political Correctness – What Do You Call It?”
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Updated October 4, 2016 12:30pm