As nearly 80 conservative Christian leaders met two weeks ago in Texas to plan spiritual and political change, they started their two-day summit by hearing from potential presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Additionally, despite protestations by some participants that the gathering was purely spiritual and that presidential candidates were not discussed, many political topics were discussed even after the Republican governor addressed the group.
EthicsDaily.com broke the news of a June 21-22, 2011, meeting organized by evangelist James Robison in Euless, Texas, with about 76 conservative Christian leaders. The meeting was a follow-up to a Sept. 8-9, 2010, meeting in Dallas where about 40 conservative Christian leaders met.
EthicsDaily.com noted on June 23 that the group meeting included numerous ties to Perry, who has served as governor of Texas for more than a decade and is considering entering the 2012 presidential race.
Perry recently called for a national prayer rally to be held in Houston in August. Many of the organizers and leaders of that event are also part of Robison’s group.
EthicsDaily.com contacted several participants from the gathering, but each declined to comment.
However, some details of the meeting emerged as participants offered short updates on the social media site Twitter.
Billy Wilson, executive director of Empowered21 (a Pentecostal/Charismatic ministry started by Oral Roberts University), called the meeting a time to discuss “America, Awakening and Revival” with “Gov rick Perry to kick things off.”
“Gov Perry,TX seems like good man,” Wilson added. “Pray for him. Politics and religion are strange partners – Jesus must remain exalted or all is lost.”
“@rickperryfacts is legit,” wrote Tony Ferraro after the session with Perry. Ferraro linked to a Twitter account that posts fictional statements designed to make Perry seem larger than life – much as has been done by “Chuck Norris Facts” about television star Chuck Norris, who campaigned for Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee during the 2008 campaign.
“Congressman McEwen: 65 million evangelicals only half are registered to vote & only half of those actually vote,” Wilson tweeted in reference to a comment by former U.S. Rep. Bob McEwen (R-Ohio), who is the governmental leader mobilization head for Perry’s prayer rally.
“General Boykin talking about Chrislam where churches and mosques are worshipping together in US reading Bible and Koran – where r we headed?,” Wilson added about Jerry Boykin, a former Pentagon official rebuked for violating policies by speaking in churches in uniform.
Others also offered updates that trumpeted the importance of the gathering.
“Meeting now with Jim Garlow, James Robison, Matt Barnett, Kenneth Copeland, and Ron Luce to activate a firewall of righteousness + justice,” tweeted Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference.
Steve Robinson, pastor of Church of the King (a multi-site church in Louisiana and Mississippi), wrote, “Learning about huge kingdom stuff!!!!”
A couple of participants mentioned comments by Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“Single source of poverty in our world today is the breakdown of the family unit. Richard Land, SBC,” wrote Jeff Little, pastor of Milestone Church in Keller, Texas.
“If we could get fathers to marry the mothers of their children & stay married, we’d put a major dent in poverty – Richard Land,” added Greg Surratt, pastor of Seacoast Church (a multi-site church in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia).
One participant from the gathering anonymously contacted EthicsDaily.com to complain about the articles on the June gathering.
The individual used an email with the pseudonym “Bernie Burnbaum,” which appears to be related to a Facebook account with the same name, which is friends with some of the participants and likes Robison and his ministry.
“Also, the idea that they plotted to defeat Obama is a stretch,” the individual wrote. “The president was not the focus. Nor were any current or potential candidates. These people were not discussed.”
“It was pretty innocuous. In fact, one recurring theme was that they did not want to form a political movement,” the individual added in another email. “More about impacting the culture by restoring biblical values in people. It was much more religious than political, that’s for sure.”
After being challenged with the fact that potential presidential candidate Perry addressed the group, the individual continued to downplay the political side of the gathering.
“I am under the impression that Perry is not running,” the individual wrote. “I could be wrong, but that’s the vibe I got after listening to him speak. He talked less about politics than I thought he would, but clearly he wants to promote his political party. For the 20 minutes or so that he spoke, I guess you could label the meeting political, but if you hear his words, you’ll understand why it was less about politics and more about spiritual renewal.”
Using similar language, Robison’s first blog post following the gathering dealt with issues of spiritual renewal and politics.
“Active participation is both a privilege and responsibility to choose wise leaders who will support sound policy and legislation in order for good government to become a reality,” Robison wrote. “Now is the time to fall on our knees before God and then stand on our feet before men. We must demonstrate the power of God’s transforming grace. All legitimate concerns and painful issues must be addressed with prayer, love and compassion. When we stand tall for His truth, we will see the transformation of people leading to the restoration of sound principles.”
Robison said, “It is time to pray, then take action with boldness and love as we call all men to return to the rock-solid foundation of God’s truth. Keep in mind, our economic challenges will not be corrected until we address moral decay. We should remember what President Reagan said: ‘If America ceases to be a nation under God, we will be a nation gone under.'”
The Texas evangelist recently admitted to EthicsDaily.com that although he did not officially endorse Reagan, his preference was likely obvious. In 1979, Robison led a similar secret meeting in Dallas to plot how to defeat then-President Jimmy Carter.
That effort culminated in an August 1980 rally with Republican presidential candidate Reagan, which helped Reagan mobilize pastors for his presidential campaign.
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.