More than 30,000 people converged on Houston’s Reliant Stadium today for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s seven-hour prayer rally to restore America.Perry spoke briefly at The Response, giving a 13-minute address that called on God to guide political leaders and those “who cannot see the light in the midst of all the darkness.” A simulcast of the event showed some attendees kneeling and weeping during the speech, which drew shouts of “Amen.”
“Father our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see angers in the halls of government,” Perry said. “And as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness. We pray for our nation’s leaders, Lord, for parents, for pastors, for the generals, for governors, that you would inspire them in these difficult times.”
He also offered a prayer for President Barack Obama and his family.
The prayer rally comes as Perry approaches a decision on whether to run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. His advisors have said the governor will make an announcement later this month.
As expected the prayer rally was a circus, with busloads of church-goers from across Texas arriving throughout the day. Hundreds of protesters picketed the rally outside of the stadium, and more than 200 members of the national press corps were on hand to cover the event.
Participants sing and pray during The Response, a seven-hour prayer rally that took place today at Houston's Reliant Stadium. The stadium holds 72,000 people, so many of the upper levels remained empty for the event. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Lucy West, of Killeen, Texas, prays at The Response, a 'call to prayer for a nation in crisis.' (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Perry spent all day at the prayer rally he initiated, praying and delivering a 13-minute speech that included passages from the Book of Joel, an Old Testament text that is the inspiration for The Response.
Backstage, Perry said it would be a day that 'people will discuss for years to come,' according to the Texas Tribune.
Perry began his remarks by thanking Houston pastor C.L. Jackson and Apostle Alice Patterson, who accompanied him on stage.
Jackson is the longtime pastor of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church and an activist for the Republican Party in Texas. He has worked with Perry's gubernatorial campaigns to draw African American voters in Houston.
Patterson, as we have noted, is a prominent figure of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, an extreme branch of fundamentalist evangelicals whose leaders consider themselves modern-day prophets and apostles. Patterson is best known for her emphasis on 'racial healing,' and bridging the divide between white and minority evangelicals.
She was responsible for mobilizing churches in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma for The Response.
Hagee, the firebrand pastor of Texas's Cornerstone Church, had high praise for Perry, comparing the Texas Governor to Abraham Lincoln:
'We pray for our governor Rick Perry who has had courage today to call this time of fasting and prayer, just as Abraham Lincoln did in the darkest days of the Civil Ware,' Hagee said. 'We thank you for his leadership, his integrity, and his loyalty to God and country.'
Hagee avoided the themes that have gotten him in hot water in the past. In 2008, John McCain rejected Hagee's endorsement because of his anti-Catholic and 'Christian Zionist' views. Hagee has said that Adolf Hitler was carrying out a divine plan that lead to the creation of the modern state of Israel.
Although Brownback RSVP'd to The Response earlier this summer, it was unclear whether he would end up attending the rally. His office said yesterday that they could not confirm he would attend the event, adding that Brownback was on vacation so the trip to Houston would be at his own expense.
Brownback, a Republican and a born-again Christian, took the podium after Perry, embracing the governor and others onstage before giving brief remarks.
Brownback's appearance is unsurprising. As a U.S. Senator, Brownback worked closely with New Apostolic Reformation leaders to pass a Senate resolution of apology to American Indians. The Apostles say the resolution is a form of 'spiritual warfare,' that removes demonic control over American Indians by repenting for past sins against them.
Brownback joined leaders and organisers of The Response -- including Patterson and Apostle Doug Stringer, the church mobilization coordinator -- onstage in a prayer embrace following Perry's speech.
As we have noted, the leadership team and endorsers for The Response included several leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation. organisers tapped into the movement's growing national networks of conservative evangelicals to mobilize followers for The Response.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott taped a short video message that played at the rally. In a veiled reference to yesterday's jobs report, he called on God for help with the national unemployment crisis.
'I ask you to pray that the leaders of our nation and our states have wisdom in all their decisions,' Scott said. 'Join me in praying for job opportunities for those who need work, for the economic well-being of our nation, and for the safety and security of our communities and our men and women in uniform.'
Apart from Perry, Scott and Brownback were the only other elected officials who participated in The Response. Perry invited all 49 other state governors to attend.
Joy, who did not want to give her last name, prays for national salvation at The Response. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
More than 800 people — including atheists, gay rights activists, and Houston religious leaders — picketed the prayer rally.
Shelley Buschur protests outside Reliant Stadium during Perry's speech at The Response. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Opponents of The Response protest the American Family Association, the conservative organisation that paid for the rally.
Rachel Hockenbarger from Westboro Baptist Church protests outside Reliant Stadium. The church is best known for picketing the funerals of American soldiers. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Annie Laurie Gaylor, left, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and foundation member Rodney Hinds protest outside Reliant Stadium during The Response.
The foundation, an atheist organisation, sued Perry earlier this month to block the governor from attending or promoting his prayer rally, on the grounds that it was a violation of the separation between church and state. A federal judge dismissed the suit.
'God is sending a 3rd Great Awakening to America. It starts w/the church fasting, praying & seeking Him with all her heart,' organisers tweeted during the event.
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