Hijacking the National Day of Prayer
On May 7th, services will be held across the nation in recognition of the National Day of Prayer. Approximately 40,000 of these events are led each year by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private evangelical organization currently headed by Shirley Dobson and initiated by a global missions forum called the Lausanne Movement.
On April 15th, a US Federal court struck down the legality of the National Day of Prayer, which was written into law in 1952 and assigned a specific annual date in a bill passed in 1988. Most subsequent articles have focused on the outcry of religious conservatives and described the controversy in terms of atheists challenging publicly sponsored prayer. Almost completely overlooked is the separate issue of the hijacking of the national event by the private NDP Task Force and two decades of participation by government leaders in events which exclude speakers who do not conform to the guidelines of the Lausanne Covenant.
Working for an Inclusive Day of Prayer
In an effort to make the official NDP more inclusive, Interfaith Alliance and Jews on First have written to President Obama, as they did last year, asking that the National Day of Prayer not be “taken over by a group of religious exclusivists led by Shirley Dobson of Focus on Family.” The “Official Task Force,” as they describe themselves, is “specifically limited to the Judeo-Christian heritage and those who share that conviction as expressed in the Lausanne Covenant.” However, the Lausanne Covenant is a statement of belief held by a subset of evangelicals that excludes all other Christians, and all other religions. Volunteers working for the events must sign a form stating belief in inerrancy of the bible and that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the only way to salvation.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, founded by Mikey Weinstein, successfully requested that the Pentagon withdraw its NDP invitation to Franklin Graham, the honorary chair of Shirley Dobson’s NDP Task Force. In this case articles have focused primarily on Graham’s attacks on Islam, failing to point out that Graham’s participation as part of the private task force is strictly against Department of Defense regulations.
The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) monitors the Religious Right and describes the NDP Task Force as organizing “high-profile events in Washington, D.C., state capitals, and at city halls and other venues around the country. Rather than respecting the inclusive spirit behind the designation of a ‘National Day of Prayer’ for Americans of all faiths, the NDP Task Force applies a strict religious test for event participants. In fact, the group’s events exclude non-Christian groups and even discourage participation by non-evangelical Christians. Yet elected officials, including presidents, governors and legislators regularly participate in these exclusive events.” TFN’s 2005 report was titled “Turning the National Day of Prayer into a Rally for the Religious Right.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State features a webpage dedicated to the question, “What is Wrong with the National Day of Prayer?” The organization points out that the Religious Right has hijacked the event to promote bigotry and revisionist American history and adds, “Americans don’t need the government to tell them when or where to pray.”
The Pluralism Project at Harvard University describes the result of the NDP Task Force’s exclusivity including controversies like that seen in Troy, Michigan in 2005, when the town held two events - one at noon which conformed to the NDP Task Force and a second interfaith event that evening.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force
A history of the task force can be found on their website as well as that of the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal organization founded by Pat Robertson to counter the ACLU.
“The National Day of Prayer, in more recent times has been promoted not by the government, but by private individuals. In 1974, the National Prayer Committee began as a subcommittee on prayer at the International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland. The U.S. Lausanne Committee was birthed from this meeting, now called Mission America and America’s National Prayer Committee. Mrs. Vonette Bright was appointed to the Prayer Advisory Group.”
Vonette Bright was the co-founder, with her late husband Bill Bright, of Campus Crusades for Christ. The Lausanne Movement’s own websites credit Vonette Bright with founding “the National Prayer Committee, which helped to establish a National Day of Prayer in the U.S. with a permanent date on the first Thursday in May.”
What is the Lausanne Movement and how did its adherents hijack the National Day of Prayer?
The Lausanne Movement
The first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization was organized by Billy Graham in 1974. This resulted in an ongoing umbrella for worldwide evangelical missions called the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) which provides a venue for evangelical missions around the globe to share expertise and coordinate programming.
The Lausanne Movement has written statements on the necessity of evangelizing Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and … Marxists. Another category of missions outreach is to “Nominal Christians” or the approximately one billion people classified as Christians who “still need to be evangelized” and are described as “found extensively among Protestants, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics.”
Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelization (LCJE)
The LCWE’s Lausanne Consultation for Jewish Evangelization (LCJE) brings together missions targeting Jews to “strategize on a global level.” In addition to international conferences, the LCJE publishes a quarterly journal and annually submitted papers focus on topics such as dealing with Jewish counter-missionary groups. The LCJE has aggressively promoted the concept that Messianic Jews should not be categorized as evangelical Christians, but should still be considered Jews.
The well known Jews for Jesus represents only a small fraction of the global evangelical outreach of LCJE. Other participants represent: the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations; Messianic Jewish Alliance of America; Messianic Jewish Bible Institutes, now in Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, and Israel, headed by Jonathan Bernis of Jewish Voice; Caspari Center; Pasche Institute of Jewish Studies at Criswell College; Mission America; Moody Bible Institute; Fuller Theological Seminary; Dan Juster’s TIKKUN International; Hashivenu; CJF Ministries; Christian Witness to Israel; the Danish Israel Mission; Ariel Ministries; and Life in Messiah Ministries/AMF International, formerly known as the Chicago Hebrew Mission.
LCJE Europe met in Poland this past week, and the 2010 LCJE North American Conference was held March 1st- 3rd in Atlanta. The February 2010 journal reported on the activities of 2009 including; support for Messianic Congregations and missions work in Israel; a report from Latin America on expansion of programs in Jewish communities in Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Puerto Rico; and a report from Europe on the development of new Messianic congregations in Russia and Siberia.
Although Jews for Jesus has a negative reputation in the Jewish community, many of the other LCJE organizations have been viewed positively by some Jewish leaders. The late W.A. Criswell, for whom Criswell College is named, served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. His biography includes his receipt of awards from Jewish organizations including the 1988 Tree of Life Award from the Jewish National Fund, and a visit by Yitzhak Shamir to the Dallas church.
International LCJE leader Ann Hilsden is the wife of the senior pastor of King of Kings Community in Jerusalem, which was formed at the invitation of the Israeli government in 1981, and continues to have close ties to many Jewish leaders.
Israel’s present Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren featured W.E. Blackstone in his 2007 book Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to Present. Oren describes Blackstone, who wrote the 1891 Blackstone Memorial petition calling for restoration of Jews to Palestine, as having “departed from the traditional creed by absolving the Jews of the need to convert to Christianity before or after their ingathering.” However, Blackstone was founder in 1887 of the Chicago Hebrew Mission, the largest mission to Jews in the U.S. through the early 1900s, and which expanded to Palestine in the 1920s. It is now called Life in Messiah/American Messianic Fellowship International.
History and Purpose of the Lausanne Movement
Billy Graham originally initiated the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in 1974 as a counter to the World Council of Churches and to “change the religious picture” as he explained to President Richard Nixon. Sections of these taped White House conversations were made public in 2002.
Graham: Some time when I have–when you have a few minutes–I want to tell you a plan for organizing on a world scale, a counterpart to the World Council of Churches.
President Nixon: Boy, good.
Graham: Just for your knowledge, we’re having a conference next summer in Lausanne with 4,000 world leaders –
Graham: – church leaders, bishops and so forth, that are sick and tired of the World Council.
Nixon: Well, you know, [Eugene] Carson Blake and these people have been–well, they’re so totally overboard, you know, on everything that is decent. I mean, they do it in the name of pacifism and the rest, but they’re really so close to the Communists it’s unbelievable.
Graham: Well, they are, and they say nothing against the Communists, ever.
Nixon: Never. Never. I know.
Graham: Always against us. It’s against South Africa, it’s against Greece, and so forth.
Nixon: That’s right. They say –
Graham: You can just – their stuff seems to be written on that side of the coun[try] – world.
Nixon: Written right out of Moscow.
Graham: It sure does.
Graham: And just as you have changed the political picture, we hope to change the religious picture.
Nixon: Well, listen, I’m all for it and –
Graham: It’s going to be a bombshell when it comes.
Journalist Cecil Bothwell, author of the 2007 book The Prince of War: Billy Graham’s Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire describes this conversation as an hour and a half that “rarely strayed from denunciation of Jews.” This segment of the tape includes Graham and Nixon’s discussion of Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum’s refusal to speak at the Republican Convention, despite his support for Graham, and Graham’s reference to some Jews as belonging to the “synagogue of Satan.”
The 1974 Lausanne Congress included the drafting of the Lausanne Covenant, which was signed by most of the participants and requires belief in the exclusivity of evangelical faith. It also states, “…more than two-thirds of all humanity, have yet to be evangelised” and, “We believe that we are engaged in constant spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers of evil, who are seeking to overthrow the Church and frustrate its task of world evangelization.”
The Second International Congress of the LCWE was held in Manila in 1989, and focused on conducting a massive effort to spread the gospel to all the world by the year 2000. This echos the similar attempts to evangelize the world by 1900, which ended in disillusionment.
Emphasis in the 1990s shifted from proselytizing individuals one by one, to the concept of “city transformation”, which included expansion of faith-based partnerships with governments. It also included “spiritual warfare” against “territorial demons” which were claimed to block entire communities or ethnic groups from becoming evangelized. Emerging primarily from the Pentecostal and Charismatic sector, these new techniques were controversial and resulted in a special LCWE working group in 1994 titled “Deliver Us From Evil”, which evaluated the new trends in spiritual warfare.
Mission America and AD2000 and Beyond
The concept of outreach to entire cities or geographic areas, and the use of these new evangelizing techniques, were put into practice by new organizations emerging from the Lausanne Movement. They included Mission America, which was designed to reach every American with the gospel by 2000, and AD 2000 and Beyond, focused on the “10/40 Window” and the “100 Gateway Cities in 64 Nations” between the 10th and 40th parallels.
Extensive missiological data was compiled on “unsaved people groups” around the world and the latest in sociological and anthropological research was applied to the missions effort. Billy Graham served as an honorary chair, and one of the major strategists was C. Peter Wagner, who had led the Strategy Working Group of the LCWE beginning in 1976 and was a professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary. Ted Haggard, prior to becoming head of the National Association of Evangelicals worked with Wagner in organizing prayer marches and events and to teach spiritual warfare techniques like “spiritual mapping”, which identified the demons and obstacles to evangelizing communities.
AD 2000 and Beyond was planned as a temporary campaign. As it was coming to a close, Wagner and others continued their efforts by reorganizing and moving to Colorado Springs, home of Haggard’s New Life Church. The city had become the headquarters of numerous evangelical ministries, as well as Religious Right organizations including James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.
Wagner’s organization evolved into an international group of evangelical leaders from the Charismatic stream, who refer to themselves as apostles and prophets, and claim that the church has entered the time of the New Apostolic Reformation. Their stated mission is to unify the evangelical church worldwide, and to take “Christian dominion” over seven areas of society which they refer to as mountains. The latter goal is summarized in a video called “Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture”, which credits Bill Bright as one of the initiators of the campaign. The seven mountains are arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion.
Mission of the National Day of Prayer Task Force
The stated mission of the National Day of Prayer Task Force is to “foster unity in the Christian church” and includes “mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family.” This list is exactly the same as the seven mountains campaign of Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation, except that arts and entertainment are folded into media, and the military is added as the seventh center of power.
The current task force leadership, advisory board, and board of reference includes Vonette Bright, Paul Cedar of Mission America, C. Peter Wagner, Rick Warren, and numerous luminaries of the Lausanne Movement. Rick Warren, known internationally for his “Purpose Driven Life” books and programming, is on the advisory committee for the Third International Congress of the LCWE to be held in South Africa in October. Warren is also most certainly the most famous of C. Peter Wagner’s Fuller Theological Seminary students.
The history timeline on the National Day of Prayer Task Force website clearly indicates that their organization emerged from a subcommittee of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974, which later became Mission America and America’s National Prayer Committee. It was this group that lobbied for a new law, passed in 1988, which designated the Day of Prayer to be held annually on the first Thursday in May. Their timeline continues with the formation of the “Official Task Force” in 1989 and the naming of Shirley Dobson as chairperson in 1991.
This task force has every right to organize prayer events around the country whenever they please. However, the rest of us also have a right to insist that our government leaders participate in activities which do not exclude the leadership of Christians, Jews, Muslims, or anyone else who rejects to the beliefs and missionary activities of the Lausanne Movement.
Regardless of how one feels about the wisdom of a government sanctioned day of prayer, it should at least be an inclusive National Day of Prayer, not the Lausanne Day of Prayer.
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