The fate of America in both political and spiritual matters lies in the hands of the nations pastors, according to speakers who addressed about 275 pastors from around North Carolina Thursday.
The pastors filled Charlottes First Baptist Church for a regional briefing of Watchmen on the Wall, an organization thats part of the Family Research Council a group devoted to traditional marriage and Christian values.
Pastors who become watchmen are to follow three basic guidelines: Pray for the nation, preach without apology on moral issues, and partner with other pastors to advance those goals.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the government has usurped the voice of the church, letting issues of morality be decided by courts and legislatures.
They have decided that a child is a choice. They have decided that marriage is an issue of personal identity, he said, urging the enthusiastic crowd to take action. Where is the righteous indignation in the church?
The solution to what ails America isnt going to be found in Washington, D.C., he said. Its going to be found in the churches of America and in the men that preach the word of God.
Kenyn Cureton, vice president for church ministries for the council, encouraged the pastors, most of whom were Baptist, to take their place as watchmen and promote civic change for biblical issues.
The problems we face in America are not just economic problems, political problems, cultural problems, even though they manifest themselves in those ways, he said. They are spiritual problems at their heart and core, and they need spiritual leadership.
The watchmen movement includes about 15,000 pastors. Perkins wants 40,000 by 2015. It was born out of a backlash against what the Family Research Council says is government intrusion into the affairs of the church.
Cureton detailed a voter impact toolkit pastors can use to register and educate voters. He said some political issues can alienate churchgoers, but losing those people isnt as important as spreading the message.
When you take a bold stand for God Almighty on the pulpit of your church, there will be people in your church who say, Finally, someone willing to take a stand, he said. We are up against the mobilized, demonized forces of hell itself. Evil is not coming, its here.
Get your place on the battle line. Put on the full armor of God, he shouted to the pastors, who stood and cheered, clapping and raising their hands.
Into the political fray
Jim Garlow, senior pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, told the crowd that the Christian community has suffered since a 1954 law that says churches can lose their tax-exempt status if they get involved in political campaigns.
A muzzling, a silence came on the pulpits of America, Garlow said, adding that because of the law, this cultural myth, this wrongful definition of the separation of church and state has emerged.
Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. of Marylands Hope Christian Church lamented what he said was Americas rejection of Christian principles.
We need to steal back the rainbow, he shouted, earning a huge round of applause. The rainbows not a gay thing, its a covenant thing. We cant let marriage and family be redefined.
Murdock Smith, rector at the more progressive St. Martins Episcopal Church in Charlotte, hadnt heard about the event but said political involvement is important.
He stressed progressive thinking and reaching out instead of taking on what he called the fortress mentality.
Its not about protecting and maintaining; its about transforming, he said, adding that that requires difficult questions some of his fellow clergymen arent willing to ask.
Mark Harris of Charlottes First Baptist Church helped organize the event.
I believe this is a momentum everyones feeling after the marriage vote, to see pastors stand up and lead, he said, referring to the passage earlier this year of a North Carolina constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
I walked away today encouraged by the inspiration, by the equipping that I saw take place in literally hundreds of pastors today, and I know thats going to be transferred to their congregations, he said.