National Prayer Breakfast travelogue

On February 3-4, I attended various meetings associated with the National Prayer Breakfast. By invitation of Bob Hunter and the various hosts, I was able to attend the African Prayer Breakfast, the International Luncheon and a dinner hosted by a group of people who put on prayer breakfast meetings in the western US. On the day of the prayer breakfast, I was allowed to watch the proceedings in the African Suite. One of the highlights of my visit was the opportunity to meet and interview Doug Coe which was published yesterday by Christianity Today.

The 2010 National Prayer Breakfast African Breakfast was held at 8:00am on Wednesday, February 3. The formal invitation was extended by Rep. John Boozman (R-AK). Andrew Marin also attended the meeting along about 300 invited guests, mostly from Africa, or the African diplomatic corps in Washington DC. The purpose of the breakfast was printed on a card at each table.

Purpose of this Breakfast:

To provide a unique gathering to advance three principles:

  1. To communicate the power of small groups that meet regularly around the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
  2. To create an environment of dialog in order to help create lasting relationships.
  3. To follow the Acts 2:42 model to hear the disciples’ teachings and fellowship, to eat together, and to pray.

The value of a small group:

With the Spirit of Jesus at the center, this ancient idea of gathering together meets a long-felt spiritual need of men and women at all levels of society in our modern world. People find acceptance, understanding, confidence, and hope for the future through a deepening relationship with God and in discovering the secret of true brotherhood with their fellow men and women. The primary goal of a small group is to build trust, fellowship, and closer bonds of friendship through the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

The African Breakfast featured an array of religious and political figures from around the continent. Rep. John Boozman opened by welcoming the crowd on behalf of the Congress. I will have more to say about various presentations in another post. For now I want to list each event and the speakers.

African Breakfast – This event featured Rwanda’s Minister of Education, Charles Murigande, as the keynote speaker. He told his story of moving from a Howard University professor back to his homeland of Rwanda as the holocaust was taking place. Andrew Marin provided his thoughts about the presentation on his blog. The opening prayer was delivered Sophie Boyoya (Burundi), with an Old Testament reading delivered by Mouloud Zaid (Western Sahara), a New Testament reading by Antonio Sumbana (Mozambique) and short speech on the importance of small group prayer meetings by Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika (Zambia).

International Luncheon – The invitation for this event came from Senators Amy Klobuchar and Johnny Isakson, co-chairs of the National Prayer Breakfast. The luncheon was described as

A luncheon for international guests and the Diplomatic Corps will be held at the Hilton Washington in the International Ballroom on Wednesday, February 3, 2010…This luncheon is the first official event for our international guests attending the 58th National Prayer Breakfast.

Former Ohio Representative and current Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, Tony Hall, welcomed the audience and led the opening prayer. The speakers for the luncheon were Yuli-Yoel Edelstein (Israel), Rajai Muasher (Jordan), Grace Pinto (India) and Andrey Makarov (Russia). Mr. Edelstein is Minister of Public Affairs and the Diaspora in Israel and noted that a prayer breakfast small group meets in the Knesset. Mr. Muasher gave what sounded like a political speech, specifying his belief that peace in the Middle East would come in exchange for land. Moving from the political, Ms. Pinto described her large religious school in India. I had to leave during Mr. Makarov’s speech in order to meet Doug Coe.

Rounding out the day, I attended a dinner of representatives from the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region. Hawaiian Senator Daniel Akaka moderated the event and introductory speeches were given by Rev. Richard Foth, and Chaadi Massaad from Lebanon. Gen. Mick Kicklighter was the keynote speaker with The Shack author, Paul Young giving the closing prayer. 

The diversity of speakers and topics was impressive, with a hint of what I was to learn in my meetings with various Prayer Breakfast leaders. For instance, one speaker said he was a Muslim follower of Jesus. He told the crowd that Christians do not own Jesus. While I think different people mean different things by this statement, it appears that changing religious labels is not a requirement to be a follower of Jesus in this movement. As noted in yesterday’s post, the Prayer Breakfast movement puts a focus on what they called, “the main thing” – which is loving God and one’s neighbor.

More to come.

One thought on “National Prayer Breakfast travelogue”

  1. Warren — I think it ought to be clarified that the “main thing,” even by their own definition, is not loving God and one’s neighbor, but loving Jesus. To Christians, that may be the same thing; but given the fact that the Family works with many non-Christians, and presents the National Prayer Breakfast as a state-sanctioned event, it’s worth noting that this dangerous naivete at best and disingenuous evangelism at worst. That is, of course, giving them the benefit of the doubt in either case, since the “main thing” they have pursued for 70 years, as documented in their own archives, is the exclusive cultivation of elites, regardless of their faith, works, or honesty, according to their very unorthodox interpretation of Acts 9:15 “This man is my chosen instrument to take my name…before the Gentiles and their kings.”

    I ran this by a Bible scholar friend of mine — the sort who reads scripture in its original languages, and who reads the contextual documents of the period, and this was his response:

    like many Protestants, they have no coherent hermeneutics and so they can just quote whatever they like however they like. I mean, the passage is about Paul, not them. Furthermore, Paul is arrested for this and, according to the traditional reading of what happened after Acts leaves off, was executed. I assume they are not including that in their plan. Talk to kings means more like the cliche speaking truth to power, not going golfing with them.

    I should add that he meant no sleight against Protestants but merely a recognition of an intellectual reality of much–but certainly not all–of contemporary American evangelicalism recognized by no less an evangelical scholar than Mark Noll of Wheaton College.

    I’ve questions about a lot of the proceedings, but one speaker on the list especially stands out — General Claude “Mick” Kicklighter, who came to my attention after he was assigned to produce a Pentagon Inspector General’s investigation of the “Christian Embassy” story I broke in Harper’s in 2006. This involved a sectarian evangelical organization that promoted itself with uniformed, on-duty testimonies from senior Pentagon officers — a violation of the Military Code of Conduct no less egregious than, say, a general ordering his subordinates to vote for a particular candidate, and perhaps moreso — one of the generals involved, Pete Sutton, saw his assignment to the Turkish high command ruined when that resolutely secular body — they resist the Islamization of Turkish government — concluded that he hadn’t been honest with them about his mission.

    Kicklighter’s investigation concluded that seven flag officers had violated the military code of conduct, that the senior Pentagon chaplain had breached security, and that some of these men had no clue they’d done anything wrong. Indeed, one described sectarian Christian Embassy as a “quasi-federal agency” — that’s a formal term, and includes NASA and the CIA — in apparent ignorance of the first sentence of the First Amendment which, as an officer, he took an oath to defend with his life.

    But Kicklighter let em all walk; hardly a slap on the wrist. Military observers were mystified. Then we discovered that Kicklighter is on the board of the Fellowship Foundation — the Family. Why does that matter? Because the Fellowship Foundation and Christian Embassy have crossed financial streams in their support of overseas junkets for congressmen — the sort of mixed-money that is now illegal under the 2007 Open Government Act, implemented to clean up the mess of the Abramoff scandals. (For whatever it’s worth, like Abramoff the Family has taken congressmen golfing in Scotland.)

    The above, alone, is a scandal. So imagine my surprise when I read in Professor Anne Loveland’s widely-respected scholarly study, (American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military 1942-1993 (Louisiana State University Press, 1997), that Christian Embassy had gained a foothold in the Pentagon in the late 1970s through none other than Claude Kicklighter.

    That’s right — the general investigated himself.

    Nobody who loves the Constitution, left or right, can oppose the active role of people of faith, including evangelical and, yes, fundamentalist Christians, in the public square. I’ve never argued against the right of men like Kicklighter to live their faith openly and to share it with others when appropriate. I’ve defended it.

    But that’s not what’s happening here. This is the opposite of bold Christian faith. In fact, the Fellowship won’t even call it Christian faith. The reject the label Christian. They reject, too, public accountability — semantically and in practice.

    There those in the Fellowship who would like to change things. We’re all waiting.

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