APtx 07/24 0305 Holy Ghost Rally
By A. DENITA GADSON Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Bible thumping, hand clapping, feet
stomping Pentecostals and charismatic Christians set aside
doctrinal differences in worshiping together at the Louisiana
More than 35,000 people began arriving Wednesday for the
four-day North American Congress on the Holy Spirit and World
Evangelism. It's the second meeting of the congress; the first
was held in Kansas City in 1977.
Leaders have said they want to convert 3.1 billion people to
Christianity by the year 2000. Statistics show there are 1.6
billion Christians today.
Two South Carolina protesters, carrying posters with messages
like "Compromise is not love" and handing out religious tracts,
called the meeting a hypocrisy.
"I'm protesting the ungodliness of America and the religious
hypocrisy," said Robert Eckhardt, 61, who professed to be
"We're just playing church in America," he said, pointing to a
chauffeur-driven limousine with a Virginia license plate parked
outside the Superdome. He said it belonged to a minister.
"They won't please God by compromising. It's his way or no
way," Eckhardt said.
However, the congress' chairman said none of the religious
cults here are compromising their beliefs. Participants include
Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, Orthodox and Messianic
Jews, and others.
"Every group is meeting separately. We've learned to respect
one another's beliefs and unite and agree on what we can,"
Chairman Vinson Synan of Oklahoma City said in an interview.
He said the biggest thing they all agree on is evangelization.
"Division only takes us away from God and makes evangelism
less effective," he said.
About 15,000 Catholics are attending the congress, which Synan
says is historical in itself.
It nevertheless drew sharp criticism from Pentecostal
evangelist Jimmy Swaggart of Baton Rouge.
Swaggart refused to attend, saying Catholic doctrine is in
error and, because of that, there could be no unity on some
biblical issues between Protestants and Catholics.
"There is absolutely no way that ministers of the Gospel can
stand on a platform with Catholic priests in some type of
professed unity without compromising the message of the Word of
God," Swaggart said.
Synan said there are more than 50 million
Pentacostal-charismatics in the United States, whose worship is
usually spontaneous and emotional, and often includes speaking in
tongues, prophesying and a belief in faith healing.
The reliance on such supernatural "gifts" from the Holy Spirit
is what all Pentacostal and charismatics have in common.
The North American congress was formed in the 1970s as a show
of unity by charismatic Catholics and Protestants from about 40
denominations, he said.
Synan said the recent television evangelist scandal that
centers around Jim and Tammy Bakker and the PTL Club has hurt the
world's view of Christianity in general, and Pentecostals in
"I think the unholy war has hurt, maybe even our attendance
somewhat," Synan said.
Initially, 55,000 people were expected to attend the meeting,
Longtime evangelist Oral Roberts won't attend the congress,
but his son, Richard, would broadcast his morning television show
from the meeting Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Synan said.
Evangelists, authors and leaders of the movement will conduct
more than 100 daily workshops and meetings each night.
Workshop leaders include entertainer Pat Boone and his wife,
Shirley; West German missionary Reinhard Boonke; and sports
figures Roosevelt Grier and Meadowlark Lemon.
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