Thousands of Christians will gather to seek God's help for the United States at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., this weekend. But while some pastors in the Motor City are expressing their support, others say the event's founders have a radical ideology that is politically charged and divisive.
“All of us in Detroit have been praying hard for the future of our city and everyone in it,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, pastor of Detroit’s Historic King Solomon Baptist Church and a member of People for the American Way's African American Ministers in Action. “We need to keep on praying and we need to keep on working hard for economic and social justice that lifts up every person, rich and poor. What we don’t need is more divisiveness and fear.”
TheCall, a 24-hour prayer event, will begin at the football stadium on Friday. According to the event's website, TheCall founder Lou Engle has a passion “to call young adults into a lifestyle of radical prayer, fasting, holiness and acts of justice.”
TheCall events have taken place in different cities across the country for over a decade. They don't promote bands or speakers, but instead invite Christians to join in “solemn assemblies” where they can pray and fast with the hope of seeing God “pour out His Spirit” on America.
“We are coming together, daring to believe that if the Church can unite in prayer, it can actually begin to be a healing for the fractured society of America,” Engle wrote in a blog post from September.
Williams told reporters on Wednesday, however, that the event's leaders promote anti-Muslim, anti-abortion and anti-homosexual beliefs and hope to be a divisive force between the faith communities in the city of Detroit, The Associated Press reports. As a result, clergy and activists in the community are planning to march to the stadium and hold their own prayer rally, one that they say is in favor of the city and not against any particular religion, during TheCall.
"Religious leaders who support [TheCall] should really take a look at what its undertones are all about. As a Christian pastor I support prayer, but not to bash another religion, nor to hide behind the subterfuge of political gamesmanship,” Williams said in a statement.
Last week Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Michigan, warned local mosques that TheCall could be a security concern for them. He told CP that the theology of the event's leaders demonizes Muslims, and he is concerned participants from TheCall may try to “harass or provoke” Muslim worshippers Friday evening.
“Our Muslim neighbors in Detroit and Dearborn want the same things that all of us want – jobs to support our families and the freedom to live our lives as we choose,” said Williams. “Those like Rev. Engle who come into the state stir up fear about a mythical ‘Muslim takeover’ and set us against each other, distract from the real problems that we face. We can’t face our problems and lift ourselves up if we are busy tearing each other down. Let’s work, and pray, together for the future of our city.”
Williams said he is expecting members of Occupy Detroit, who have set up camp in the small park where the march will begin, to join in the march and prayer rally on Friday evening. At the anti-TheCall event, they will pray for God's help in matters like the economy and education.
But while some pastors are critical of TheCall, others are excited about it.
Marcellis Smith, lead pastor of Jubilee City in Detroit, wrote on his Facebook account, “Urgent!! Breaking News!! THOUSANDS upon Thousands will gather to fast & pray in Detroit at Ford Field!! – Daring to believe AMERICA COULD TURN BACK TO GOD! The Lion ROOARRS!!! #11.11.11 #TheCall.”
All 24 hours of TheCall Detroit will be shown live on God TV this weekend, allowing anyone to take part in the event regardless of where they live.
"It is only through prayer and fasting that we will see revival come to America and the nations," said Wendy Alec, God TV co-founder and director of television. "This weekend is a time for people everywhere to come together through the power of global television to consecrate themselves and cry out to the Lord to see spiritual breakthrough come to the USA as well as into their own lives and communities."
Lou Engle could not be reached for comment before publication.