Initially, many of the 39,024 pastors attending the world's largest clergy gathering in February voiced reservations. The notion of Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, Foursquare Gospel, and Baptist pastors worshiping together seemed incongruous. The improbability of blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, and whites rallying in unity also seemed to squelch hope for an event that Promise Keepers (PK) founder Bill McCartney called "Breaking Down the Walls."
In fact, many ministers would not have gone to the Georgia Dome of their own volition. Men in their congregations who had attended previous PK laymen's conferences had paid for their pastor's airfare and registration. Yet, at the end of the three-day rally in Atlanta, a real breakthrough had indeed occurred: Pentecostals and Baptists prayed together; Anglos and men of color embraced. Suspicions had given way to respect, even love, for fellow believers with different beliefs.
McCartney had planned the event to be one of reconciliation. "Racism is an insidious monster," he told those assembled. "You can't say you love God and not your brother."
To ensure attendance by nonwhite ministers, PK flew minority pastors to its headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, for consultation. Meanwhile, McCartney flew around the country meeting with small groups of ethnic clergy in their own communities. In perhaps the most moving event of the gathering, PK leaders invited men of color down to the Dome floor, while white ministers stood and cheered them.
McCartney called for cooperation among religious groups. "Contention between denominations has gone on long enough," he said. "If the church ever stood together, Almighty God would have his way."
At the end, pastors were asked to commit themselves to the "Atlanta ...1
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