America for Jesus, an organization led by megachurch leader Anne Gimenez of Virginia Beach, Virginia, will host an event called The Awakening in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 28th and 29th. According to the event website, the event is “[a] solemn assembly to summon together the whole body of Christ to pray for the church and our nation.” Besides Gimenez, other organizers include Cindy Jacobs of Generals International, Lou Engle of The Call, Ron Luce of Teen Mania and Bonnie Camarda of Spanish Clergy of Philadelphia. A youth rally will kick-off the event on Friday night, followed by the official prayer gathering on Saturday, which is expected to have upwards of 60,000 people in attendance.
According to John Blanchard, national coordinator for the event and son-in-law of Gimenez, America for Jesus has been around for at least twenty years, beginning with the Washington for Jesus rally in 1980. Blanchard has been involved since 1996.
He states that while the event may speak of the election, is not politically motivated.
“What we feel is God telling us to organize a prayer gathering,” Blanchard explained. “America is headed in the wrong direction. … We believe that the economic downturn and the moral depravity that is going on can be tied to turning our back on God as a nation.”
He said, however, instead of focusing on the sins of unbelievers, the gathering will be focused on “asking God to forgive the Church for the sins of the Church.”
“We know there are a lot of things that we have to repent of as Christians and as a nation,” he stated, noting that one of them is the responsibility to be salt and light. “Salt is a preservative, and if you turn the lights off, it gets awful dark.”
“We’re praying for a revival, and we’re praying for an awakening in America,” Blanchard added.
The Awakening will be held on the first two days of an effort called “40 Days to Save America,” organized by Rick Scarborough of Vision America in Lufkin, Texas. Scarborough operates a ministry that seeks to “inform and mobilize pastors and their congregations to become salt and light, becoming pro-active in restoring Judeo-Christian values in America.” The ministry also serves to urge Christians to run for office on local, state and national levels.
The Board of Governors for “40 Days to Save America” includes Jimenez, priest Frank Pavone, David Bereit of the Catholic pro-life group 40 Days for Life, Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and others.
“We are calling for pastors, priests and rabbis to open their churches and synagogues throughout America for 40 days for prayer and fasting, each person seeking their own level of unselfish sacrifice as we corporately and individually seek God for His intervention in our beloved nation,” the organization’s website outlines.
However, Scarborough explained to Christian News Network that the effort is three-pronged: prayer, registering to vote, and voting on Election Day.
He advised that there were numerous concerns about the spiritual condition of America that influenced the effort, and agreed that the nation needed prayer.
“Christianity is under an all-out assault right now,” Scarborough stated. “For the last forty years, we’ve aborted fifty-five million unborn children. … We are increasingly having marriage destroyed in America, and Islam is a growing threat [that seeks to] destroy the ‘Great Satan,’ America.”
Scarborough said that he believes the Democratic party is not soley responsible for these problems, and therefore, his call to prayer supersedes party affiliation.
“Both parties are equally culpable,” he opined. “Nobody has done anything to stop it.”
While some have concerns about the ecumenical nature of the effort, being that Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews are linking with evangelicals, Scarborough said he is not worried about such.
“When you’re in a [spiritual] war, the last thing you want to know is what church the person next to you attends,” he stated. “We want everyone [to] understand that this history of this country is Judeo-Christian, and [evangelicals] as well as our Catholic brethren all had a role in the building of this country.”
Scarborough believes that Christians should join with others based on common ground on moral issues.
“Ronald Reagan said, ‘Anybody whose enemy is your enemy, is your friend,'” he continued. “I’ll let God sort out which prayers He is going to answer. ”
“I think God wants us to focus on what we have in common,” he said. “We’re in an hour when I don’t think we can afford division if we want religious freedom to continue in America.”
“If [Christians] feel like there is any group that needs Christ in their estimation, they should be happy to be at an event where they can pray with them and for them,” Blanchard added.
Television and radio broadcaster Brannon Howse, host of Worldview Weekend, said that the ecumenicism of the event concerns him greatly.
“How do you set aside theology while you try to get America back to God? You can’t,” Howse stated. “All of [these religious groups] have a different Jesus, and thus a different Gospel.”
“[Those who embrace ecumenicism] are really laying the foundation for a one world religion,” he added. “[Obama] is not the greatest threat to the Church. Religious leaders who are denying the very essence of what is means to be a Christian [are our greatest threat].”
Howse pointed to Romans 16:17 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 as two examples of Biblical instruction on the matter.
Pastor David Whitney of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, Maryland, and Senior Instructor at the Institute on the Constitution, an educational institution that assists Americans in learning about the original intent of the Founding Fathers, concurred.
“I don’t think that we can appeal to the same God they’re appealing to,” he said. “We’re not even appealing to the same God.”
“All the time I encourage them to give their heart to Jesus,” Scarborough explained of the several Orthodox rabbis that he communicates with surrounding the prayer effort. “They keep telling me they don’t need to.”
Whitney and Howse stated that they were also concerned that both events were governed by a woman bishop, and that the Philadelphia event features other prominent female speakers.
“It’s not Scriptural,” said Whitney, referring to 1 Timothy 2:12. “The leadership if the church is always to be men. That’s God’s design. That’s God’s plan. … It’s an obvious red flag.”
“The Scriptures are very clear that this is not to happen,” remarked Howse. “The modern feminist movement has blurred the lines in the Church as to what is to take place.”
Gimenez was unable to be reached for comment, but according to her bio, she was ordained at the age of 19, and began to preach in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
“The opportunities to minister began to multiply, but not without opposition from others within the body of Christ who believed women were disqualified from certain jobs in the church based solely on their gender,” it states. “In one encounter Anne remembers being grilled relentlessly with scripture about the wrongness of being a woman and preaching. Anne replied calmly, ‘You certainly have a right to your opinion, but one of these days I’ll stand before God and give an account of what I did with the calling upon my life.'”
She stated that when she succeeded her husband John as bishop in 2008 after his passing, she felt more confident about being a woman pastor.
“I no longer struggle as I did in the past to be accepted as a woman in ministry. I no longer wonder whether I’ll be asked back to preach,” Gimenez said. “I’m free now to minister and do the will of God – going where He wants me to go.”
“I haven’t heard any opposition,” said Blanchard. “There are a lot of different groups that interpret [Scriptures on the issue] differently.”
While the events are not necessarily political, since they involve election prayer efforts, the men divulged their beliefs about what candidate Christians should support and what factors should be taken into account this election.
Scarborough acknowledged that he has concerns about Mitt Romney, who he believes is not a Christian, yet said that he feels that he must vote for him.
“His track record is suspect,” Scarborough said, agreeing that recent statements by Romney approving of aborting rape babies and homosexual adoption are discouraging.
“You’re either for abortion or against abortion. You don’t punish an innocent baby for the crimes of some man,” he said. “If there’s an exception, there’s always another exception.”
However, “we live in a two party system,” he stated. “Jesus has never run for office, so every election is the lesser of two evils.”
Scarborough stated that he respects Christians who choose not to vote or vote third party, but believes that their decision is not “practical” and that Christians need to look at the two main parties and ask, “Which one closest represents [my values]?”
“Sometimes we don’t vote in a Biblical worldview,” Blanchard stated, adding that he believes there will “always be a situation where we have to [choose between the parties] whichever [candidate] is closest to the word of God.”
Scarborough noted, however, his belief that Christians can sin with their vote.
“He who knows to do good and doeth it not, to him it is a sin,” he cited from James 4:17.
Pastor Whitney told Christian News Network that voting is a very serious matter, and that choosing the lesser of two evils is still evil.
“When a citizen casts his vote, he is handling a sacred trust for which God will hold him accountable,” he said.”The results of the election are not up to us as individual Christians, [but] God holds Christians accountable for the votes they cast.”
“If you were to choose the lesser of two evils [in this election], it’s not much difference,” Whitney continued. “[Romney] invested in Stericycle, a company the burns aborted babies… It’s astounding that Christians give him a pass. … If you look at his track record, it is abominable.”
Whitney said that sometimes leaving a certain electoral race blank makes a statement.
“It is not a sin to leave it blank,” he opined. “In spite of what they tell you, a blank vote does matter. … If [all Christians] left it blank, that would send a resounding message that [the parties] have not put forth a candidate that we can vote for.”
Howse stated that he thinks Christians often put the focus on the wrong things.
“We’re spending too much time thinking about Obama, when we should [be thinking about the Gospel],” he stated. “We’ve raised the flag above the cross.”
“We should not be afraid of Obama,” Howse continued. “Satan has used Barack Obama, I believe, to scare the self-professing Church in to the arms of Glenn Beck and the church of Rome.”
He stated that whether Obama or Romney win the election, he feels that God has given America over to a reprobate mind, pointing to Romans 1.
“Just because you vote for Romney doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop God’s judgment on America,” Howse commented.
He noted that many Christians are “spinning on pragmatism” in their thought processes regarding the upcoming election, and found it odd to support a man that believes that “he can evolve and become his own god and eventually run his own planet.”
“Can we vote for the lesser of two evils?” Howse asked. “That’s a form of pragmatism, is it not? ”
However, Howse offered some exhortation as well for the dark times that our nation is living in.
“Satan is on a leash,” he said. “We’re to occupy till Christ returns.”
“We should be doing solid evangelism,” concurred Whitney. “Solid evangelism includes teaching ‘This is what God’s law says’ [and] calling men to turn the keys of their life over to Jesus Christ as Lord.”
“Really, evangelism leading to discipleship is what the Church should focus on,” he added.
“We already know [that] His Kingdom will crush Satan’s kingdom,” concluded Howse. “His Kingdom will have no end.”