News Intelligence Analysis
Posted on Sat, Oct. 15, 2005
From Beacon Journal
Pastor crusades for voters
Evangelical minister starts $30 million campaign to refocus Ohioans' values
Blackwell Speaks at Crusade
By Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard
Beacon Journal staff writers
COLUMBUS - Several hundred evangelical Christians rallied on the south steps of the Ohio Capitol on Friday to launch Reformation Ohio, a $30 million campaign to sign up souls for Christ and the voting booth.
Dropping such names as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther and John Wesley, and with the techno wizardry of a political convention, the Rev. Rod Parsley declared he is launching a nonpartisan, evangelistic mission to properly reset the world's moral compass, beginning in Ohio.
Parsley is founder of World Harvest Church, southeast of Columbus -- a church with 5,000 seats, a television ministry, a private elementary school with about 700 children, a Bible college and an independent advocacy organization called the Center for Moral Clarity.
For about 90 minutes, Parsley, standing in front of U.S., Ohio and Christian flags, ran through an almost seamless presentation.
``The vision of our country's founding generation and the inspiration of great reformers of the past are colliding with unprecedented moral decay and cultural decline,'' Parsley told the crowd. ``Today we come to declare a new movement that is an answer to the crisis of our times.''
Ohio will be a training ground that will launch a national reformation, he said.
At his call, the crowd repeated several times the Ohio state motto, ``With God, all things are possible,'' with a volume that reverberated against the tall buildings surrounding the Statehouse.
He brought with him his own security, a media relations firm, singers, rappers and television cameras. A big-screen television near Parsley played a three-minute video on the effort to save Ohio, including the institution of marriage.
Parsley said he has a three-fold plan: evangelize at least a million people, one in 10 of whom will become converts; help the disadvantaged; and register up to 400,000 new Ohio voters over the next four years.
While Parsley said his organization will be an apolitical, nonprofit organization, the ties to conservative Republicans were evident.
Politics of movement
All the politicians who spoke are conservative evangelical Republicans: Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who is running for governor; state Sen. Jim Jordan of West Liberty; U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas; U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina; and state Rep. Linda Reidelbach of Columbus.
Reidelbach delivered a resolution from the Republican-controlled Ohio House commending Parsley's effort, which will promote ``spiritual revival and moral reformation'' in the state.
Reformation Ohio's organizational leader, Dan Stemen, will establish offices in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. He said he hopes to have $20 million to spend during those four years.
Also joining Reformation Ohio will be Youth With a Mission, a Kansas City organization that has committed $10 million to train and mobilize 60,000 young workers.
Stemen said Youth With a Mission chose Ohio because of its importance in the last presidential election. A printed statement said Youth With a Mission is launching a ``major evangelistic thrust in key states, specifically swing states such as Ohio.''
The crowd was racially diverse, with African-Americans making up an estimated 20 percent of the participants. That could be a significant factor in a tight political race in which moral values become an issue.
Co-hosting the event was the Rev. David Parsons Jr. of Ever Increasing Life Ministries, a large, predominantly black church in Columbus.
Parsons will have a seat on Parsley's Reformation Ohio board of directors.
While Parsley said he doesn't care whether the new voters are Republicans or Democrats, some of the voter registration drives will be coupled with the evangelistic events where Parsley says he intends to preach on which values are right and which are wrong.
There were frequent references to Ohio's approval last year of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- a victory that Parsley said Blackwell helped.
But it is those issues that divide the religious community.
Critics voice concerns
A half-hour before Parsley started his event at the Statehouse, an ecumenical group of religious leaders and Democratic state and national politicians met across the street on the front steps of Trinity Episcopal Church to question Parsley's Reformation Ohio.
``They are eloquent, passionate and dramatic,'' the Rev. Grayson Atha, a Columbus United Methodist minister, said of Parsley's coalition. ``But they will try to lead us down a path to take us places we dare not go.''
He said Americans fought in Afghanistan to ``free it of religious zealots,'' and now this group ``is seeking to take us down a path that is contrary to democracy.''
U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, a former minister and psychologist who is running for governor, said religion ``is being used as a political weapon.''
``As I look at the New Testament, I see no indication that Jesus Christ tried to use the instruments of government to accomplish his kingdom on this Earth,'' Strickland said.
Parsley, who was aware of the event preceding his program, said with a broad smile, ``We will certainly have our critics. Indeed, some have already spoken against us.''
The critics will say it can't be done, or they will attempt to stop the reformation, he said.
``But I've got news for you: Our critics cannot claim to know who we are, who sent us or who empowers us,'' he said.
© 2005 Beacon Journal and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Doug Oplinger can be reached at 330-996-3750 or email@example.com. Dennis J. Willard can be reached at 614-224-1613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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