North Texans head to Houston rally -- some to pray, some to protest

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 03, 2011  comments  Print Reprints

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Frustrated with the way elected officials are guiding America, Julie White McCarty of Grapevine said the only place she needs to be Saturday is in Houston.

There, she and her family will join likely thousands of others in a daylong prayer rally -- called by Gov. Rick Perry at Houston's Reliant Stadium -- to ask God to help the nation make its way through the moral and financial crisis.

"We need times like this to come together and get our souls refreshed," said McCarty, who will travel with First Baptist Church of Grapevine.

"I'm not a big fan of Rick Perry, but that is not what this is about. Any time there's an opportunity to join together with God's people to pray in this magnitude, I want to be there. God will hear. He will answer. I want to be a part of that."

McCarty is among the local churchgoers who will attend the event, which is titled "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis."

Several dozen other local residents will be there as well -- to protest.

They plan to demonstrate against one of the rally's sponsors, the American Family Association, a social conservative group that has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"We're protesting because we want to say publicly that we view the Gospel of Jesus Christ very differently from the AFA," said the Rev. Katherine Godby, interim senior pastor at the First Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ in Fort Worth. "In the minds of so many people these days, groups like the AFA are the voice of Christianity, but we want people to know that there are alternative Christian voices out there.

"We believe that the Gospel is about inclusion, extravagant welcome and radical hospitality to all -- no exceptions."

First Congregational members have been meeting for more than a month to plan their peaceful protest, making banners and signs to display outside the rally. Their effort, dubbed "Hate Speech is Not the Gospel," has been endorsed by the congregation, which passed a resolution calling out the association for using "hate speech disguised as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, causing pain and suffering to GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] people as well as people of faith traditions outside of Christianity."

On Saturday, "we plan to peacefully, quietly demonstrate," Godby said. "We'll remain on the sidewalks, which are public property, with our signs and banners, and provide a flier to anyone who's interested."

They will be among a crowd of demonstrators, many protesting Perry and other organizers. But the local group hopes to stay separate from them, stressing that they won't be there to protest the rally itself -- just the American Family Association and its message.

"We're going as Christians, saying this isn't a proper representation of what Christianity should be or what the Gospel is," said Marvin Vann, a deacon at First Congregational who is coordinating the protest. "We want to make a public statement that will help others understand there is an alternative voice to Christianity, other than the one that dominates public discourse right now. It's about compassion and liberation. And we regard the Gospel of being about those values."

For Debra McDaniels of Bedford, Saturday is not a day of protest. It's a day of prayer.

The 58-year-old retired teacher will ride to Houston on a bus chartered by First Baptist Church of Euless.

"Prayer does change things," McDaniels said. "God does make things happen when people pray."

Anna M. Tinsley,


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