APtx 07/24 0305 Holy Ghost Rally By A. DENITA GADSON Associated Press Writer NEW ORLEANS

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APtx 07/24 0305 Holy Ghost Rally By A. DENITA GADSON Associated Press Writer NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Bible thumping, hand clapping, feet stomping Pentecostals and charismatic Christians set aside doctrinal differences in worshiping together at the Louisiana Superdome. More than 35,000 people began arriving Wednesday for the four-day North American Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelism. It's the second meeting of the congress; the first was held in Kansas City in 1977. Leaders have said they want to convert 3.1 billion people to Christianity by the year 2000. Statistics show there are 1.6 billion Christians today. Two South Carolina protesters, carrying posters with messages like "Compromise is not love" and handing out religious tracts, called the meeting a hypocrisy. "I'm protesting the ungodliness of America and the religious hypocrisy," said Robert Eckhardt, 61, who professed to be non-denominational. "We're just playing church in America," he said, pointing to a chauffeur-driven limousine with a Virginia license plate parked outside the Superdome. He said it belonged to a minister. "They won't please God by compromising. It's his way or no way," Eckhardt said. However, the congress' chairman said none of the religious cults here are compromising their beliefs. Participants include Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, Orthodox and Messianic Jews, and others. "Every group is meeting separately. We've learned to respect one another's beliefs and unite and agree on what we can," Chairman Vinson Synan of Oklahoma City said in an interview. He said the biggest thing they all agree on is evangelization. "Division only takes us away from God and makes evangelism less effective," he said. About 15,000 Catholics are attending the congress, which Synan says is historical in itself. It nevertheless drew sharp criticism from Pentecostal evangelist Jimmy Swaggart of Baton Rouge. Swaggart refused to attend, saying Catholic doctrine is in error and, because of that, there could be no unity on some biblical issues between Protestants and Catholics. "There is absolutely no way that ministers of the Gospel can stand on a platform with Catholic priests in some type of professed unity without compromising the message of the Word of God," Swaggart said. Synan said there are more than 50 million Pentacostal-charismatics in the United States, whose worship is usually spontaneous and emotional, and often includes speaking in tongues, prophesying and a belief in faith healing. The reliance on such supernatural "gifts" from the Holy Spirit is what all Pentacostal and charismatics have in common. The North American congress was formed in the 1970s as a show of unity by charismatic Catholics and Protestants from about 40 denominations, he said. Synan said the recent television evangelist scandal that centers around Jim and Tammy Bakker and the PTL Club has hurt the world's view of Christianity in general, and Pentecostals in particular. "I think the unholy war has hurt, maybe even our attendance somewhat," Synan said. Initially, 55,000 people were expected to attend the meeting, he said. Longtime evangelist Oral Roberts won't attend the congress, but his son, Richard, would broadcast his morning television show from the meeting Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Synan said. Evangelists, authors and leaders of the movement will conduct more than 100 daily workshops and meetings each night. Workshop leaders include entertainer Pat Boone and his wife, Shirley; West German missionary Reinhard Boonke; and sports figures Roosevelt Grier and Meadowlark Lemon. Last page !


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