Texas Gov. Rick Perry helps Frisco evangelical church celebrate 10th anniversary

Texas Gov. Rick Perry helps Frisco evangelical church celebrate 10th anniversary

07:53 AM CST on Monday, January 11, 2010 http://tinyurl.com/ye9f5vr

By DIANE RADO / The Dallas Morning News

FRISCO – Gov. Rick Perry took part in a rollicking service at an evangelical church Sunday, helping celebrate the congregation’s 10th anniversary and seizing the opportunity to get his views out to some 1,000 congregants and a worldwide Web audience

In the theater-like setting of the massive Elevate Life Church, Perry took the stage and launched into criticism of the federal government, while expressing his love for his state and his job.

“I don’t have a problem standing up and telling people, ‘I’m a Texan and I’m proud of it,’ ” Perry said, to cheers and applause.

He also told the congregation, “Being the governor of Texas is the greatest job in the world,” though “we got challenges.”

A nine-year incumbent, Perry faces a challenge from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in an intense primary race that will play out over the next two months. The primary election is March 2.

Hutchison’s campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Baker, said that Hutchison believes it’s important to have people of faith in political office, and that churches should open their doors to public officials to discuss their faith.

At the same time, Baker said, “it is shocking but not surprising that Governor Perry would take the opportunity to give a political speech. Leave it to Rick Perry to turn a day about the Lord into a day about Rick Perry.”

Perry was in friendly territory. Frisco and surrounding Collin County are among the most Republican areas of Texas. The church appearance Sunday was not intended to be political in nature or favor any political party, according to pastor Keith Craft.

“Whether he is a Democratic or Republican governor, we would want the governor to come,” said Craft, whose nondenominational church focuses in part on developing leaders. Founded in 2000, the church has grown to about 4,000 members over the last 10 years.

The governor was invited by a church member to the 10th anniversary celebration, and Perry agreed to attend the 11 a.m. service Sunday.

It was a rousing affair that took on a concert atmosphere, with young musicians on guitars, drums and a keyboard playing contemporary Christian music to a rock beat. The stage was framed by gigantic screens, which helped those in the back rows see the action up front. As usual, Sunday’s celebration was broadcast on the Internet.

When the pastor took the stage, he praised Perry as a man not afraid “to say he’s a believer.”

He presented Perry with a long, silver-colored sword, referred to as the sword of the spirit, and representing the word of God.

“He’s a warrior. He fights for God. He fights for America,” Craft said about the governor.

Perry presented a proclamation to Craft, honoring the church’s 10th anniversary.

The governor also talked to the congregation about his roots in a small town. He went on to discuss challenges that lie ahead in the new decade. He quoted Scripture and urged people to persevere in these difficult economic times.

He made reference to the Aggies – Perry is a graduate of Texas A&M – and mentioned the Dallas Cowboys, bringing on clapping and cheering.

Perry also launched into a discussion of the U.S. Constitution – a document based on “godly principles” – and his belief that the federal government should not force policy on states in a one-size-fits-all approach.

“The federal government was created by the states, to be an agent of the states, not the other way around,” Perry said.

“When Washington, D.C., wants to talk about, here’s this policy that’s going to cover all these 50 states, I’m kind of like, no offense, but I don’t want to look like Connecticut,” Perry said.

That, too, brought cheers from the audience.

While some politicians swoop in and out of events, Perry stayed for the remainder of the service after his remarks.



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