WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (RNS) -- In a show of unity after the divisive presidentialelection, about 1,700 religious, political and community leadersgathered Friday for an "Inaugural Prayer Luncheon for Unityand Renewal" on the eve of President-elect George W. Bush'sinauguration.

Billed as an event to bring together leaders across denominational,racial and partisan lines, it nevertheless prominently featuredconservative Christian leaders -- from five past presidents of theSouthern Baptist Convention to religious broadcasters Paul Crouch, JerryFalwell and Robert Schuller.

The event's primary sponsor was The Washington Times Foundation.

The new president did not attend.

"I believe God Almighty will lead George W. Bush and Dick Cheney andall of their team into the nation's finest hour," said the Rev. KennethCopeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Rev. Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship inDallas, opened the event with a prayer noting the division over Bush'selection. "We come, Lord, with a lot of healing that needs to be done,"he prayed.

Doug Wead, co-chairman of the event -- whose theme was "America ComeTogether"-- said its goal for unity was reflected in the attendance,which filled one hotel ballroom and overflowed into two other rooms.

"Many of us in this room are soaring with hope because of theresponse of leaders of every religion who were contacted about thisevent," said Wead, who served as a special assistant to Bush's father,President George H.W. Bush.

Interspersed between prayers and praise for the Bush administrationwere tributes for celebrated religious leaders, include the late Rev.Martin Luther King Jr. and evangelist Billy Graham, who was unable toattend this year's inaugural events for health reasons.

Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt honored Grahamas a "man of integrity," and the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, a Washingtonpastor and former U.S. congressman, recalled King's message that "eitherwe learn to live together as brothers and sisters on this planet or wewill perish together as fools."

Falwell called for prayers for another well-known religious leader,the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who days before acknowledged fathering anout-of-wedlock daughter. "It certainly is not the time to put our footon the neck of anyone," Falwell said, noting he had called Jackson andprayed with him.

Over the course of the polished three-hour event, the intersectionof religion and politics took center stage.

Falwell urged Bush to outlaw so-called "partial-birth" abortion andvoiced his support for moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Avivto Jerusalem and combatting racial profiling. Imam Hassan Qazwini,director of the Islamic Center of America in Detroit, asked for Allah'sblessings on Bush and added, "Help him to bring smiles to all sufferingchildren of the world, especially (in) Iraq and Palestine."

Stephen Goldsmith, the former Indianapolis mayor who has served as asenior Bush adviser on faith-based initiatives and who is Jewish, said of the man who would soon be president: "I think that the best thing that America hasto face is a person who is about to become president who truly believesin God and believes in the power of God to make the lives of peoplebetter."

Not long after Falwell condemned some members of the U.S. Senate for"religious profiling" in the hearing for Attorney General-designate JohnAshcroft, the former senator took to the stage himself and thanked theaudience members for their "kindness to me and your prayers for me."

The audience, which included ambassadors and advisers to past U.S.presidents, was treated to music that ranged from the Vienna Strings torecording artist Vicki Winans. Between prayers, they dined on salad,chicken and a white-chocolate dessert in the shape of the U.S. Capitol.

"This has been organized largely by Christian people, but those ofyou who are not Christians ... we love you, we cherish you, we respectyou," said Christian entertainer Pat Boone.

In closing remarks, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, leader of theUnification Church and the founder of The Washington Times, asked forprayers that Bush would gain the "respect of all Americans and thepeople the world over."

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