Monday, Feb. 07, 2005

Douglas Coe

The Stealth Persuader
Many people think Congress is the host of the gala annual National Prayer Breakfast, which takes place this week. It is not. The breakfast is organized by 33 members of Congress who belong to a well-connected but secretive Christian group called the Fellowship Foundation, which is run by Douglas Coe. Coe, 76, has been called the "stealth Billy Graham." He specializes in the spiritual struggles of the powerful.

Several members of Congress live in rooms rented in a town house owned by a foundation affiliated with the group. Coe and his associates sometimes travel (on their own dime) with congressional members abroad and — according to investigations by the Los Angeles Times and Harper's — have played backstage roles in such diplomatic coups as the 1976 Camp David accords. Yet Coe also befriends dictators. "He would still hold out hope that these people could be redeemed and try to work through them to help the people over whom they have authority," says Richard Carver, president of the Fellowship's board of directors. Some skeptical Evangelicals criticize Coe's indiscriminate alliances and his downplaying of Jesus' divinity in favor of his earthly teachings — which allows Coe to pray with Muslim and Buddhist leaders. But few turn down an opportunity to confer with him.