What is now The Gathering began in 1985 with five of us who had an interest in Christian philanthropy. For the first several meetings of our small retreats at The Cedars in Arlington we had a strict rule. There would be no presentations from non-profits. In fact, no non-profit leaders would be invited to attend. No fund-raisers. No one sitting in on the fringes. Like any boys club, we took a blood oath almost as literal as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn did:
“Huck Finn and
Tom Sawyer swears
they will keep mum
about this and they
wish they may Drop
down dead in their
tracks if they ever
Tell and Rot”
It might have worked except at the very first meeting one of us amended the oath – either by vote or executive order – to include Mike Cromartie as a guest one evening for dinner. I had no idea then who he was but I have come to refer to Mike as the “sixth man” because while he was not officially one of the founders I am not sure we could have done it without him. You probably know the phrase “letting the fox in the henhouse” but I’d like to turn it around. In so many ways, Mike then and for many years afterwards let us into his henhouse of friends. He introduced me to many of you here tonight and had it not been for Mike Cromartie The Gathering may well have been just another tribal conference of true believers with confirmation bias and fixed opinions about everything. Instead, for decades we have been stretched and blessed with Mike’s influence, his enthusiasm and even his unrelenting pressure for supporting the mission of the Faith Angle Forum. I will never hear anyone say, “Hey, bro!” without thinking about Mike. That is why it is my honor to be here tonight to help celebrate and remember the life and contributions of the sixth man, Michael Cromartie.
Now, it’s my privilege to introduce Pete Wehner.
Pete is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and at Mike’s request and the unanimous assent of everyone the new director of Faith Angle Forum. The last time I talked to Mike they were preparing him to go home from the hospital. Even then, Mike told me, “Hey, bro, you are going to love Pete. He is the perfect person to lead Faith Angle.” I agree. Please welcome the director of the Faith Angle Forum and our host tonight – Pete Wehner.