A Good and Faithful
A conversation with the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, friend and pastor to President BushThe Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell is pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, the largest United Methodist congregation in the nation, with 15,000 members. Caldwell is also a friend of President Bush's. They met when Bush was the governor of Texas; Bush admired Caldwell's work in using faith-based programs run out of his church to meet social needs. Over the years, they became friends, even though Caldwell is not a Republican. Why? Both are Texans. Both are Methodists. Both earned MBAs from renowned business schools. And both have a passion for faith-based programs. Beyond that, they both are known as straight-shooting CEO-types who don't get tangled up in a lot of introspection.
Today, Caldwell occasionally prays with the president on the phone, and Bush has long pointed to Caldwell's work as a positive example of what can be accomplished through local churches. Caldwell introduced Bush at the 2000 Republican National Convention, performed the benediction at the first inaugural, and spoke at the Sept. 14, 2001 National Day of Mourning. This year, he is again delivering the inaugural benediction.
Beliefnet senior editor Deborah Caldwell (no relation) spoke with Rev. Caldwell about his experiences as one of the president's spiritual confidantes.
After the 2000 Inauguration, a national brouhaha erupted because of how you ended your prayer. What do you remember about that controversy?
I don't think I got the complete brunt of it, but from all indications it was surely a brouhaha within some sectors--and the brouhaha was over praying in the name of Jesus. Quite frankly, I had no intention of excluding or insulting anyone or any faith community. It was a very benign mistake. At the end of the prayer I said - I think this is what really agitated some people - I said, "Let all who agree say `Amen.'" Well, that's how I've typically ended prayers--when I said let all who agree, the "all" meant all who agreed with the essence of the prayer, not all who agreed in the name of the name that's above all others, Jesus the Christ.