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By Adelle M. Banks
c. 2010 Religion News Service
WASHINGTON (RNS) Twenty-one Christian leaders met and prayed with
President Obama on Monday (Nov. 1), discussing joint concerns about
poverty, U.S.-Cuban relations and peace in the Middle East.
Leaders from the National Council of Churches thanked the president
for the passage of health care reform and voiced concern from the pews
about stubborn unemployment rates.
“We weren’t going there saying `You need to do this for us, you need
to do that for us,”‘ said the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, the NCC’s general
secretary, on Tuesday (Nov. 2). “We were also asking `What can we do for
you?’ This is a spiritually demanding job and we are spiritual leaders.”
At the close of the 40-minute meeting in the White House’s Roosevelt
Room, leaders said Obama asked for prayer, which was led by Bishop
Thomas Hoyt of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
For a president who made faith an integral part of his 2008
campaign, Monday’s meeting was decidedly low-key, with no public
statements or photos released by the White House.
NCC leaders, who represent Orthodox, historic African-American and
mainline Protestant denominations, raised other concerns, including the
plight of the dwindling Christian population in the Middle East and
limitations on travel to Cuba by U.S. religious leaders.
“On a day when you would imagine he could be quite distracted (by
the midterm elections), he was very focused on the things that were
being said and responded with questions and with comments of common
concern,” Kinnamon said.
The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the
Reformed Church in America, offered Bible verses that speak against
“disorder and wickedness” amid concerns over the country’s rancorous
political climate.
“We commented that we were all elected people,” said the Rev. Gradye
Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA). “He reminded us
that we didn’t face midterms.”
The meeting, brokered by NCC President Peg Chemberlin, a former
adviser to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood
Partnerships, came after the leaders had invited Obama to their meeting
next week (Nov. 9-11) in New Orleans to mark the 100th anniversary of
the modern ecumenical movement. Obama is scheduled to be in Asia during
the New Orleans meeting.
It marked the first time a delegation from the ecumenical
organization had met with President Obama, and the first time since the
Clinton White House that such a delegation had been invited to the White
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