Churches, Groups Look to Obama for Promised Change
Courtesy of The Christian Post Religious and rights groups are calling on President Barack Obama to make good on his popular catchphrase “Change is coming!” by flooding him with letters requesting support and attention to special causes. Several groups have already asked the new president to put into action his promise to unite people that traditionally have been in conflict. Just ahead of the inauguration, several prominent evangelical and progressive leaders came together to issue a “common values” agenda covering divisive cultural issues such as abortion, gay rights, immigration reform, and torture. In the letter sent to President Obama and congressional leaders, the formerly at odds partners offered “a shared vision and a plan for ending the cultural wars.” Together the two sides called for the reduction of abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women and new families, and increasing support for adoption. Moderate evangelical and secular progressive leaders also called on the protection of the rights of gay and lesbian people to earn a living with an exemption for faith-based employers to refuse to hire on the basis of sexual orientation. Other issues they agreed on include the unequivocal renouncement of torture by the government and support for an immigration reform that paves the way to an earned path of citizenship for most undocumented residents. “The culture wars have been characterized by vilifying those who differ from us on provocative issues and treating them as traitors and threats,” said the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Florida. “I believe we can end those wars by thinking of our differences as ways we can learn from each other and advance without compromising core values,” he said. Pastor Joel Hunter has prayed with President Obama on several occasions, including during a private pre-inauguration service held at St. John’s Church across from the White House on Tuesday; over the phone on Election Day Nov. 4, before Obama was declared the winner, and at the closing of the Democratic National Convention. The “Common Values” agenda was spearheaded by Third Way and also included the support of Dr. David Gushee of Mercer University, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, Dr. Robert P. Jones of Public Religion Research, and Katie Paris of Faith in Public Life. Meanwhile, International Justice Mission – a ministry that works to free those victimized by violent crimes such as sexual violence, trafficking, and slavery – is asking the Obama administration and Congress to make the public justice system more capable of protecting the poor and vulnerable. Other groups are seeking Obama’s support to end the Darfur genocide, maintain current policies that ban foreign aid to organizations promoting abortions, and prevent federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Joel Hunter, Samuel Rodriguez to Pray at Private Prayer Service
Courtesy of Christianty Today Written by Sarah Pulliam Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, will offer prayers at the prayer service tomorrow that Barack Obama will attend before the inauguration. T.D. Jakes will give the sermon at the service, which is closed to the public. I caught up with Rodriguez tonight and below is the partial transcript of our conversation. What do you think about the inauguration plans tomorrow? I think it was a brilliant move to ask Rick Warren. It speaks to his commitment to bring the country together. My prayer is that [Obama’s] public policy agenda reflects that same commitment. This great man will govern from the center. I believe that he will not make the Freedom of Choice Act his priority. I believe that he will focus on abortion-reduction strategies, lowering the teenage pregnancy rate. That’s my prayer. The Defense of Marriage Act – Dear Mr. President, this would be one of those ‘don’t touch, don’t tell,’ not ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ These are issues that are cultural wedge issues that have historically separated us. His selections on cabinet appointments are center, if not center right. My speculation is, in light of the presidential transition team, my speculation is that he will govern from the center. What did you think of Obama’s selection of T.D. Jakes? I appreciate the selection. Bishop T.D. Jakes is one of the most anointed and articulate orators. I think he couldn’t have picked someone better. I believe that Barack Obama’s selection of speakers and orators, and those that will be praying and reading Scripture, excluding Sam Rodriguez, excluding Sam Rodriguez, other than that, excellent choice. What about Robinson? Excellent? (pause) My problem with Gene Robinson, and of course I have my own biblical worldview, is not that he is openly gay. It has to do more with Rick Warren’s selection. Gene was very apprehensive, very condescending, and totally against the selection of Rick Warren. I think that was wrong. Rick, on the other hand, responded in such a Christ-like manner when he was made aware of Gene Robinson’s selection. My reluctance to put him in the same category as excellent has everything to do with the way he responded to Rick Warren and nothing to do with sexual orientation. If he had not responded in that way, I would’ve said excellent choice. Do you have expectations for tomorrow? Lots of tears, lots of goose bumps. I know that there was speculation over whether Rick Warren would pray in Jesus’ name. Do you plan to pray in Jesus’ name tomorrow? If you invite me as a Hispanic evangelical, I will pray in Jesus’ name, respecting religious pluralism in America. I hope [Rick Warren] does. I hope he would but if he doesn’t I understand. I will be praying in Jesus’ name and I will be sharing from the New Testament from the Gospel of Luke. Which passage? It’s confidential until tomorrow. Anything else you’d like to add? All the Christians in this community should stand around him and support him. We have a moral commitment to cover him in prayer.