Obama hears concerns of NCC leaders

The day before elections some 20 Christian leaders met and prayed
with President Obama at the White House and discussed a host of
concerns, including Middle East conflicts, domestic poverty and
incivility in political life.

The gathering probably didn't count
as a Democratic Party faith outreach event. No photos were taken during
the  low-key 40-minute meeting, which occurred as the last flood of
political appeals was hitting the next day's voters.

travel plans to East Asia prevented him from speaking at the annual
meeting of the National Council of Churches November 9-11 in New
Orleans, so the meeting of Christian leaders was arranged for All Saints

Leaders from the NCC and member communions thanked the
president for the passage of health-care reform. Michael Kinnamon,
general secretary of the NCC, said that the church leaders were not
presenting him with a list of their needs as much as asking what they
could do for him.

Although Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding
bishop of the Episcopal Church, asked that the Obama administration "end
the travel ban and restrictions on religious work in Cuba," she put
that request into the context of gratitude for the president's work "on
behalf of so many people on the margins," according to Episcopal News

Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of America, said some participants commended Obama's
efforts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians while
emphasizing the need to preserve Jerusalem as a shared city for all and
to protect the right of Christians in the region, reported ELCA News
Service. "I spoke about the need to create jobs that will lift people
out of poverty," including jobs that are environmentally friendly,
Hanson added.

John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World
Service, put the appeal into an international context: "As families in
the U.S. find their household budgets more and more strained, families
in the developing world are hurting too."

NCC leaders, who
represent Ortho­dox, historic African-American and mainline Protestant
denominations, raised other concerns, including the onslaught of
misleading and attack-mode campaigning for public office.

In that
light, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed
Church in America, offered Bible verses that speak against "disorder and
wickedness." At the close of the meeting, Obama asked for prayer, which
was led by Bishop Thomas Hoyt of the Christian Methodist Episcopal

The NCC's Kinnamon, summing up the day for Religion News
Service, said: "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."

The meeting, brokered by NCC president Peg
Chemberlin, a former adviser to the White House Office of Faith-based
and Neighborhood Part­nerships, marked the first time a delegation from
the ecumenical organization had met with President Obama, and the first
time since Bill Clinton was president that such a delegation had been
invited to the White House.  

John Dart

John Dart is news editor at the Century.

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