Rev. Peg Chemberlin

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin is the executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches. She is the immediate past president of the National Council of Churches, an organization of 36 communions with 45 million constituents across the nation. Read more about Rev. Peg Chemberlin.

Chemberlin White House Visit

Posted by: Rev. Peg Chemberlin under Society, Politics Updated: April 7, 2010 - 9:47 AM

I appreciate Bob von Sternberg news report about my being able to attend President Obama’s Easter prayer breakfast. However, he is not correct about the last time I was at the White House so let me try to update that information.Yes, last summer I was at the White House, actually the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) which is part of the White House Campus (inside the gates). We were speaking with White House staff about US policy regarding torture. I had just come from a witness in Lafayette Park where I was on my knees in prayer about that issue.

Since then I have been back many times. As a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships we met a number of times in the EEOB. The council also got a tour of the main White House – lovely. Our last meeting was in March in the West Wing where we presented our final report to President Obama. That was the first time I had met him.

I met the First lady at a Holiday party around Christmastime at the White House where she asked me to pray for them, I assured her that I do.

And most recently I was in the West Wing to meet with the president’s top staff person on immigration. Seated alongside the Washington staff person for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), we declared that the National Council of Churches and the NAE agree on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. (We don’t always agree.)

Most of the work gets done in the West Wing or the EEOB; and the main White House is used for ceremonially events, I am guessing. But this breakfast was a very real event with the president sharing some of his most personal thoughts about his personal faith. He was quick to point out that there is also a White House Seder and Iftar. The president is very interested in relationships with the broad faith community. One of the foci for the President’s Advisory council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership was on the federal government’s relationship with interfaith projects and efforts. And, I found myself feeling like it was a little odd to be there just with Christians. Every other trip has been interfaith in significant ways.

But on this occasion it was Christians who gathered and a Christian witness offered. Obama's brief comments provided an uncommon view into his personal Christian faith. He welcomed us warmly as "my brothers and sisters in Christ" and honored Christ as "our risen savior."

The president said, "As I am continually learning, we are, each of us, imperfect. Each of us errs, by accident or design. Each of us falls short of how we ought to live. Selfishness and pride are vices that afflict us all."  The president spoke in particular of the story of Christ's last words on the cross, quoting this phrase: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. These words were spoken by our Lord and Savior," he said, "but they can just as truly be spoken by every one of us here today. Their meaning can just as truly be lived out by all of God's children. So on this day, let us commit our spirit to the pursuit of a life that is true."

 

 

 

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