Last week, TheBlaze brought you an extensive recap of the diverse faith leaders who offered invocations and benedictions at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Today, we have a preview, as compiled by CNN, of what -- and whom -- Blaze readers can expect to see, at least on the faith front, when it comes to Democratic National Convention addresses.
Considering the ongoing stalemate that the Obama administration is embroiled in with the Catholic Church over contraception, the issue of faith will likely be handled with care at the convention. We've already noted the surprising fact that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be offering closing prayers -- just as he did at the RNC last week. And, much like the Republicans, the Democrats will also have a diverse line-up of faiths represented throughout these speeches.
The diversified set of faith leaders who will be present at this week's festivities are apparently intended to show the American people just how important religion is in the life of President Barack Obama.
"The important role faith has played in President Obama’s own life and the lives of many Americans will be reflected in Charlotte," campaign spokesperson wrote in a release issued to CNN. "The Convention will include diverse religious leaders who are committed to the common good and understand that America needs a president who leads with values."
On Tuesday, Metropolitan Nicholas, bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Detroit, will be delivering the opening prayer. This mirrors the GOP selection of Metropolitan Methodios, a spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, who offered the closing benediction last Wednesday at the RNC. The Detroit Free Press has more about Nicholas' speech:
“It’s an honor,” Metropolitan Nicholas, 59, told the Free Press after landing in Charlotte today. “It’s a unique privilege..... To me, this is part of the American dream.”
Nicholas, who heads the Greek Orthodox Church in Michigan, said he’s politically independent and supports bringing people together. Scheduled for 5 p.m., his invocation tonight will be for all backgrounds, regions and faiths, not just Orthodox Christians, he said.
“Coming from a Greek background, I learned (from the ancient Greeks) that man is a political animal,” said Nicholas, whose grandparents were Greek immigrants. “Good politics brings people together. Bad politics is divisive. We have to bring people together.”
“I’m here to offer a prayer on behalf of everyone, not just Orthodox.”
In the evening, Jena Lee Nardella, the founder of the non-profit Blood: Water Mission, a group that serves to help those impacted by the African water crisis and works to combat HIV/AIDS, will offer the benediction. CNN reports that, "Nardella represents the young evangelical demographic that the Obama campaign is targeting in this election, knowing that older evangelicals are largely locked up for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney."
In a letter posted on the organization's web site, two factors came up -- one pertaining to timing and the other to affiliation. It appears the Obama campaign didn't reach out to Nardella until last week, a fact worth noting. As for partisan attachment, Blood: Water Mission made it clear that Nardella's participation isn't politically-motivated:
Tonight, Jena will be praying for the country and for those we serve in Africa at the close of the opening day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. This invitation came at the end of last week as the President was looking for a Christian who was doing good and admirable work in the world, and they thought of Jena. This is an incredible honor for Jena to be invited to share her voice from this international platform. Her invitation is an example of the years of impact she has made in seeking health and healing for those we serve.As an organization, we clearly see that our work in justice, health and hope are not partisan issues. It's our faith that motivates and compels us to act and invite all who fight for injustice to work together, regardless of background or party affiliation. It's at the core of our mission, and we will continue to bring people together to empower communities to work together, both here and abroad, to fight the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa.
Wednesday’s prayer will begin with Vashti Murphy McKenzie, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. McKenzie is the first woman to be elected bishop. Also, the denomination is the oldest black sect in the U.S., making her a unique choice. However, it was likely early on that she would be included in some way, considering the fact that McKenzie is an Obama campaign co-chair. The Tennessean has more about the faith leader's overt support for the president's agenda:
Bishop Vashti McKenzie, who led the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tennessee and Kentucky for eight years, talked up President Barack Obama at a meeting of the Democratic National Convention’s credentials committee today.
“This is about the kind of people we want to be and what kind of America we believe in,” McKenzie said. “We are a diverse America. The president often talks about the important concept of, ‘I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.’” [...]
McKenzie told committee members that Democrats’ mission this year is critical because their party and the Republican Party “offer two different visions for our future.”
“This is a moment in time when we must say to our president, ‘We got your back, we got your back, we got your back,’ ” she said.
At the close of Wednesday's event, Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California, will offer the benediction. As an influential Jew -- one who may actually have the most impact among his community members here in America -- his presence is noteworthy. Last Tuesday, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of Yeshiva University’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, opened the proceedings with an invocation at the RNC. Cleveland Jewish News has more about McKenzie:
Wolpe said his prayer on Wednesday evening will focus on the ideals animating the United States. The prayer will precede speeches by Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts, and former President Bill Clinton.
This year, Wolpe was named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by The Jerusalem Post. He is the author of seven books, and is widely known as a newspaper columnist and radio and television commentator.
On Thursday, The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of The National Latino Evangelical Coalition, will take the stage to deliver an invocation. Last week, the convention was closed out on Tuesday by The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition. Hispanics are a key voting bloc for Democrats -- and one that tends to be more in-line with the party at the polls.
And, in the evening on Thursday, Cardinal Dolan will make an appearance to deliver the benediction, solidifying himself as the only faith leader to attend both conventions. The president, as we noted last week, may be able to use the opportunity to try and convince voters that the situation isn't as tense between the Catholic Church and his administration as we've been led to believe it is.
- Religious Diversity: Evangelical, Mormon, Jew, Greek Orthodox & Sikh Leaders Deliver RNC Prayers
- Should Mitt Romney Talk About His Mormon Faith More Candidly? (POLL)
- Despite Obama Admin Rift, Cardinal Dolan Announces He’ll Now Be Giving Closing Prayer at the DNC
- 5 Ways Faith & Religion Will Matter at the Republican National Convention