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First on CNN: Who’s delivering prayers at the DNC
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who closed out the GOP convention, is also giving the final prayer at the Democratic convention.
September 3rd, 2012
11:01 PM ET

First on CNN: Who’s delivering prayers at the DNC

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

President Barack Obama has a penchant for using high-profile prayer givers to send messages to the nation.

At his 2009 White House inauguration, Obama called on Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation, signaling an attempt to tamp down on the culture wars (Warren is a theologically conservative evangelical who was close to George W. Bush).

Closing out the inauguration of the first black president was a prayer from The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights leader who worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Obama campaign sent us a list of who will be delivering the opening and closing prayers each day at this week’s Democratic National Convention.

“The important role faith has played in President Obama’s own life and the lives of many Americans will be reflected in Charlotte," said Clo Ewing, a spokesperson with the campaign. "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.”

Here’s a cheat sheet of who the prayer givers are – and why they matter:

Tuesday’s invocation (opening prayer): Metropolitan Nicholas, bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Detroit

Why he matters: Nicholas is a leader in a giant global movement that has a tiny U.S. presence, with the Greek Orthodox representing a fraction of 1% of the U.S. population. But Nicholas is a symbol of the country’s rich religious diversity, opening the convention with a nod to minority religions.

Tuesday’s benediction (closing prayer): Jena Lee Nardella, executive director of Blood: Water Mission

Why she matters: 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. Nardella started Blood: Water Mission, which focuses on combating the HIV/AIDs and water crises in Africa, at age 22 with the Christian music group Jars of Clay.

Wednesday’s invocation: Vashti Murphy McKenzie, presiding bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Why she matters: McKenzie is the first woman elected bishop in the AME Church, the country’s oldest black religious denomination. She offered opening prayer at the 1996 Democratic National Convention and is an Obama campaign co-chair. Earlier this summer, first lady Michelle Obama addressed a big AME conference, saying: “To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better.”

Wednesday’s Benediction: David Wolpe, rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles

Why he matters: Hailed as the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek, Wolpe is a prolific author and media personality who's recognizable to many American Jews, who constitute an important voting bloc in some swing states and whose whose ranks include many big political donors. Though Obama won 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, Romney is claiming that Obama has mistreated Israel and Republicans say they see an opening, especially among Orthodox Jews.

Thursday invocation: The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Why he matters: Salguero is cutting an increasingly high profile in America’s Hispanic community, a crucial Democratic bloc whose evangelical ranks are swelling and who tend to be socially conservative but liberal on immigration reform, education and economic matters. Getting those voters is a top priority for Obama in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

Thursday benediction: Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York

Why he matters: As the nation’s highest-visibility Catholic official in a year when the Catholic vote may tip the election, Cardinal Dolan is in high demand by the political parties. Just last week, he was in Tampa, delivering the benediction for the Republican National Convention. Dolan has blasted the Obama administration for compelling insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage to nearly all American employees, but having the cardinal follow Obama on Thursday is a way for the president to show he isn’t at war with the Catholic Church.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Politics

soundoff (427 Responses)
  1. DeAndre

    Where all the Baptist at! He can't find real evangelical Christians who suppot him...Sad day for the USA.

    September 4, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • midwest rail

      And you get to determine who a " real evangelical Christian " is ?

      September 4, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  2. Reality

    The Apostles' Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    (prayer = a repeti-tive pet-ition)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

    September 4, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  3. obama is Out Of Touch with reality

    be it known, that obama thinks he can walk on water and he does no wrong, but what obama doesnt understand that there is a growing hatred for him, his administration and his destructive policies, it may be that obama thinks and yes I said thinks he is smarter, but that is not true. obama is dumber than most of the rocks in the hills and if he get reelected, what the judge in texas said may just come true, but if obama is losing, expect this country to go to war, have martial law activated and possibly the elections put on hold so obama can retain power. just watch, obama has a plan to stay in control any way he can. Americans, prepare for you life and your freedoms to be taken away by obama.

    September 4, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • midwest rail

      Delusional idiocy.

      September 4, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      The mental asylum just called. They said you have to be in by 5pm.

      September 4, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Mop

      Nut case.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "but if obama is losing, expect this country to go to war, have martial law activated and possibly the elections put on hold so obama can retain power. just watch, obama has a plan to stay in control any way he can"

      talking of being out of touch with reality. seriously, you believe the nonsense you spout? you cant really, you have to be trolling because no one can be that d umb

      September 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  4. Vesi

    Both political parties are still living in the middle ages. Still trying to appease to the various religious groups. Religion has nothing to do with becoming a moral and ethical man. Praying should be restricted to the homes of the "believers."

    September 4, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  5. InsanityRUs

    LOL! Libys are going nuts trying to ban prayer from everywhere and Obama has opening and closing prayers. Kinda a double standard isn't it? I mean if kids can't pray at a football game, why would Obammy want prayer at these important political functions. IT wouldn't be a show to try to gain some hinge Christian voters would it? Anyways, with his religion, it should have been an Imam...

    September 4, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • Colin

      Kids can pray at a football game. They just cannot be forced to by state employees, which includes school teachers and coaches.

      September 4, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • Mop

      Another nut case.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  6. Colin

    Oh how embarrassing and disappointing that we still open important national meetings with prayers. The first man on the moon is already dead and we still appeal to non-existent Judean sky beings from the late Bronze Age.

    Will they also jiggle an amulet, peer into a crystal or offer a sacrifice for the upcoming Spring Equinox?

    September 4, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  7. AvdBerg

    The prayers of Archbishop Timothy Dolan are all in vain as he teaches for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9).

    For a better understanding of the history of the Catholic Church and the spirit it serves (Luke 9:55) we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘Popes and the Princes of This World’ and ‘S.exual abuse in the Churches’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Also, please read the article ‘Barack Obama – President of the United States of America’. It explains why politicians continue to mix religion and politics.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    September 4, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  8. AvdBerg

    The prayers of Archbishop Timothy Dolan are all in vain as he teaches for doctrines the commandments of me (Matthew 15:9).

    For a better understanding of the history of the Catholic Church and the spirit it serves (Luke 9:55) we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘Popes and the Princes of This World’ and ‘S.exual abuse in the Churches’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Also, please read the article ‘Barack Obama – President of the United States of America’. It explains why politicians continue to mix religion and politics.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    September 4, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  9. rdeleys

    This is a political event, not a religious celebration. All this public praying is completely inappropriate.

    September 4, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Mop

      rdeleys

      This is a political event, not a religious celebration. All this public praying is completely inappropriate.

      Did you bellyache when the Republicans did it ?
      Didnt think so.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  10. Earthling

    A better question is "why do they insist on wasting time with religious nonsense when there are important issues to discuss?"

    September 4, 2012 at 6:34 am |
  11. Selendis

    I have nothing against religion, i just wonder why the DNC doesn't make it inclusive as possible by representing nearly every faith possible. I guess the 20 major religions would leave us short on time for the ever important personal stories....

    September 4, 2012 at 6:34 am |
  12. Insider

    Sorry people Obama is a bi-racial president not black, which is what the media and other blacks would have you believe.

    September 4, 2012 at 6:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      Yes, I'm sure if you saw him on the street, with no idea of who he was, you'd think, there goes a bi-racial man. Nonsense.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:34 am |
    • Marduk, Time Traveller with a very small rock

      Humans are all one race. His parents had different levels of melanin in their human ancestry, just like everyone else.
      He has many ethnic lines in his ancestry, not just two. I myself have about a dozen.
      DNA determines the likely amount of melanin to be produced in any skin cell, but other factors, such as developmental and environmental factors also play a part in cell function.
      Executive ability is not a function of skin cells, so using it as a criteria upon which to form a decision on executive ability is not indicated as a rational thought process.

      I will put the light music back on to help pass the time before our eventual extinction.
      The very small rock has a playlist that some of you might enjoy, but I cannot list it here.
      We apologize for the inconvenience.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • InsanityRUs

      Funny though that he plays up his black side. Remember the embarrassing situation that required him to invite a white police office to the white house for beers? Or the "Trayvon could be my son" incident, before he knew Trayvon was a thug and druggy?

      September 4, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Under the Jim Crow laws, anybody with "one drop of black blood" was considered black (ie: a slave).

      September 4, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • cedar rapids

      yeah lets go ask the kkk if they think obama is black

      September 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  13. rs1201

    I'm surprised he doesn't have an imam from some mosque delivering some prayer just like he did at his inauguration. I'm surprised that the press doesn't mention that little fact. Too embarrassed I suppose.

    September 4, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • Earthling

      Because everyone knows that freedom of religion means freedom of christianity, and not of any other religion.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • Selendis

      Why be embarrassed by an Imam? At a population of around 3 million or so in the united states, they matter too.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:37 am |
    • cedar rapids

      and Bush jnr invited an imam to his 2nd one (the imam could not attend due to illness however.)
      your point is?

      plus of course Obama also had jews, hindus and others as well but you dont want to acknowledge them as well though do you?

      September 4, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  14. doctore0

    Religion sprang forth from mental illness + ignorance

    September 4, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  15. Epidi

    Hmmm...all the Judeo/Christian faiths are represented. Ya know what? It's not even worth squawking over. But, if he got a Pagan blessing, he might actually get something done that would help us as a country enormously (if you're of the Dem persuasion). A binding ritual for the congressional GOP who have fought him every step of the way perhaps? LOL

    September 4, 2012 at 5:28 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    September 4, 2012 at 4:28 am |
    • Earthling

      Name one.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • rdeleys

      Yes, for the worse.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  17. Nodack

    I hate to pile on, but all religions are man made cults.

    September 4, 2012 at 3:59 am |
  18. dilberth

    Religion is for the little people, with little minds, little ideas and little else.

    September 4, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • Richard Wad

      Yes, so why does Obama act like he is still a believer?......

      September 4, 2012 at 4:01 am |
  19. ScottCA

    The fight for reason, logic and morality will be picked up and continued by a growing number of people who can see through the lies of faith based religion..

    September 4, 2012 at 3:33 am |
  20. ScottCA

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTxTCz4Ums&w=640&h=360]

    September 4, 2012 at 3:25 am |
    • Dave A

      Makes sence to me..i hear you!

      September 4, 2012 at 4:00 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.