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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. gatecrasher1

    Where is Reverend Jeremiah Wright? And come on, the Dems were not inclusive enough to invite Mullah Omar?

    September 4, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • judy brown

      Reverend Wright was fired by his congregation according to my inside source.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  2. wallybird1234

    I think bible-beating folks (from both parties) simply need to cease and desist with the continual and nonsensical reliance on a myriad of mythical sky faeries (pick a religion). God / allah / zeus / yoda do not exist; neiher do the easter bunny nor santa claus.

    praying ==> wasted time and energy

    September 4, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • dudeulosse

      says who?

      September 4, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • i12bphil

      Yes, and we should stop the myths of the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire and anything else that corresponds accurately with history.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • counter

      I think I will exercise my free speech rights and tell others of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      Thanks for playing, don't care whether you object.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  3. achepotler

    Is it mandatory to have a representative of the child molestation community speak at every American political gathering?

    September 4, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • martin

      I didn't know they had teachers, coaches, school counselors, random people from the street, professors, civil workers, etc. come lead a prayer also!? Because when you say "a representative of the child molestation community" there's no way a learned person such as yourself would be stupid enough to think that Catholics are the only group of people that suffer from child molestation; the fact that there are more teachers and coaches who molest children then priests and pastors combined is an arbitrary fact to you, isn't it?

      September 4, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  4. mecambridge

    DId you happen to mention anywhere that when Cardinal Dolan offered his services to both parties at their COnventions, Democrats refused him. It was only after several days or more that they decided to take him up on his offer after all?

    September 4, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Greg s

      The reason they took him back was there are a very large number of Catholic democrats and those democrats were upset with 2 hours of Muslim prayer that was to be had before the convention, but no Catholic prayer at all and Muslims ,make up about .06 of the voting population. The Democrat's did the math and decided not to P*ss off the Catholics

      September 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  5. Lex

    Come on. I don't see any athiest in this group. How come? Obama has pitched the interests of athiests and is proBABLY ONE OF THEM.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  6. Paul Blake

    GoD won't listen to the democrats prayers at all. Y'all abandoned God long ago.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • cedar rapids

      hard to abandon something that doesnt exist.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  7. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I WOULD LIKE TO CHALLENGE OR RATHER, POSE A NAGGING QUESTION TO ALL MY TEAPUBLICAN ADVERSARIES...

    Before I ask the question, here's my presentation: For four years the right wing leadership in congress and the Obama administration has supported and implemented.

    Here's my question: If you were President of the United States, what would you have done differently to avert a depression, stabilize and grow the economy and create jobs? Before President Obama took office, the economy was loosing 800,000 jobs a month and 4.4 million Americans were unemployed. As President, would you have called for a stimulus package including unemployment benefits (what the GOT call food stamps and government handouts) to help the unemployed put food on the table and keep a roof over their love one's heads while they look for work? (Note: not all of the unemployed were Democrats and Liberals). Would you have allocated money to help small businesses stay aflot and get the funds they needed to meet their payroll? (you can google the 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act – The New York Times: How to Spend $787 Billion.)" Finally, when candidate Obama toured the country in 2008, he met with everyday American families who's love ones were discriminated against and denied life saving operations because of pre-existing conditions and those who said they were struggling to pay a mortgage, support their families and pay for expensive health insurance. Then these Americans asked candidate Obama to be a voice for them and he listened to their concerns and promised that if elected, he'd fight for their cause. So as President, would you have passed the AFC act and keep your campaign pledge to the American people or would you have broken that promise?

    Now, in regards to this administration's foreign policy, what would you have done differently? For example, would you have ended the Iraqi war or stay there longer? Would you have set a deadline to wind down the Afghan war or not? Would you have given an executive order to our military to go after OBL? (No, the SEALS didn't give the order, President Obama did.) Would you have supported democracy in Egypt, Libya and Sudan? Its your call. I'll gladly await a professional and objective response.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • i12bphil

      Myself, I would have taken the stimulus money and give ALL of it to the taxpayers whop have mortgages and NOT the banks or the other industries that received bail-outs. Think of it. Every single person in the country would have been able to pay of their mortgage, cars, student loans, etc. and sudden;y there would have been GOBS of cash for the average American to spend on commodities and some luxury items. The banks would have had the influx of cash from the public, not the the government, and the economy would have gotten an adrenalin boost! They went the wrong way with the money!

      September 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • ECassious2

      Blah Blah,

      Personally, I was not in favor of the stimulus but I will play your game.

      Well, I would not have given any to wind energy companies many of which are already out of business. Those, of course, are the small businesses you refer to. They were struggling for a reason. There simply is not enough demand to justify the existence of multiple wind energy companies. If you disagree, ask T Boone. Obama gave money to companeis to keep them afloat for a few months. This is also exactly what has happened with the mortgage bailout. It has done nothing to keep families from foreclosure. It has merely halted the inevitable for a short period of time. Again, money wasted. Perhaps Mr. clinton was incorrect in the 90's when he declared the mandate that everyone should own a home. Perhaps we should not have made Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae give loans to people who otherwise did not qualify.

      What would I have done. No stimulus. I would have let the cycle run its course. It would have taken us into a slightly deeper hole initially but the recovery would be robust (like the 25 years during and after Reagan) and more importanly legitimate and sustainable. What we have now is exactly what we would expect. It's embedded in the math.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  8. WH

    Only Christians and Jews giving prayers? Shocker...

    September 4, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  9. Whatwhat

    I still find it hard to understand why someone who calls himself a Christian , Jew or Muslim alligns themselves with a political party that largely doesn't have faith in a higher power or flat out hates those of faith.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • JeffinIL

      I find it hard to understand those who take religious instruction from a political party.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  10. Whatwhat

    Prayers? I thought the majority of liberals were atheist.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Gary

      That's obviously because you don't know what you're talking about!

      September 4, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Canyonkat

      It is very clear that you don't know what you are talking about. Whom is your source of information?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Mop

      Whatwhat

      Prayers? I thought the majority of liberals were atheist.

      Thats ok, i thought the majority of Republicans where Christians.
      Boy did i get that one wrong.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  11. Seyedibar

    Prayers? Really Dems? Leave that stone-age stuff to the republicans.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • JPX

      Exactly! I just look at that picture of the man wearing the dress and the funny hat and wonder, why are we still embracing Bronze Age thinking? Obama is an atheist, I'm sure, but he has to pretend to be religious to satisfy the dopes.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  12. ipmutt

    They will not pray at the Democrat convention. If the do it will be a lesbian mail order preacher.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  13. JeffinIL

    I'm going to pray that politicians stop wrapping themselves in religion to pander.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  14. Good God

    We want Rev Wright....WE want Rev Wright.....We want Rev Wright

    September 4, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • kirby

      ME2..! ME2..! ME2..!

      September 4, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  15. albie

    WHY do we still do things like this as a country??? religion has no place in the modern world, it only serves to brain wash and oppress

    September 4, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Good God

      I love it when people show up a few centuries late and don't realize that this is part of the fabric of humanity.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Salvery was part of the fabric of humanity too. So was believing the earth was flat.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Noel

      Probably because there are still people like you that would have persons of faith burned at the stake.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • dudeulosse

      One day you will know that God exists, by then it will be too late!

      September 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  16. Truefax

    Why do these political conventions have to have prayers? And seriously w t f just pick a God and stick with it already.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Truefax

      Additionally I am offended that they would bring a Greek Orthodox to the mix and not bring a priest of Zeus. How about Thor? Does Odin get no love? Everyone knows Santa Claus is a socialist why isn't he there? I mean come on the tooth fairy just commissioned an app and is working with visa (he's a sellout) what's going on here?

      And while we're at it how come no initations went out to Superman? Is ICE should have laid off, Obama gave him reprive since he came here as a child (as an illegal alien), it would be a great way to showcase the work that this administration has done.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  17. Triple A

    What? No Rev. Wright. lol

    September 4, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • kirby

      LOL... NOPE, but I kind of miss his VERY RELATIVE DELIVERY..!!! LOL

      September 4, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  18. DeMoss

    The Republican part will continue this week with telling people that the USA would be a better country if it were like North Korea. Also, the party before family push. They say you should be willing to give up the life of your child for the good of the republican party. A vote Republican will be a vote that says you dislike your children and hope they get a horrible disease and pass on after months of agony

    September 4, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Blue Grass

      Really DeMoss??? Really??? Stay off the spotted mushrooms dude!

      Why is the liberal media blocking advertisement on the movie "2016"? Try Google or Yahoo and se what comes up. It's about what America would look like if Mr. O has another 4 years. G O D bless America!

      September 4, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Jim

      ?I think you have you r parties confused. Its the Dems that would love to have complete control with no say form the peons, it is the Dems that love and believe in abortions at any stage. Also you appear to be living proof that drugs do indeed kill off brain cells

      September 4, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Noel

      Troll.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • i12bphil

      How many bails of hay did you have to use to build that straw man argument?

      September 4, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Greg s

      Will all of the liberal media be fact checking every thing the Dems say at this convention, Will they refuse to televise the speeches of the minorities that speak, Like they did with the RNC, Im thinking its going to be DNC 24 7 on all the channels but fox!

      The Biased media should scare everyone. Down to you very toes.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  19. mklsgl

    Rabbi Wolpe is an excellent choice. He has an engaging ability to relate the Torah and Tanakh with our postmodern society. Those who have never heard of him will find him to be not what they'd expect from a rabbi.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  20. N.Shapiro

    Dolan?
    Isn't he the one who pensioned off child rapist priests in Milwaukee?
    Instead of calling the cops he gave them run-away money.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:00 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.