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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

White House Names New Faith-Based Office Director

  • (Photo: The Christian Post)
    Melissa Rogers – founder of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School - speaks at the panel discussion entitled, ''Debating the Divine: Religion in 21st Century American Democracy,'' at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday, June 24, 2008, in Washington, D.C.
March 13, 2013|8:48 am

The White House announced today President Obama's appointment of Melissa Rogers to serve as the new director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and special assistant to the president.

In this capacity, Rogers will provide President Obama with spiritual support and guidance, and assist the Administration in its efforts to collaborate with faith-based and nonprofit organizations throughout the country.

Rogers previously chaired the president's Inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In this capacity, Rogers collaborated with members of the Council to adopt consensus recommendations regarding ways in which the federal government could strengthen its partnerships with religious and secular nonprofit organizations that serve people in need.

Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed in Florida and who was a member of President Obama's inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said of Rogers, "She worked diligently [as Council chair] to find common ground. Melissa has a gift for crafting the kind of language that maintains clear boundaries but promotes cooperation."

He continued, "I may differ with Rogers on certain policy and legal issues but I have faith that she will always listen to a variety of views and make sure they are accurately conveyed.

"Melissa is an honest broker, a consensus-builder, and a problem-solver, and someone who believes that government should be actively engaged with civil society, including religious institutions and individuals, to promote the common good. I look forward to her service in the White House."

In 2010, Obama issued an executive order that embraced the council's recommendations, and one of Rogers' tasks will be to implement that order across a range of federally funded programs.

Rogers, who is known for reaching across ideological, political and religious lines to gain consensus on collaborative projects to promote the common good, recently led a common ground project that resulted in the publication of Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law.

This consensus statement was drafted by a diverse group of religious and civil liberties leaders on the state of current law: signatories included staff from Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice to former staff of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Rogers also collaborated with religious and political leaders in a project called Come Let Us Reason, in which a group of Christian evangelicals and political progressives sought and found important common ground on issues, such as non­discrimination, ending torture, reducing the number of abortions, and reforming our immigration system.

In February, Obama announced Joshua DuBois' departure as head of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a position he held since 2009.

During his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Obama thanked DuBois for his stewardship and service to him during the past four years. "This morning, I want to publicly thank Joshua for all that he's done, and I know that everybody joins me in wishing him all the best in his future endeavors – including getting married," Obama said.

The president also thanked the 30-year-old aide for sending him a daily devotional every morning via email, "a snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on." Obama added that, "it has meant the world to me."

DuBois, who's credited with helping the Democrats establish a progressive faith movement, was 26 when he started working for the Obama presidential campaign. He now teaches at New York University and plans to author a book of devotionals for leaders, based on the ones he sent the president each day.

The Pentecostal minister sparked controversy last year when he defended the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that would require all insurance companies to supply contraceptives and abortifacients, even to employees who work for religious institutions and organizations that are opposed to both.

However, he was also a staunch defender of Pastor Louie Giglio, who was scheduled to deliver the benediction at Obama's inauguration, but whose appearance was canceled by the Inauguration Committee after a decade old sermon delivered by the pastor surfaced, in which he stated the biblical view of homosexuality.

Prior to working for Obama as a senate aide and then the religious affairs director for the Obama campaign, DuBois worked for Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), was a fellow for former Congressman Charles Holt (D-N.J.), and served as an associate pastor for a small Pentecostal church in Massachusetts.

DuBois said in a statement regarding his successor, "I have known Melissa Rogers for years, as chair of President Obama's faith-based advisory council, as one of the nation's leading experts on religion and public life, and as a close and dear friend. There is no better person to lead the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and bring the federal government into deeper, effective and constitutional partnership with faith-based and other nonprofit groups around the country."

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (formerly the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives) was established in 2001 by former President George W. Bush, who used his first executive order to create the initiative, which was established with the aim of increasing government-funded social service grants to faith-based organizations that are improving the lives of those who live in their communities.

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