(Photo: White House/Pete Souza)
Christian leaders at the first Evangelical Summit held at the White House Wednesday prayed for President Barack Obama and encouraged him to continue talking about his faith, said Joel C. Hunter, a spiritual adviser to the president.
Obama met with the executive committee of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 45,000 churches from 40 denominations across the United States, in the Roosevelt Room.
Religious freedom and the Christian stance on traditional marriage took center stage among the topics discussed, Hunter said. Immigration reform and global poverty were also presented as issues during the 30-minute meeting.
Hunter, who sat next to Obama during the meeting, told The Christian Post that the president also talked about his own faith. Although he did not want to quote the president's conversation on the matter, he said Obama “did bring up his faith and spoke from that perspective.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Leith Anderson, the president of NAE, asked Obama if he would like the members present to pray for him, Hunter said.
“We prayed for him. Leith commended him on his expression of his faith in the Easter prayer gathering and at other times. We told him that we really do appreciate his being clear about his Christian faith at different events. So we just wanted to encourage him in that,” Hunter said.
Hunter, of Northland, A Church Distributed, near Orlando, Fla., was a member of the White House’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He told CP that he presently has a pastoral relationship with Obama.
“It was a very constructive meeting. Very honest,” Hunter described. “The president is very good at stuff like that. He wanted to hear our concerns and priorities, and he listened and responded to each one of them.”
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and a member of the contingent, told Charisma News that the meeting was "very much a conversation among friends. We had about 19 evangelical leaders – all an integral part and members of the NAE – and we had a great conversation with the president."
According to Rodriguez, "Although we may disagree with the president on certain issues, we did it with great deference and civility. Not only was the meeting cordial, it sounded like a conversation amongst believers. The meeting was edifying, to say the least."
Hunter said that members of the NAE wanted to make sure Obama was clear on their views on religious freedom and marriage.
“Certainly, the president’s attention was drawn to religious freedom and our strong advocacy for that. There is a bill in the Senate right now to extend the commission on international freedom,” he said. “We wanted to advocate that we continue that commission because it’s so important.”
Although it is not always clear cut, there appears to be a divide between Obama and many evangelicals on the issue of same-sex marriage. NAE leaders articulated a desire for military chaplains to be able to express opposition to homosexuality, coming on the heels of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“I think the president was reminded how important the issue of marriage is to us,” Hunter said. “That we don’t ever want to be in a position that we feel like we are having to compromise what we believe because of federal policies.”
Hunter also said the NAE wanted to make sure that there is future cooperation with the White House in regards to immigration laws and that funding for international aid is not cut.