President Barack Obama met leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals at the White House Wednesday, according to a White House aide.
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 at the White House.
NAE leaders that attended the unprecedented meeting included Pastor Joel C. Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed near Orlando, who was a member of the White House’s faith-based initiative advisory committee; Williams Roberts, national commander of The Salvation Army; and Leith Anderson, president of the NAE; among others.
The meeting was the first time that Obama accepted NAE’s invitation to meet, Anderson told Religion News Service.
The top priority of the evangelicals during the meeting was religious freedom, with the NAE leaders thanking Obama for condemning the death sentence of Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani.
During the meeting, participants discussed religious persecution, jobs, immigration reform, budget cuts, religious hiring rights, and funding for overseas development.
But both Obama and NAE leadership did not talk in depth about contentious issues like abortion and agreed to respectfully disagree on same-sex marriages, according to RNS.
NAE president told RNS that his group did not intentionally omit sticky issues but they had limited time – just 30 minutes.
A day earlier, dozens of religious leaders were invited to the White House compound for a movie screening of “58,” a Christian anti-poverty documentary.
President Obama has played host to religious leaders on various occasions in the White House, but a summit with evangelical leaders is a first. Obama is the first president to host an Easter Prayer Breakfast in the White House. He has also held Iftar meals with Muslim Americans, when the daily fast is broken in the evenings during the month of Ramadan. He has also hosted a Seder to mark Passover.
Correction:: Friday, October 14, 2011:
An article on Thursday, October 13, 2011, about President Obama's meeting with leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals incorrectly stated that Obama follows the presidential tradition of holding a Easter Prayer Breakfast in the White House. A White House aide confirmed that Obama is the first president to host a Easter Prayer Breakfast, with the first occurring in April 2010.