Lifelong Episcopalian Senator John McCain Remembered as 'Hero' Who Stood Quietly for His Faith

Senator John McCain
Senator John McCain. |

As tributes continue to pour in from around the world for Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona who succumbed to brain cancer at his home on Saturday, many who praised his life as a war hero also remembered the lifelong Episcopalian for his faith.

In a statement on the passing of her father, who was 81, at the time of his death, Meghan McCain alluded to her father's faith and the belief that he is now in heaven.

"My father is gone, and I miss him as only an adoring daughter can. But in this loss, and in this sorrow, I take comfort in this: John McCain, hero of the republic and to his little girl, wakes today to something more glorious than anything on this earth," she wrote before referencing the ending of famed novelist and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, the seventh and final book in his The Chronicles of Narnia series.

"Today the warrior enters his true and eternal life, greeted by those who have gone before him, rising to meet the Author of All Things: 'The dream is ended: this is the morning,'" her statement ended.

Despite his affiliation with the Episcopal Church, McCain, attended the Southern Baptist-affiliated North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix for at least 17 years Baptist News Global said. He never officially joined the congregation or got baptized there. In a 2008 interview, the church's then pastor, Dan Yeary, said he discussed baptism with McCain but respected his faith tradition.

"You have to be baptized by immersion to be a member [of North Phoenix]," Yeary said. "John and I have dialogued about that. ... John is an Episcopalian, and he and his family attend North Phoenix Baptist Church when he is in town."

In a Sunday statement, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church praised the late senator for his selflessness.

"The life of Senator John Sidney McCain has been a witness to the nobility of living not for self alone but for the ideals and values that make for a better world. With countless others, we of the Episcopal Church give God thanks for his life and service and pray likewise for his wife, children and family. May his soul and the souls of all the departed Rest in Peace and rise in glory. Amen," he said.

In the early 1990s, Yeary talked with McCain on video about his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years and how his faith help sustain him.

"He just came up and sat in my office for a good two hours and talked about how prayer and his faith sustained him in that setting," Yeary said. "It was a wonderful day. From that moment on, John and I forged a friendship. It is not the kind where we talk every week or even every month. ... [But] I would tell anyone who asks me it has been a privilege to serve as their pastor."

Yeary also praised him for his maverick approach to politics and life in general.

"I think John reaches out to everybody," Yeary told BNG. "He's not afraid to spend time with people who have radically different views. I think that's smart. That's intelligent."

McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election, Sarah Palin, also remembered the late senator as an "American original" in a statement on Twitter.

"Today we lost an American original. Sen. John McCain was a maverick and a fighter, never afraid to stand for his beliefs. John never took the easy path in life - and through sacrifice and suffering he inspired others to serve something greater than self," she wrote. "John McCain was my friend. I will remember the good times. My family and I send prayers for Cindy and the McCain family."

Russell Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also had only praise for McCain on Twitter.

"John McCain was a hero. He was tortured for his country, and stood up to his captors with courage. Ever since, he's stood up for the ideals of democracy and freedom at home and around the world. His death is an incalculable loss for our nation," wrote Moore.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas also had high praise for McCain in a Fox News interview, despite their political differences.

"I met him a few years ago in the Hannity green room and I remember when I walked in the room, he was over in the corner of the room wolfing down a sugar cookie. And he saw me. He wiped the crumbs away from his mouth and he came over and introduced himself. He said 'Pastor, I'm John McCain. And even though he knew that we had some real political differences with one another, he didn't bring those up. Instead, he said very complimentary and encouraging words. And it's just a reminder that you could be gracious with whom you disagree," Jeffress said.

"I remember we talked about the 2008 election and I asked him, 'senator, why do you think Obama won the election?' I was expecting this long complex answer, he said, 'It's simple. He out campaigned me.' And that was just an illustration that you could be gracious in both victory and defeat," he continued.

Jeffress noted that that McCain lived an exemplary life with few regrets and share some of the things he believes people should emulate.

"I think there are two lessons we can all learn from him. First of all to be tenacious in your convictions. Let's be honest. The reason he and President Trump butt heads is because they both are men of conviction. And we shouldn't condemn either one for standing up for their convictions," he said.

"We ought to emulate his service to our country...John McCain made great sacrifices as a POW," he continued.

"I think the death of John McCain is time for all of us to pause and reflect on the brevity of life and the fact that all that really matters in the end is our relationship with one another and our relationship with God who Meghan McCain so beautifully described as the author of all things. I think John McCain was able to look back on his life with a few regrets but also with the knowledge that he had served his country, he had served his family well. And that's how you want to end your life. With few regrets," said Jeffress.

Sen. McCain is expected to be honored over five days in three states this week.

The late senator is expected to lie in state Wednesday in the Arizona State Capitol on what would have been his 82nd birthday ABC 8 News said. A funeral will be held Thursday at North Phoenix Baptist Church where former Vice President Joe Biden will speak.

McCain will also lie in state Friday in the Capitol Rotunda with a formal ceremony in Washington, allowing the public to pay respects. On Saturday, a procession will pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and arrive for a funeral at Washington National Cathedral which is part of the Episcopal Church.

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are slated to speak at this service.

A private funeral at the Naval Academy Chapel followed by a private burial at the academy cemetery is planned for Sunday afternoon. McCain will be buried next to a Naval Academy classmate and lifelong friend, Chuck Larson, according to his wishes.

President Donald Trump with whom McCain had a bitter relationship was asked not to attend any services dedicated to the late senator.

The president's only public comment on McCain's death came on Saturday in a tweet that said: "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!"

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