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Miers ‘genuine Christian,’ pastor at her church says; Dobson calls pick ‘outstanding’

WASHINGTON (BP)–Barry McCarty thinks Harriet Miers will make a “great Supreme Court justice,” but the woman suddenly in the media spotlight is known to him as a humble Christian.

Miers, nominated Oct. 3 by President Bush to the U.S. Supreme Court, is a member of Valley View Christian Church, a conservative congregation on the north side of Dallas. McCarty, who many Southern Baptists know as the parliamentarian of their annual convention for the last 20 years, is the preaching minister at the church, which affirms the infallibility of Scripture.

“Harriet and I have rarely discussed political issues,” McCarty told Baptist Press. “I can tell you she is a genuine Christian, a genuine person of faith. She’s a very gracious Christian lady.”

Miers demonstrates “the biblical quality of meekness, which is generally misunderstood…. Meekness is strength under control, and that indeed is a quality that describes Harriet,” McCarty said.

“When she comes home and is in church, you would just think she was any other member of the congregation. She doesn’t put on airs. She doesn’t enter with an entourage. I am really struck by her humility, by her grace.”

Ron Key, senior minister at Valley View for four years until this summer, offered similar comments about Miers, who is White House counsel to Bush. Key served on Valley View’s pastoral staff for more than 30 years.

“She helped out with kids [teaching first through third graders], McCarty said, made coffee, furnished donuts, served on the missions committee,” Key told World Magazine editor in chief Marvin Olasky. “She worked out her faith in practical, behind-the-scenes ways. She doesn’t draw attention to herself; she’s humble, self-effacing.”

Miers last participated in corporate worship at Valley View about a month ago, McCarty said, but recent reports have placed her among a group of about 150 church members who left with Key to start a new congregation.

“Officially, we have not heard anything from Harriet on transferring her membership,” McCarty said. “If she decides to go with the new church, she will go with our blessing. We hope the new group does well.”

Although Miers’ nomination continues to divide conservatives, several prominent leaders have applauded the pick, based in part on anecdotes about her faith. Focus on the Family’s James Dobson Oct. 5 said Bush “has made an outstanding selection.”

“She is a deeply committed Christian,” Dobson said on his radio program. “She has been a believer in Jesus Christ since the late 1970s. I know the individual who led her to the Lord. I know the church that she goes to. I know it’s a very conservative church. I know that she is a tithe-paying member of that church. I know that she has deep convictions about things, and I have talked at length to people that know her and have known her for a long time…. I trust these people, because I know them. I know who they are and I know their character.

“… They have said to me, ‘This is a good woman who will do the right thing when the chips are down. She will not be a disappointment, and you cannot go wrong….’ I’ve heard that over and over from people who are not giving me hearsay. They are saying, ‘This is my personal friend. I know what she cares about.'”

Dobson added, “[there are] some things I can’t go into [because of] confidentiality.”

Nathan Hecht — a Texas Supreme Court justice and former Valley View elder who has departed the church with Key and a longtime friend of Miers -– described to The New York Times the Supreme Court nominee’s conversion experience in 1979. Hecht and Miers discussed religion and other subjects in a series of after-hours conversations at the office of the Dallas law firm where they both worked, according to The Times.

“One evening she called me to her office and said she was ready to make a commitment” to place her faith in Christ, Hecht told The Times. They “prayed and talked” in her office, he said, and Miers, who was reared as a Catholic, was baptized at Valley View shortly thereafter.

Key told Olasky he does not “know how strong her faith was” when he met Miers.

“She came to a place where she totally committed her life to Jesus,” Key said, as reported by Olasky at www.worldmagblog.com. “She had gone to church before, but when she came to our church it became more serious to her.”

Miers was reared as a Catholic, Hecht told Olasky. She “had not been close to the church; it was off again, on again; then she came to a point in her life when she wanted to change that…,” Hecht said, according to Olasky’s report. “She was very hard-working and successful; she wanted new meaning, substance in her life.”

Miers became an active member of Valley View after her baptism. Her participation at the church came as she was achieving ground-breaking success as a lawyer. She became the first female president of the Dallas Bar Association in 1985 and the first woman to be president of the Texas bar in 1992.

Though Miers has served in the White House since Bush took office in 2001, she returns to Dallas as much as possible to visit her mother, who is 93, Key said.

Valley View is part of the independent Christian churches and Churches of Christ movement, which long ago left the Disciples of Christ denomination. The church is affiliated with the North American Christian Convention, a fellowship, but not a denomination, that holds an annual meeting.

McCarty told BP the church performs baptism “as a part of [someone] accepting Christ and making his profession of faith…. We don’t think there is anything in baptism itself that has salvific effect.”

McCarty became preaching minister at Valley View in March 2004. Previously, he was president of Cincinnati Christian University.