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White House holds Easter prayer breakfast

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Obama recalled the resurrection of Christ at a Tuesday Easter prayer breakfast for Christian leaders that included pastors from a wide range of denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention.

The event was an effort to fulfill his desire to make all people “feel welcome” at the White House, Obama said in an eight-minute address to the clergy and their guests. His administration also has hosted a Seder to commemorate the Jewish Passover and an Iftar to break the daily fast during the Muslim observance of Ramadan, he said.

The president told guests the resurrection of Jesus forever changed the world.

“We are thankful for the sacrifice He gave for the sins of humanity,” Obama said. “And we glory in the promise of redemption in the resurrection.”

He is “continually learning” each person “falls short of how we ought to live,” the president said. “And selfishness and pride are vices that afflict us all.

“[A]s Christians, we believe that redemption can be delivered –- by faith in Jesus Christ…. Redemption makes life, however fleeting here on Earth, resound with eternal hope.”

The president referred to Christ’s final words on the cross.

“‘Father,’ He said, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ … These words were spoken by our Lord and Savior, but they can just as truly be spoken by every one of us here today. Their meaning can just as truly be lived out by all of God’s children.

“So, on this day, let us commit our spirit to the pursuit of a life that is true, to act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord,” Obama said. “And when we falter, as we will, let redemption -– through commitment and through perseverance and through faith -– be our abiding hope and fervent prayer.”

The White House released a list naming 13 of the 90 guests at the breakfast, according to a press pool report by Stewart Powell of the Houston Chronicle. Although SBC President Johnny Hunt’s name was not released by the White House, he did attend the breakfast, his office said. It is not known whether other conservative leaders attended.

Among the names released by the White House were Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, and Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago.

The other guests disclosed by the White House were Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston; Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches; Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention of America; Israel Gaither, national commander of the Salvation Army; Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association; and Nancy Wilson, moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches.

The Metropolitan Community Churches is a denomination known for its belief that homosexuality is compatible with Christianity and for its support of same-sex marriage.

Wilson and her longtime partner Paula Schoenwether were “married” in Massachusetts in 2004 and filed suit against the Defense of Marriage Act in Florida, seeking to have their marriage license recognized in their home state. A federal judge upheld the law and dismissed their case. The Defense of Marriage Act is a 1996 law that enables a state to refuse to recognize another state’s “gay marriage.”
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, and Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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