Earlier today, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church addressed the Democratic National Convention as Co-Chair of its Credentials Committee, urging President Obama’s reelection and the election of Democratic majorities in Congress. Later she offered an opening prayer.
“When President Obama stepped into office he pulled our economy back from the brink,” Bishop McKenzie told the convention. “Today there is only one person with The Plan to return this country to prosperity: President Barack Obama!”
McKenzie continued: “So we are here in Charlotte to make sure President Obama returns to the White House …to take back the House of Representatives and elect a stronger majority in the U.S. Senate.” She expressed confidence that Americans would not want to return to the “failed Republican economic policies of the past.” And she called Democrats the “world’s most forward looking” party, because it urges “inclusion” and “diversity,” citing “gender, race, creed or sexual orientation.”
The 2.5 million member African Methodist Episcopal Church, of which McKenzie is the first female bishop, unanimously opposed same sex marriage in 2004. A church spokesman in July denied the church was withdrawing endorsement of President Obama over his endorsement of same sex marriage, explaining the church does not endorse or oppose candidates. McKenzie presides over the church’s Texas area.
McKenzie is perhaps the only clergy at either the Republican or Democratic Convention this Summer who’s both offered official prayers and served as a convention officer. She offered this invocation at the convention:
This would be the time that you would take the hand of someone who was close to you. Let us bow our heads and close our eyes and center our thoughts on God.
Merciful God, who has been our dwelling place for many generations, we invoke your presence to ask you to quicken our hearts that we may be swift to hear the needs of others. O God, let us not be weary in well doing as we confront the ancient enemies again: injustice, poverty, apathy racism, and sexism, and an evil violence that stains the tapestry of the 21st century with the blood of the innocent and unsuspecting.
Remind us again of the brave dreams that were born in the heart of our ancestors, the dreams they were willing to live and die for. Grant us courage to continue to flesh out their dreams and grant us the wisdom to reshape the strategy for this present age. Empower us to work, to save our children because if we do not, no one else will. Guide us to make the sunset years of our seniors a season of dignity without them having to choose between shelter, sustenance, and prescription drugs. Do not allow again women to be enslaved by prehistoric ideas about biological function. If we fall, help us to rise again and put within us a faith and a hope that cannot be quenched. Inspire all harassed souls of every race, nation, religion, and hue with the assurance that all the forces of good are moving them onto peace, health, and wholeness.
Help us to use our freedom wisely and not to hide behind safe walls where it is so easy to be thankful around a table of blessing without reaching beyond ourselves to assail the walls of prejudice and fear: Lord, You know our work is not done! We have to improve life not just for life for those who have the most skills and those who know how to manipulate the system, but those who don’t. Help us to rise above self-interest and selfish interest to seek a common good and a common future. Let us deliberate in such a way that closes the gap between policy and praxis.
Let us be determined to help move this nation forward, not as a collection of interest groups but one nation, under God, indivisible. Shine your light on us so that others can see that even though we are marred and broken vessels, you still use us as channels of your grace to bring mercy, and joy, and peace into the lives of all. Help us to use the tools of nation building, our vote, and our voice for a better future for all Americans. And together we say “Amen!” Squeeze your neighbors hand again and say “Amen!”