Joshua DuBois

Southern Baptists Try to Diversify Churches — But Will It Work?

Photo via Tate Music Group / RNS

Erskin Anavitarte, a Southern Baptist pastor-turned-musician. Photo via Tate Music Group / RNS

How tough is it to create a racially diverse denomination? Consider a recent luncheon organized by the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

About 100 Nashville-area evangelical leaders accepted invitations to a lunch hosted by the denomination’s policy arm, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. On the agenda: a pitch for a spring summit and a short discussion by ERLC President Russell Moore about the need for churches to become more racially diverse.

The number of African-Americans who showed up for the lunch? Four (two of them denomination employees).

ERLC leaders originally planned a summit on bioethics. They quickly shifted gears after grand juries in November and December failed to indict police officers for the deaths of young unarmed black men. Moore’s social media remarks condemning the New York City jury’s decision not to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner were met with an angry backlash, some from people filling Southern Baptist pews and pulpits.

Black church leaders are greeting news of the summit with reactions ranging from polite skepticism to hopeful support.

Aide Shares Bible Devotionals He Sent to President Obama Each Morning

Joshua DuBois’ book, “The President’s Devotional.” Cover via RNS. Courtesy Harper Collins

President Obama may not attend church most Sundays, but a new book reveals the Bible verses and prayers that he reads every morning.

The President’s Devotional, released Tuesday by Pentecostal minister turned political aide Joshua DuBois, is a compilation of 365 of the more than 1,500 meditations DuBois has sent the president since he started working for him in the U.S. Senate.

DuBois, who left his White House post in February, spent his weekends reading and praying over what he would send to Obama’s Blackberry the next week. He drew from the words of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the songs of Nina Simone and Bob Dylan, and the activism of Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Melissa Rogers New Head of White House Faith-Based Office

Melissa Rogers, new director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Photo courtesy RNS.

Church-state expert Melissa Rogers will be the new director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“I’m honored to be able to serve President Obama by forging and promoting a wide range of effective partnerships with faith-based and secular nonprofits that help people in need,” Rogers said in a statement on Wednesday. Rogers succeeds Joshua DuBois, who left the office in February after serving throughout President Obama’s first term.

Rogers is already well-acquainted with the office she will direct. She chaired the office’s first advisory council and spearheaded its work to reform the office. In 2010, President Obama signed an executive order reflecting recommendations from the council that called for greater transparency and clearer rules for religious groups that receive federal grants.

'Good Choice, Mr. President:' Jim Wallis on New Faith-Based Office Director

The White House announced today the appointment of Melissa Rogers as new director of its Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In a statement, former director Joshua DuBois called Rogers a "leader on religion and public life" and a "stalwart advocate for religious freedom." He added:

Melissa is also a committed Christian and lifelong Baptist.  She is active in her local church – I know that Melissa has taught youth Bible study, she and her family volunteer with the church food pantry, and she takes care of infants in the church nursery – and she truly cherishes the role of people of all faiths and belief in American public life.

Sojourners president and CEO Jim Wallis released the following statement: 

I’m privileged to know Melissa Rogers as both a valued colleague and a friend. Over the course of her career she has distinguished herself by her ability to thoughtfully and knowledgeably bring her faith and her understanding of the law to bear on important questions of public policy. Her genuine spirit and concern for others has earned her the trust of people on different sides of issues. Her deep competence on legal and policy matters will be very helpful in her new role. She will serve both the White House, the country, and the faith community well in this new position. I can't think of anyone who would have been a better choice for this key job at this critical time. Melissa is widely respected and trusted in the faith community, and many of us will support and assist her in any ways we can. Good choice, Mr. President!

A Grateful Farewell

Photo: USDAgov via Flickr

Joshua DuBois, at the Consultation on Improving Latino Outreach in 2010. Photo: USDAgov via Flickr

Joshua DuBois has been running the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for President Obama for the past four years, but he leaves the White House today. That Joshua’s farewell party had to be moved to a larger location is just one sign of the respect and affection he earned during Obama’s first term. The President especially appreciated his young spiritual adviser, and read devotional biblical reflections from DuBois every day. At yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama lifted up Joshua’s importance to him and his administration, and said how much the young African-American Pentecostal pastor would be missed; the applause from the audience demonstrated the president wasn’t alone.

I have worked closely with Joshua, and want to wish him my own grateful farewell. I’ve watched this young man grow into this important job. He has been a good listener, facilitator, encourager, and convener; and has worked hard to put faith-based offices in executive departments throughout the administration — a first for any White House. Over the course of the last four years, Joshua has been successful because people both trust and like him, and the farewell comments at his going away party will show that. Joshua has especially worked hard to connect outside faith leaders and the faith-based community to key places and players in the White House to move agendas that we care about forward. 

DuBois Leaving White House Faith-Based Post

RNS photo courtesy of Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama signs the proclamation marking the National Day of Prayer. RNS photo courtesy of Pete Souza/The White House

WASHINGTON — Longtime White House aide Joshua DuBois, who heads the White House office focused on the intersection of religion and public policy, will step down on Friday, President Obama announced Thursday.

Obama, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, asked DuBois to lead his White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009 when the Pentecostal reverend was 26, and hoped DuBois could sustain the ties he had helped forge between Obama and religious groups during the 2008 presidential campaign.

DuBois will teach at New York University starting later in the year, according to White House officials, and also plans to write a book based on the inspirational messages he sent to Obama daily.