President Obama appoints pastor to faith-based office
New advisory council includes prominent evangelical leaders.
U.S. President Barack Obama selected Joshua DuBois, the 26-year-old Pentecostal minister who ran religious outreach for his presidential campaign, to head the re-named White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, originated by former President George W. Bush in 2001 to strengthen faith-based and community organizations and expand their capacity to provide federally-funded social services.
According to The New York Times, DuBois will be in charge of expanding the office to help groups address social problems more effectively. He is reportedly a close confidant and advisor to Obama.
The Washington Post reported that Obama’s staff held more than 20 meetings with a diverse mix of religious groups including The Salvation Army between the election and the inauguration for advice on how the new White House can work with faith organizations through the new office.
On Feb. 5, before signing the executive order for the new council, Obama attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
“There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next and some subscribe to no faith at all,” Obama said in his remarks at the breakfast. “The particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times.”
The new office will continue what the Bush Administration began with the addition of four specific priorities determined by Obama: poverty reduction, abortion reduction, encouraging fatherhood, and interfaith relations. Obama and DuBois also established an advisory council comprised of 25 prominent evangelical leaders including World Vision president Richard Stearns, Southern Baptist Convention former president Frank S. Page, Florida megachurch pastor Joel C. Hunter, and Sojourners president Jim Wallis.
“The big picture is that President Obama believes faith-based and smaller secular neighborhood organizations can play a role in American renewal,” DuBois told the Associated Press. “They can work with the federal government to address big problems. We’re also going to make sure we have a keener eye toward the separation of church and state.”
Among the issues awaiting DuBois is the question of whether faith-based organizations that receive government money will be required to hire people whose faith differs from theirs.