Part 2: Obama’s Conservative Meeting Guests–The Pastors

In the first report on Obama’s meeting with religious leaders earlier this month [Part 1: Obama’s Conservative Meeting Guests (Non-Pastors)], I focused on attendees who were not pastors. In Part 2, the focus is on the church pastors. (Pastor T. D. Jakes is profiled in the my first post entitled “So, What’s Obama Going to Give Away to Conservative Religious Leaders and Constitutional Law Profs Who Work with Ken Starr??” ).

Here are a few more pastors who attended:

Rev. Luis Cortes

In 2005 Time magazine listed Cortes as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.” And who helped him raise his profile?? George W. Bush, while he was running for President in 2000:

In the summer of 2000, a fleet of dark, unmarked vehicles pulled up to the North Philadelphia office of the Rev. Luis Cortes Jr. As neighbors watched in amazement, armed men hustled a mysterious visitor inside. What happened next launched the remarkable ascent of a Hispanic Baptist minister until then little known outside Philadelphia. The visitor was G.O.P. presidential candidate George W. Bush, on a low-profile visit to woo Cortes and other Hispanic leaders. Over the next few hours, Cortes and Bush formed a bond that has vaulted the minister to the top tier of the fast-growing Hispanic Protestant community. With grants from Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative and the cachet that comes from his Bush connection, Cortes, now 47, has expanded his two-decade-old organization, Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) nationwide, building houses in poor communities, offering start-up loans to Hispanic businesses and launching an aids-awareness program. In 2002 Cortes established the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, addressed annually by Bush and attended by a bipartisan slate of political heavyweights.

By November 2005, Howard Dean was meeting with Cortes. Now, Cortes was seen as exemplifying “he core values and beliefs of the Democratic Party.” Dean wrote in his blog:

I just got out of a great meeting with Chairman Dean and Reverend Luis Cortes. Rev. Cortes is President and CEO of Esperanza USA, which translates into ‘Hope USA’. The meeting took place at the Democratic National Committee headquarters to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern. Esperanza USA is the largest Hispanic faith-based community development corporation in the country. Beginning in Philadelphia with programs targeted to address the many unmet needs in Philadelphia’s Hispanic community, the Reverend Luis Cortes has become a leader in building Hispanic owned institutions nationwide.

The Reverend Luis Cortes recently served as Vice Chair of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board of Pittsburgh. Governor Rendell has nominated the reverend to the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority. Philadelphia Mayor John Street named Reverend Luis Cortes to the City’s Workforce Investment Board. He is also the founder and Executive Director of the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia and is also one of the founders of United Bank, the first African-American owned commercial bank in Pennsylvania.

Today, with a national network of 10,000 Hispanic faith and community based agencies; Esperanza USA is one of the leading voices for Hispanics in America. Rev. Cortes, whose ministry envisions an America built on compassion, justice and service exemplifies the core values and beliefs of the Democratic Party.

On March 2, 2008, Cortes was interviewed by NPR (The Rev. Luis Cortes on the Hispanic Vote–4 min. audio available). At that time Cortes spoke highly of John McCain, as well as Clinton. Obama was still an unknown quantity.

He says he was in San Antonio last week for the Southern Baptist church meetings, and among the clergy, they spoke highly of Obama’s speeches but hadn’t had the opportunity to have contact with him and to hear some of their issues and concerns addressed.

On the Republican side, Cortes says John McCain has done well among Latino evangelical voters. “He was the only Republican who had a family matters position on immigration, and, as such, he did very, very well.”

The Latino community shows a bit of a divide between younger and older voters, he says.

“A lot of the younger people who are getting involved for the first time are hearing Obama’s speeches, and his speeches are pushing people to think about the larger American democracy project, and, as such, he’s gathering a lot of young Latinos to move his way,” Cortes says. “And then, folks who have been involved in the past, they hear the speeches but the thought patterns are, ‘OK, we like what we hear, but what is the substance, what are the issues, what are the policies behind the call to a greater America?'”

It will be interesting to see if Cortes throws the weight of his extensive organization behind Obama or McCain or if he decides to stay neutral.

Max Lucado

Lucado has been Senior Pastor for over twenty years at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. His website reveals his popularity as a Christian author:

Max Lucado has touched millions with his signature storytelling writing style. Awards and accolades follow Max with each book he writes. Max is the first author to win the Gold Medallion Christian Book of the Year three times—1999 for Just Like Jesus, 1997 for In the Grip of Grace and 1995 for When God Whispers Your Name. In 2005, Reader’s Digest dubbed him “America’s Best Preacher.” In addition, he has been an ECPA Gold Medallion finalist with more titles than any other author in the industry.

In 1994, he became the only author to have 11 of his twelve books in print simultaneously appear on paperback, hardcover and children’s CBA bestseller lists. Lucado set a new industry record by concurrently placing nine different Word Publishing titles on the CBA Hardcover Bestseller List in both March and April 1997. Max Lucado is a fixture on the national bestseller lists – a Max Lucado title has appeared on the CBA hardcover bestseller list every month for the past dozen years. He has appeared on the Publishers Weekly, USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists. He has won eight ECPA Gold Medallion awards.

Stephen John Thurston

Thurston is part of a line of pastors. His grandfather founded the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church and he is the third generation to preach at the Southside Chicago church, whose congregation numbers over 2,000. According to a 2004 biography,

He was named one of “America’s Best and Brightest Young Business and Professional Men” by Dollars and Sense magazine in 1987, and Manya A. Brachear of the Chicago Tribune reported in 2003, “Congregants who have known all three pastors said Stephen Thurston inherited his grandfather’s booming voice and conservative values and his father’s charisma and activist aspirations.” Many of his sermons are available as a transcript or on tape or CD.

The church’s website lists radio and TV broadcasts of Thurston’s services and the 2004 biography states that he “is pushing his congregation to establish its own telecommunications systems to increase control of airtime. Conservative in his social values (he’s against same-sex marriage and ordination of gays), he actively and unapologetically pushes a political platform.” His son has joined him as co-pastor.

The church website summarizes the goals for the future:

A local church with a worldwide vision sums up the future of New Covenant. Senior Pastor Rev. Stephen J. Thurston and Co-Pastor Rev. Stephen J. Thurston II are God’s appointed pair to spiritually lead the people of New Covenant. Through life-changing ministries, three Sunday worship services, weekly Bible study and prayer meetings, a strong media presence (via television, radio, and internet), extraordinary leadership, and the favor of God, New Covenant is committed to effectively changing the lives of its members, the community, and the nation.

In 2007, a $10 million worship center will be completed at the current location further enabling the church and its members to achieve its vision of “Creating a Christian Community Cradled in Kingdom Quality.”

Dr. T. DeWitt Smith

Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr. succeeded the late Civil Rights Leader and Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy as the Pastor of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2003 he formed the Trinity Baptist Church of Metro Atlanta, which participates in the Worship Anytime Network which streams featured worship services from across the nation. Dr. Smith was elected and installed as the 18th President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (PNBC) in August 2006. The PNBC has 2,000 congregations with 2.5 million members.

Bishop Philip Robert Cousin, Sr.

Cousin heads the Philip R. Cousin African Methodist Episcopal Church in Naperville, IL, which is described as a “multicultural church.” He was appointed Presiding Prelate of the Fourth Episcopal District in 2000. Cousin has been a member of the National Board of the Southern Leadership Conference since 1979 and National Board member of the National Association for the Advancemenet of Colored People (NAACP). He was a delegate to the 1968 National Democratic Convention; chosen to dialogue with Pope John Paul II in 1987; and was selected by Ebony Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Black Americans. His wife, Dr. Joan Cousin has been an HIV/AIDS crusader, having established centers around the world as well as care centers for the homeless in several states in the U.S.

It seems that these attendees have a heavy involvement in media and/or extensive memberships and organization that can be mobilized . Cousins seems to operate in the most “traditional” way as compared to the others I’ve profiled.

It will be interesting to see which of these pastors get on the Obama bandwagon and how their presence will be felt during the campaign.

Part 1: Obama’s Conservative Meeting Guests–Non-Pastors (UPDATED 1x)

In my June 11 post entitled “So, What’s Obama Going to Give Away to Conservative Religious Leaders and Constitutional Law Profs Who Work with Ken Starr??” I focused on mega-pastor T. D. Jakes and Doug Kmiec, a conservative Catholic constitutional lawyer who serve in the Justice Department under Reagan and Bush I and who is now a faculty member at the Pepperdine University School of Law, whose dean is none other than Ken Starr.

But there are others who attended Obama’s “reach-out” to conservative Christian leaders earlier this month who should be introduced. Although the guest list was not announced, the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody seemed to get a hold of a few names, in addition to the exclusive on the June 6 announcement of Obama’s “Joshua Generation Project.”

Part 2 will focus on the pastors who were at the meeting. Today, Part 1 gives some brief information on some of the “non-pastor” attendees whose names were leaked:

Rich Cizik

Cizik is the Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Associaton of Evangelicals. His bio states:

Richard Cizik is Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals. His primary responsibilities include editing publications such as NAE Washington Insight, directing NAE’s Washington Insight Briefing and Christian Student Leadership Conferences, setting its policy direction on issues before Congress, the White House, and Supreme Court, as well as serving as a national spokesman on issues of concern to evangelicals.

Paul Corts

Corts is the fifth president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) and prior to holding this post, Corts served as Assistant Attorney General for Administration for the U.S. Department of Justice under Bush from 2002-2006. Prior to his stint at Justice he was president of Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Christian school in Florida, for more than 11 years.

Cameron Strang

Strang is a “well-disguised evangelist” according to a 2004 story in USA Today.

Three silver hoops in his ears. Stubble-haze beard. Casually hip duds that the Fab Five from Queer Eye wouldn’t change.

No plans to preach. No pulpit.

Yet he’s hot-wired to a generation of young adult Christians he says are “on fire with faith” — a generation that eludes many churches, retailers and publishers.


“Sight, sound, experience — that’s what my generation is about,” says Strang, founder and CEO of Relevant Media Group. He has created an edgy magazine, Relevant: God. Life. Progressive Culture, to reach believers in ways their elders can’t — or won’t. (Link to Relevant Media Group.)


Relevant‘s target reader, Strang says, is a 27-year-old who is “grounded in the world of work and adult relationships,” who’s unwilling to sit still, even in church.

Strang is particularly interesting to me because of his focus on the “younger” voters whom Obama is going after via the Joshua Generation Project. It will be interesting to find out if Obama and Strang are co-ordinating their efforts beyond this June 11 meeting.


While Obama is making friends with these guests, he apparently is purging the names of people on his website…Check out Rezko Watch…”About Obama’s Klonsky Purge” which discusses Obama’s pattern of ditiching people and then goes on to delve into the meaning of the word “sociopath” and how it applies…

UPDATE July 9, 2008

Also attending this meeting–Steve Strang, the father of Cameron Strang.  See his latest report where he discusses the meeting with Obama.  Steve Strang was the only one to attend both Obama’s meeting and the one in Denver which was held by 100 conservative leaders.  That group decided to back McCain.  Strang says his son got a phone interview with Obama, but senior is still trying to get one.

So, What’s Obama Going to Give Away to Conservative Religious Leaders and Constitutional Law Profs Who Work with Ken Starr??(Just Say No Deal)

I’m not one of the faith crowd, preferring quiet meditation and the study of Eastern philosophies.

So, it’s really off-putting to see Obama “reaching out” to the likes of a mega-church pastor and a pro-life consitutional law professor, namely mega-pastor TD Jakes and conservative Catholic constitutional lawyer Doug Kmiec.

Obama meets

To quote David Brody of CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network):

This is one more example of how Obama is not just bringing in the ‘religious left’ into his coalition. He wants to bring in conservative figures, too.

If this were a meeting held by a strong, separation-of-church-and-state politican, I wouldn’t be so jittery. But Obama is no such thing. He is a panderer who’s chosen to brush off key groups of Democratic voters. It’s hard to trust his actions when it comes to meeting conservative religious figures.

T.D. Jakes, according to his website

… pastors what Christianity Today calls “one of America’s fastest growing mega-churches.” The Potter’s House, a multiracial, nondenominational church with 50-plus active outreach ministries, has dominated church growth records since its inception in 1996. In its almost 10-year existence, the church has grown from the 50 families that relocated with the Jakes family from West Virginia to Dallas to more than 30,000 members to-date. Rivaling many corporations, the ministry employs nearly 400 staff members, including full-time finance, human resources, information technology, materials distribution, public relations, publications and television production departments. The Potter’s House is fiscally sound, retiring within four years the financial debt incurred by the 191,000 square foot, $45 million sanctuary construction.

On a personal level, this rings alarm bells. A family member has dragged my relatives into a “non-denominational church” in NJ where it’s all about following a single personality. The church has grown to the point of building a huge facility that looks like a car dealership. They even offer “Christian counselling” for about $100 bucks an hour. Meanwhile, there seems to be very little “Jesus” in a lot of the activities that are ongoing, along with a remarkable lack of interest shown toward relatives who are not involved with the church. One could say that the “believers” have cut out those who don’t believe. It is quite disconcerting, to say the least.

Doug Kmiec should make any liberal nervous. He is a member of the faculty of Pepperdine University School of Law which, according to the Dean:

…is committed to the “highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership.”

And who is the Dean of Pepperdine’s School of Law? Remember KEN STARR?

Kmiec also has a highly visible political past:

Beyond the university setting, Kmiec served Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush during 1985-89 as constitutional legal counsel (Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice).

Somehow, this information doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy…

In a follow-up article on the Obama meeting, Brody writes:

That’s a big deal. A really big deal. The fact that these two conservative men are meeting with Obama may be a signal that Obama’s campaign is ready to break down the traditional wall of separation between conservatives and liberals when it comes to religious talk.

This meeting with Obama is made up of religious leaders from several denominations including Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants and Catholics. There are about 30 people there and these are leaders from Chicago and outside Chicago. Some in the meeting have shown their support for him. Others have not. I’m told that the meeting consisted of prayer as well and it lasted two hours. A campaign source tells me that besides Jakes and Kmiec, other religious leaders in the room today include Religious leaders include Rich Cizik with the conservative National Association of Evangelicals, best selling Christian author Max Lucado, Luis Cortes, Paul Corts, Cameron Strang, Bishop Phillip Cousin, Rev Stephen Thurston, Glenn Palmberg and Dr T Dewitt Smith. This campaign source tells me:

“Reaching out to the faith community is a priority for Barack Obama and will be a priority under an Obama Administration. This is one of several meetings he will have over the coming months with religious leaders.”

There may be a “wall” between the two groups, but there certainly has been dialogue with many inter-faith activities for years. So to build up Obama’s meetings as “a signal that Obama’s campaign is ready to BREAK DOWN the traditional wall” seems to me to be an indicator that more is going on here…that some influential conservative religious leaders are “in the tank” for Obama already and starting the sell to their large group of followers. I’ve read that in Washington state, fundamentalists were already on board during the primaries, so things have been cooking for quite awhile.


Is this going to be like Bush’s Faith office in the White House, which funneled tons of taxpayer money to religious groups??

I mean, first crack out of the barrel, Obama is in with the religious angle…I don’t see him rushing to talk to women, do you??

Brody and CBN seem to be really in the loop, because it was CBN that first reported the launching of Obama’s “Joshua Generation Project” in an exclusive by Brody on June 6 (.

The Brody File has learned that in the next two weeks Barack Obama’s campaign will unveil a major new program to attract younger Evangelicals and Catholics to their campaign.

It’s called the “Joshua Generation Project.” The name is based on the biblical story of how Joshua’s generation led the Israelites into the Promised Land.

A source close to the Obama campaign tells The Brody File the following:

“The Joshua Generation project will be the Obama campaign’s outreach to young people of faith. There’s unprecedented energy and excitement for Obama among young evangelicals and Catholics. The Joshua Generation project will tap into that excitement and provide young people of faith opportunities to stand up for their values and move the campaign forward.”

The official rollout won’t be for another two weeks or so, but The Brody File has been told the activities will include house parties, blogging, concerts and more.

This really creeps me out! My first thought on reading this was of those ads for Christian music CD’s that you see on TV–you know, the ones with young people waving their arms and looking like they are in a trance. Perfect. I bet we’ll see fainting again…More cultish behavior coming down the pike.

I swear, if I hear that the Promise Keepers are getting involved, I’ll be ready to flee the country.

As time goes on, I suppose the Obama blogs will embrace all this without a flicker of concern. I guess there are a lot of ways to practice “blind faith…”

Over at the BlackAgenda Report, the reporter was casting a different light on “self-proclaimed Joshua candidate” Obama back in April:

Barack Obama & Voter Supression: Where’s Joshua’s Horn When We Need It?

Self-proclaimed “Joshua generation” candidate Barack Obama launched his political career with a highly successful 1992 Chicago voter registration drive. But instead of barriers to ballot access on the part of minorities tumbling down on “Joshua’s” watch they are becoming higher. Where is Joshua’s trumpet on the erosion of voting rights, the legal sanctions and limitations placed upon present-day voter registration drives, and the wholesale ethnic cleansing of voter rolls?

I guess the writer of this observation isn’t one of those ready to fall into a trance when the music starts playing…

Just Say No Deal