1998 NCC News Archives

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NCC Head Reflects on White House Prayer Breakfast

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 11, 1998 – As she reflected on this morning’s White House interfaith prayer breakfast, one of the guests, the Rev. Dr. Joan B. Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, commented, "Now the nation has to decide whether it is willing to be led by a repentant sinner. That will be a journey for the nation and not just for the President."

Dr. Campbell said she senses that President Clinton "is now repentant. He offered a much fuller statement, a truly confessional statement with a religious character to it, and asked the forgiveness of the nation, his family, his colleagues and of Monica Lewinsky and her family.

"He talked about the need for repentance, for a turning around, for a new direction, his need to find that new direction in his life, and what a spiritual journey it’s been for him. This prayer breakfast was a religious event in the best sense of the word, not just people saying prayers, but an event with a prayerful quality about it."

Dr. Campbell said the morning allowed ample time for the 70 or so religious leaders present to speak personally with the President, Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Gore. She said she thanked President Clinton "for being honest and willing to be vulnerable. It’s not easy for powerful people to be vulnerable."

What next? Dr. Campbell said that "for the nation to heal, there may have to be a kind of public reprimand." But that’s far short of a call for resignation or impeachment, she said. "We don’t wish for a rush to judgment. Let the processes work. Whether Mr. Clinton can continue to lead is not something we know, and it won’t be determined so much by politicians or Mr. Clinton as by the American people."

Ultimately, Dr. Campbell concluded, "we must find a way to put this behind us. "We have people who depend on us, things to do. We’re deeply concerned that the issues of poverty, race, health care that Clinton has addressed himself to continue to be primary issues for the National Council of Churches."

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