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Amen is not a gendered word: Amen/Awoman

Amen is not a gendered word: Amen/Awoman
"Amen" is an ending to prayer

By Mary Ann Mueller
January 6, 2021

For the most part the 2020 presidential election is now long over and all eyes are turning towards Washington, DC for the eventual inauguration of a president, while many others also turn their hearts and minds to God in prayer.

The overriding question is: What is being prayed and in whose or what name is that petition being uttered?

In 2009 Episcopal Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire) was tapped to give the invocational prayer for incoming President Barack Obama's pre-inaugural festivities.

At the time it was thought that the progressive and liberal Episcopal bishop got the presidential nod because he would be the perfect counterbalance for Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church, who is a Biblical-grounded conservative. Pastor Warren was invited to deliver the inaugural invocation.

The two men prayed very differently for the same event - the first inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

But Bishop Robinson sought God to draw down curses - tears, anger and discomfort - however, he also asked for patience, humility, freedom, tolerance, compassion, generosity, and wisdom as did Pastor Warren.

The New Hampshire bishop cited Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy as saintly examples for the new president to follow.

Pastor Warren cited Deuteronomy 6:4 as a context in which to establish a presidency focusing on God alone as the foundation for leadership.

The California-based mega church pastor ended his prayer to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with the Lord's Prayer as prayed by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 6.

The Episcopal Bishop was invoking the "god of our many understandings," which is not much different than the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II whose opening prayer on January 3 for the newly-sworn in 117th Congress prayed "in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and god known by many names and many different faiths."

Both men - ordained Protestant clergy - were politicizing prayer addressed to a "god" unknown to Christians - "god of our many understandings" (Robinson); and the "monotheistic god, Brahma, and god known by many names and many different faiths" (Cleaver).

It was to a "monotheistic god" Congressman Cleaver prayed too as he was seeking it to "control our tribal tendencies" and asked it for a "light so bright that we can see ourselves and our politics as soiled by selfishness, perverted by prejudice, and inveigled by ideology."

He also called down a benedictional blessing first recorded in Numbers 6:24-26. However, the Missouri lawmaker ended his a woke prayer with the words "Amen and Awoman."

Christians erupted in horror and headlines were made worldwide.

Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) tweeted: "The prayer to open the 117th Congress ended with 'Amen and a-women.' Amen is Latin for 'so be it.' It's not a gendered word. Unfortunately, facts are irrelevant to progressives. Unbelievable!"

In responding to criticism to his prayer the Missouri Congressman lamented: "I'm deeply disappointed that my prayer has been misinterpreted in misconstrued by some to fit a narrative that stokes resentment and greater division among portions of our population."
Explaining that his ending was tongue-in-cheek.

"I concluded with a light-hearted pun in recognition of the record number of women who will be representing the American people in Congress as well as the first female chaplain of the house of representatives," he responded. "I personally find these historic occasions to be blessings from God for which I am grateful."

Congressman Cleaver, a Democrat, is also an ordained United Methodist minister. He holds an MDiv from St. Paul School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary in Leawood, Kansas.

From 1972-2009 he served as pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. During that time, he also served as a Kansas City councilman (1979-1991); and eventually mayor (1991-1999).

Pastor Cleaver turn the pulpit over to his elder son and namesake, the Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Cleaver III, as he had higher political aspirations to pursue. He was elected in 2004 to represent Missouri's 5th Congressional District which includes Kansas City proper.

In 2011 Congressman Cleaver became the one-term chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. On January 3, 2021 the day of his opening prayer, he had just begun his ninth term as United States congressman. The last time a Republican held his seat was in 1949.

As a black activist, and cousin to the late Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, the Texas transplant brought the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with him on when he moved to Kansas.

Last Sunday when the 117th Congress was sworn in 148 women answered the rollcall. A total of 122 women in the House of Representatives, including four non-voting delegates from Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Washington, DC, and 26 women in the Senate.

The number of women in both the House and the Senate is in flux. There are vacancies being created by unexpected deaths and by President-elect Biden's tapping members for his cabinet.

California's junior Senator Kamala Harris will leave the Senate to become sworn in as the first female Vice President of the United States. As such she will become the President of the Senate and cast tie breaking votes when needed in the 10O-member upper chamber.

The House of Representatives is also changing its 45-page Code of Conduct to accommodate the "Rainbow Wave" by promoting inclusivity and diversity, promoting LGBTQ+ rights through gender-inclusive language.

An Office of Diversity and Inclusivity is to be established to highlight inequality, while gender-neutral language is being promoted to use and honor nongendered pronouns, as House rules are being bent to become gender-neutral.

Gone are the gender specific words he/she, him/her, his/hers which are being replaced by they-them-theirs.

Also, familiar family-friendly terms as husband-wife, mother-father, son-daughter, brother-sister, grandma-grandpa, aunt-uncle, and niece-nephew are being scrubbed from documents.

"This is stupid," tweeted Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) The House Minority Leader signed his tweet: "A father, son and brother."

These changes to the House of Representatives Code of Conduct are being hammered into place to accommodate just nine LGBT members in the 435-member House of Representatives. There are another two women senators who identify with the LGBT community making the total lesbian-gay membership of the Congress a mere two percent, all of whom are Democrats.

The other high-profile woman Congressman Cleaver was tipping his hat too in his "Amen and Awoman" prayer ending is retired Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben. The former two-star Navy veteran is becoming the newest Chaplain of the House of Representatives, a post that dates back to 1789. To date there have been 53 Chaplains to the United States House of Representatives and 62 chaplains to the United States Senate.

Chaplain Kibben is a Presbyterian teaching elder, meaning she is an ordained minister. She snagged a Doctor of Ministry from Princeton. In her 32 years of active duty, military service she served as the Chaplain of the Marine Corps and the Chaplain of the Navy. She was the first woman to do so in both cases. She is also the first female Chaplain to the House of Representatives in that legislative body's history.

As a Presbyterian Chaplain Kibben is following in the footsteps of the first Chaplain to the House of Representatives, William Lynn, who also was a Presbyterian minister and was graduated from Princeton in 1772 when it was still called the College of New Jersey.

The House of Representatives chaplaincy post is a constitutional office secured by Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 of the US Constitution. As such the House Chaplain is charged with bringing a dimension of faith to human activity and beginning each day's legislative proceedings with prayer. She is also to perform ceremonial, symbolic, and pastoral duties, host guest chaplains, receive world religious leaders, develop interfaith dialogue, explain how religion and politics interface, and work closely with the Chaplain to the Senate on the weekly prayer breakfast and overseeing the Capitol Prayer Room.

The Chaplain to the Senate is retired Rear Admiral Barry Black. He is the first African-American Senate chaplain he and the only Seventh-day Adventist Senate chaplain.

When the newly-forming Senate met in New York in April 1789 one of the first orders of business was to appoint a chaplain so the local Episcopal bishop, Samuel Provoost (I New York), was chosen. He would also become the III Presiding Bishop (1792-1795) of the infant Episcopal Church. Bishop Provost was Senate chaplain until the Senate moved to Philadelphia in 1790 at which point the local Episcopal bishop, William White (I Pennsylvania), took over. Bishop White also became the first Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church a post he held in 1789 for a mere two months. He accepted the Senate chaplaincy in 1790 after his brief stint as the first Presiding Bishop. He was the Senate chaplain for 10 years (1790-1800) but during that tenure he started his reign becoming the longest reigning Presiding Bishop in 1795. He remained the Fourth Presiding Bishop until 1836 for more than 40 years.

The first eight Chaplains of the Senate were all Episcopalian until the year 1808. The first Episcopal House a Representatives Chaplain was Fr. John French, the first rector of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Washington, DC. He held the House chaplaincy for a brief six months. Eventually in 1856 he became the Chaplain of the United States Military Academy in West Point a post he held until his death in 1871.

So far, all chaplains to the House and Senate have been Christian although there have been interfaith guests, chaplains who have offered prayers in each chamber.

The Episcopalians have had the most Chaplains to the Senate with 19; followed by the Methodist 17; Presbyterian 14; Baptist 6; Unitarian 2; Lutheran 1; Roman Catholic 1; and Seventh-day Adventist 1.

Over in the House the Methodists have had the most chaplains with 16; followed by Presbyterian 15; Baptist 7; Episcopalian 4; Lutheran 2; Unitarian 2; Congregationalist 2; Disciples of Christ 2; Roman Catholic 2; and Universalist 1.


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