This year’s National Prayer Breakfast, held on February 7, received widespread coverage from many news outlets on account of the presence of the President and Vice-President. Religion News Service described the guest list thus:
“In addition to Trump, Coons and Lankford, political attendees included Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.; Secretary of State Michael Pompeo; acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker; and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, among others.
“Prominent religious attendees included Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; Lance Plyler of Samaritan’s Purse; Christian author, businesswoman and philanthropist Mo Anderson; musician Chris Tomlin; and keynote speaker Gary Haugen, head of the International Justice Mission.”
The speech made by the President overshadowed the remarks from the other religious leaders present. A survey of mainstream sources contained virtually no mention of anything else. As ENS reported, Mr. Trump,
“spoke for about 20 minutes. Among the highlights was the president’s praise for faith leaders who backed one of the few bipartisan achievements during the first half of his term, a criminal justice reform bill aimed at reducing the nation’s prison population and correcting racial disparities in sentencing. The bill, which passed in December, was supported by The Episcopal Church’s nonpartisan Office of Government Relations, based in Washington.
“America is a nation that believes in redemption,” Trump said. “Every day, the people in this room demonstrate the power of faith to transform lives, heal communities and lift up the forgotten.”
The ENS article goes on to describe how Bishop Curry offered a reflection on 1 Corinthians 13, in which he explained that Paul was not writing about the sentimental type of love so often associated with the passage. While love is a recurring theme in Bishop Curry’s preaching, the breakfast offered him a different venue in which to deliver that message:
“He wasn’t thinking about a wedding. He was worried about a community that had divisions in itself. And he wrote to show them the way,” Curry said.
“…If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. … Faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.” Curry said, reading from 1 Corinthians.
“Paul saw what Jesus meant,” Curry said. “That way of love can set us all free.” He closed his remarks by quoting the traditional black spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” a common refrain in Curry’s sermons, including in his royal wedding sermon.
Video of Bishop Curry’s reflection is available here.