Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), who is an ordained United Methodist pastor, opened the 117 Congress with prayer on Sunday. In closing, Rep. Cleaver turned many heads when he said “Amen and awoman.”
This comes a day after newly re-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced new House rules created to make the Representative body more inclusive, that removes all gender-specific words from certain documents, including “he,” “she,” “mother,” and “son,” and replaces them with words like “Representative,” “parent,” and “child.” Speaking about the new rules package that will be voted on on Monday, Pelosi said, “Democrats have crafted a package of unprecedented, bold reforms, which will make the House more accountable, transparent and effective in our work to meet the needs of the American people.”
Rep. Clever ended his prayer in the name of the “monotheistic God,” but also included the four-faced Hindu god Brahma, and “god known by many names by many different faiths,” then the Methodist pastor closed with “Amen” and “awoman”, which likely was an effort to make the prayer more gender inclusive.
However, the word amen is a Hebrew word, used first in the Old Testament, and is not associated with a gender. As pastor and theologian Kevin DeYoung explains, amen means “let it be,” “so be it,” “verily,” or “truly.” DeYoung says, “When you finish your prayer with ‘Amen’ you are saying, ‘Yes Lord, let it be so. According to your will, may it be.’ It’s a final note of confirmation at the end of our prayers.”
Rep. Cleaver’s prayer is included here:
The Opening Prayer for the 117th Congress
Eternal God, noiselessly we bow before your throne of grace as we leave behind the politically and socially clamorous year of 2020. We gather now in this consequential chamber to inaugurate another chapter in our roller coaster representative government. The members of this august body acknowledge your sacred supremacy and therefore confess that without your favor and forbearance we enter this new year relying dangerously on our own fallible nature. God, at a moment when many believe that the bright light of democracy is beginning to dim, empower us with an extra dose of commitment to its principles. May we of the 117th Congress refuel the lamp of liberty so brimful that generations unborn will witness its undying flame. And may we model community healing, control our tribal tendencies, and quicken our spirit that we may feel thy priestly presence even in moments of heightened disagreement. May we so feel your presence that our service here may not be soiled by any utterances or acts unworthy of this high office. Insert in our spirit a light so bright that we can see ourselves and our politics as we really are, soiled by selfishness, perverted by prejudice and inveigled by ideology. And now the God who created the world and everything in it bless us and keep us. May the Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. May the Lord lift up his light of countenance upon us and give us peace; peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, oh Lord, peace even in this chamber now and evermore. We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and god known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.
Others politicians reacted to Rep. Cleaver’s strange prayer, not missing the opportunity to correct him:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) used sarcasm to express his distaste for the prayer:
Before turning to politics, Rep. Cleaver was the pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri between the years 1972 and 2009. Rep. Cleaver received his D. Min. from St. Paul School of Theology.