Senate President Scolds Pastor
Some prayer controversy occurred today in the Maryland Senate.
Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) chastised the pastor of a Bowie church this morning for including too much Jesus in a prayer that opened the day's proceedings. That pastor is now speaking out, saying he was confused and disappointed by the criticism.
Both the House and Senate open each day with a prayer. In the House, delegates take turns doing the honors. Senators invite clergy from their districts to offer words. The prayers are generally ecumenical, occasionally mentioning God, rarely mentioning Jesus. Guidelines advise those who offer the prayer to try to be sensitive to the many faiths of the elected leaders who take part.
Today, Pastor Mark Lehmann, a guest of Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George's), led senators in a lengthy prayer. He quoted King David, he referenced the apostle James, he expressed thanks that senators could put "trust in the hands of a changeless God" in changing times.
He concluded, "We humbly ask these things in the name of the name that is above all names, the matchless name of Jesus our Savior. It is in His name that we pray."
As he descended from the rostrum, Miller piped up. He asked that Lehman's remarks not be journalized--that is, saved for posterity. Then, with annoyance, he asked the secretary of the senate, "Do we see these things ahead of time? Do we?"
Lehmann says, yes, in fact. This is the third time he has prayed in the Maryland senate and, knowing this very issue might come up, he submitted his remarks at 9:30 a.m. and was sure to stick to his prepared text.
"I told them up front that I have to do that--that's how I pray," he said. "To me, to deny Jesus is to deny my faith."
Lehmann said waiting in the Senate lounge before coming to the floor to offer the prayer, he noted a painting featuring a large cross and the words, "the founding of the Maryland."
"To me, if there were ever a time in our state history when we needed help from above, it's now," he said.
Lehmann said he is unlikely to pray with the Maryland General Assembly again.
UPDATE: Lehmann wrote us this morning with a clarification. He'd be happy to lead the Maryland senate in prayer again, if he's allowed to do so in Jesus' name.
March 25, 2009; 4:51 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly , Rosalind Helderman
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