The Episcopalian Running for President

By Kirk Petersen

Episcopalians sometimes point out that of the 44 people who have been the president of the United States, 11 have been Episcopalians. But of the two dozen people actively running for president today, only one is an Episcopalian.

Pete Buttigieg is also a multilingual gay combat veteran and former Rhodes Scholar. At the age of 37, he wants to be the first person to graduate to the Oval Office directly from being mayor of a mid-sized city, South Bend, Indiana, population about 100,000.

Articles about Buttigieg frequently focus on his faith. Most recently, National Catholic Reporter interviewed the candidate’s priest:

“The person you see on TV is the same person I know. And that is the highest compliment that I can pay a politician. He is who he appears to be,” the Rev. Brian Grantz, rector of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James, and the mayor’s pastor for the past decade, told NCR.

The cathedral in South Bend is in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. Grantz officiated at Buttigieg’s wedding to another man, Chasten Glezman, in June 2018.

Buttigieg’s faith has been used both to praise and criticize him. Peter Wehner, a politically conservative evangelical Christian who is no fan of Buttigieg’s politics, wrote in The Atlantic:

Buttigieg speaks openly and easily about his Christian faith in a party that is becoming more and more secular and religiously unaffiliated… I don’t sense that his faith is being used cynically or inauthentically; it preceded his career in politics.

On the other hand, The Daily Beast reported that some conservative commentators have mocked both Buttigieg’s faith and his denomination.

“He says he’s a traditional Episcopalian, whatever that means these days,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham said… Erick Erickson said Buttigieg “is an Episcopalian, so he might not actually understand Christianity more than superficially.”

In a National Public Radio podcast, Buttigieg explained why he believes his marriage has brought him closer to God.

My understanding of my faith is that – through a Christian framework – part of what we are called to do is to lay down our own self-interests, after the model of divinity that comes into this world in the form of Christ and lays down his life. And in order to do that, you have to care about something or someone more than yourself. So much of the New Testament is about love. The idea that God is love. …

But I think there’s a real relationship between romantic love and the kind of love that is talked about in my faith’s tradition. The kind of love that motivates and animates. The kind of sacrifice, and the kind of humility, and the kind of reaching out to others that I believe my faith calls on me to do. And that that is the way to be nearer to God. And my marriage has done that for me, because there’s a person in my life who I learned to care about more than I care about myself.

According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Buttigieg is in fifth place in the Democratic nomination race, with 5.6% support.  He is one of seven candidates who already has met the polling and donor-count thresholds for inclusion in the next Democratic debate, scheduled for September 12.


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