WASHINGTON (RNS) — As the nation learned of the death of former President George H.W. Bush, religious leaders from across the country reacted with statements recalling his leadership, his dedication to his family and his embrace of civility.
Bush, a longtime Episcopalian, died Friday (Nov. 30) at the age of 94.
Here is a sampling of the reaction:
James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and the James Dobson Family Institute
“I knew him as one of the most kind and generous men I have known. I met him when he was vice president under President Ronald Reagan. Bush invited me to his office in the Eisenhower Building, May 1988. One month later, my mother died suddenly. Despite our casual acquaintance, the vice president took the time to write me a personal letter of consolation at our loss. ... I became only one of millions of others around the world who considered President Bush to be their friend.”
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
“In a time where Washington can seem more fractured and divisive than ever, President Bush’s life serves as a powerful reminder that we can indeed come together, regardless of our differences, for the common good of all Americans. He was that rare politician who possessed such integrity, honor and good humor that he was embraced and respected by Americans of all political parties and persuasions. In so many ways he represented the very best of us, and we are all blessed by his extraordinary life of public service."
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, and Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde
"(B)eyond the political achievements and historic accolades, President Bush was committed most to his family and his faith. He and his beloved Barbara poured their love into their children and raised them in faith. President and Mrs. Bush were here at this Cathedral, on Sept. 29, 1990, as workers set the final stone in place after 83 years of construction.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
“We join with people across the nation as we mourn the passing of President George H.W. Bush. We remember with gratitude this great man who spent his life selflessly in service of his country. With an unwavering commitment to building bridges of peace and ensuring our nation’s freedoms, he also inspired many as a devoted husband, father and family patriarch. On behalf of my brother bishops of the United States, we pray for the repose of the soul of our 41st president as we remember a life well lived."
Rabbi Jack Moline, president, Interfaith Alliance
“President George H.W. Bush dedicated his life to public service and his country. His tenure in the White House and years in the public eye represent a time when politicians could be civil even when they vehemently disagreed. This is best exemplified in his letter left on the Oval Office desk for former President Bill Clinton. In finding the words expressing support and hoping the best for his political opponent after the biggest loss of his career, President Bush demonstrated an ethic he believed and all of us should remember — that the success of our country and preservation of our Constitution is more important than success at the ballot box.”
Ralph Reed, chairman, Faith & Freedom Coalition
“I was privileged to count him as a friend and experience his unfailing generosity and kindness. George H.W. Bush set an example for us all with his dignity and character as a public servant, a devoted husband and a loving father. The Bush family is in our prayers today as we mourn the loss of George Herbert Walker Bush, one of the finest men to ever serve our nation."
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
“President Bush dedicated his professional life to the service of the United States and his personal life to building a remarkable family. Over his career, which spanned posts including CIA director, U.N. ambassador, vice president and president, Mr. Bush was a key leader in shaping American foreign policy. We appreciate President Bush’s support for Israel’s security and his significant role in rescuing many thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union as well as from Ethiopia.”
The Rev. Chuck Currie, director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality, Pacific University in Oregon
“George H.W. Bush provided leadership that ensured the Cold War did not end in a hot war. He offered calm dignity, not boastful pride. There were good reasons not to vote for him but he was the president America needed as the Soviet Union collapsed.”
Evangelist Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse relief agency and son of the late evangelist Billy Graham
“President and Mrs. Bush were very close friends of my parents and our family through the years. He represented the presidency when politics in our country was more civil. He was a man of character who served our nation during war and led our nation during peace. He was a man of many accomplishments, but one of the greatest was his family. .... Our prayers are with George, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and the entire Bush family.”
Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
"George H.W. Bush was one of this country’s best presidents, and one of the best men to ever serve as this country’s president. He served with character, integrity and competence. We will miss him more than we even realize."
"Our deepest condolences to the Bush family on the passing of President George H.W. Bush. His life of devoted service strengthened the nation and the world. May his memory be for a blessing."
The Rev. Russell J. Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, quoted by The New York Times
“There was no question he knew where he was going and who he was going to be with. He was looking forward to being with Barbara and Robin again.”
Duane Allen, lead singer of The Oak Ridge Boys, country and gospel vocal quartet
“The sting of death always hurts, but I have so many memories to make me smile. The Oak Ridge Boys have sung 'Amazing Grace' for him on Air Force One, in Kennebunkport, at the White House and over the phone when he was in the hospital. However, singing ‘Amazing Grace’ at his funeral will be the most difficult assignment we will ever have.”