Attendees pray over Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) during the Festival of Homiletics at Metropolitan AME Church on May 21, 2018, in Washington. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

Warren announces new campaign interfaith advisory council

(RNS) — Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has unveiled a new religion-related campaign initiative, announcing an interfaith advisory council and forthcoming endorsements from more than 100 religious leaders from across the country.

“I’m proud to announce a committed group of faith leaders that will lead my campaign’s Interfaith Advisory Council,” Warren, a United Methodist and US senator from Massachusetts, told Religion News Service in a statement on Friday (Jan. 24). “If we want to restore communities, what better way than to influence systemic injustices that will break generational strongholds of poverty and oppression. The Warren for President Interfaith Advisory Council will answer the call for social, racial and economic justice by working together to build an America that works for everyone.”

Members of the 16-member council hail from states such as Massachusetts, Texas and Georgia and include several black Christian leaders and women clergy. 

"Elizabeth Warren envisions an America for all of us,” the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, associate pastor of the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts, said in a statement. “A place where dignity and respect is a basic right, where neighborhoods are free of gun violence and full of opportunity, and a place where we can build the beloved community. We need a President with the tenacity, brilliance and determination to transform this nation. We need Elizabeth Warren.”

Members of the council appear to lead congregations that are lesser known but have regional influence, such as Miniard Culpepper, senior pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Massachusetts; William Flippin Jr., senior pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Georgia; Dawnique Daughtry, senior pastor at The House of the Lord Fellowship in New Jersey; Bonnie Myotai Treace, the leader of Hermitage Heart Zen center in North Carolina; and Rabbi Matthew Soffer of Judea Reform Congregation in North Carolina.

A Warren spokesperson said council members work on get-out-the-vote efforts and help give the campaign advice "on policies and positions specific to the faith community.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., campaigns Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Some are expected to operate as campaign surrogates: Culpepper is scheduled to travel to Iowa this Sunday to “meet with faith leaders on behalf of the campaign.”

The spokesperson also said the campaign hopes to announce the endorsement of an additional 100 faith leaders across the U.S. in the coming days.

The religion initiative appears to be geared toward helping Warren garner support among key religious demographics such as black voters in South Carolina, many of whom attend church regularly. She currently trails fellow Democratic presidential contender former Vice President Joe Biden among African American voters in the Palmetto State: According to a Fox News poll conducted in early January, Biden currently enjoys support from 43% of black voters there.

By comparison, liberal activist Tom Steyer only claimed 16%, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 12%, and Warren 6%.

In December, Biden’s campaign announced the endorsement of 100 faith leaders in South Carolina, where his campaign has had a staffer dedicated to faith outreach since August 2019.

Warren isn’t exactly a neophyte to God-talk, however. She has invoked her Christian faith often on the campaign trail, speaking at churches and recalling her experience as a Sunday school teacher. She also regularly quotes Matthew 25 as a scripture passage that inspires her by calling her “to action.”

“I fight to uplift and protect the divine in every single person,” Warren told a group of pastors gathered in Washington, D.C., for the Festival of Homiletics in May 2018.

This story has been updated to clarify that Judea Reform Congregation is in North Carolina, not Massachusetts.