Like Preacher-Politicians Before Him, Senator Raphael Warnock Will Keep His Pulpit

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The Ebenezer Baptist pastor becomes the latest in a line of African American ministers in Congress.

Raphael Warnock has won one of Georgia’s two runoff elections for US Senate: Will he be both a pastor and a politician?

Yes, says, Michael Brewer, a spokesman for the minister’s campaign, “if elected he will remain senior pastor.”

Marla Frederick, professor of religion and culture at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, told Religion News Service that an active pastor would not be unknown in the political life on Capitol Hill. “There are models for doing both/and,” she said.

“The pastorate is one of these careers, these callings, if you will, where you have to stay in such close contact with everyday people and their concerns,” said Frederick.

“To the extent that the Senate (is) supposed to represent the concerns of people, it seems to me that someone who’s been a pastor has the capacity to be much more in tune with the kinds of struggles that people are dealing with in their everyday lives.”

Warnock, who has led Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta since 2005, had something similar to say in a statement to RNS in November.

“It’s unusual for a pastor to get involved in something as messy as politics, but I see this as a continuation of a life of service: first as an agitator, then an advocate, and hopefully next as a legislator,” Warnock said as he was closing in on the top spot of a wide-open primary. “I say I’m stepping up to my next calling to serve, not stepping down from the pulpit.”

With Warnock’s election to the Senate, he can reflect on these other African American ministers who kept up a busy church life while serving in Congress:

Richard Harvey Cain, 1873-75, 1877-79

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