Cleaver: ‘Awoman’ ending to prayer meant to recognize record number of women in Congress

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said Monday he did not expect to be mocked for concluding a prayer to open the new session of Congress with “amen and awoman.” 

Cleaver told the Kansas City Star the “lighthearted pun” was made in an effort to recognize “the record number of women who will be representing the American people in Congress during this term as well as in recognition of the first female chaplain of the House of Representatives, whose service commenced this week.” 

“And dare I ask, oh Lord, peace even in this chamber now and evermore,” Cleaver said Sunday as he wrapped up Sunday’s blessing while serving as guest House chaplain. “We ask it in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and God known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.” 

Some critics, mainly on the political right, pointed out “amen” is a Hebrew word translating to “so be it” and is not a gender-specific term. 

“[I am] deeply disappointed that my prayer has been misinterpreted and misconstrued by some to fit a narrative that stokes resentment and greater division among portions of our population,” Cleaver told the newspaper. “Rather than reflecting on my faithful requests for community healing and reversion from our increasingly tribal tendencies, it appears that some have latched on to the final word of this conversation in an attempt to twist my message to God and demean me personally.”

With a record number of women slated to serve in Congress this term, the House on Monday passed a rules package introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that, among other measures, eliminates gender-specific language and establishes an Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

“We made this change for the sake of inclusion, not exclusion,” said House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-Mass.). 

Pelosi also last week appointed the first full-time female chaplain of either chamber of Congress: Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben

Cleaver, who led the search for Grun Kibben, said lawmakers and other pundits who chided him for the ending to his Sunday prayer are proving the point he was trying to make about the dangers of intolerance. 
“In doing so, they have proven one point of my greater message,” Cleaver said.
“That we are all ‘soiled by selfishness, perverted by prejudice and inveigled by ideology,’ ” he added, referring to a phrase he used in the prayer. 
Tags Emanuel Cleaver James McGovern Members of the United States Congress Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi

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