Clinton talks faith, family in personal speech to Methodist women
WASHINGTON, DC - US President Bill Clinton leaves the Foundry Methodist Church in Washington 07 April after attending Easter services with his wife Hillary (C) and daughter Chelsea (R)(PAMELA PRICE/AFP/Getty Images)
April 26th, 2014
01:51 PM ET
6 years ago

Clinton talks faith, family in personal speech to Methodist women

Louisville (CNN) – It would be difficult for Hillary Clinton to find a more welcoming crowd than the women at Saturday's United Methodist Women Assembly in Louisville.

Greeted with raucous applause from the 6,500 women (and a few men) in attendance, the former secretary of state touted her knowledge of the faith, spoke about her family's Methodist roots and addressed how the teachings of Jesus and John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, have guided her career.

And in synthesizing her view of Methodism's social gospel, Clinton's remarks seemed to come close to describing her presidential thought process, where the former first lady has acknowledged she is thinking about running for president in 2016.

"Even when we are tired and all we want to do is go away by ourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile," Clinton said, "even then, especially then, let’s make it happen."

Clinton focused largely on the social gospel teachings of Methodism. "Like the disciples of Jesus, we cannot look away, we cannot let those in need fend for themselves and live with ourselves," she said to applause. "We are all in this together."

Although faith has long been a part of Clinton's life, she rarely addresses it in public speeches. Saturday's remarks were a departure from that.

Clinton cited the Scripture Mark 6:30-44 - where Jesus instructs his disciples to organize their followers into groups and to feed them with five loaves of bread and two fish - as the central biblical passage of her speech. She jokingly called the story "the first great pot luck supper," and said she has always been fond of the passage.

"In the story, when the hour grows late and the crowd grows hungry, the disciples come to Jesus and suggest they send away the people to find food, to fend for themselves," Clinton said. "Jesus said ‘No, you feed them.’ He was teaching a lesson about the responsibly we all share to step up and serve the community, especially to help those with the greatest need and the fewest resources."

In explaining the passage - and her affinity for it - Clinton pulled a great deal from her time as America's top diplomat. She mentioned her travels to Southeast Asia and meetings she had with women in Malawi.

Although Clinton's remarks were largely about faith, there were subtle undertones of politics and policy. She mentioned gender equality and urged those in attendance to push for equal pay and raising the minimum wage.

"Holding back women is not right, but it is also not smart," Clinton said, using a refrain she has used before.

Clinton's roots in Methodism are deep, and she described Saturday’s event as a "homecoming" for her.

Born into a conservative Methodist family and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, Clinton spent a great deal of time and was confirmed in the local church – First United Methodist Church.

Hillary Clinton's 1959 confirmation class in Park Ridge, Illinois

"I loved that church; I loved how it made me feel about myself; I loved the doors that it opened in my understanding of the world," she said Saturday. "When I think back on my growing up time, many of my memories are rooted in that church and the experiences that I had there."

Clinton's family was very involved in the church, too. Her father, a Republican and devout Methodist, would regularly pray, Clinton said on Saturday, and her mother taught Sunday school. She, on the other hand, went to summer Bible camps, attended youth fellowship and even was part of the group that cleaned and maintained the church's organ.

"I loved doing that," she said to laughs.

In the late 60s, when Clinton moved to Arkansas to marry Bill Clinton, she continued to attend Methodist services, despite the fact that her husband was a lifelong Southern Baptist. Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, was confirmed at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock.

Some of Clinton’s friends say she carries a Bible with her and regularly pulls from it. Some of Clinton's strongest mentors also came from the church, and none was more influential than Don Jones, Clinton's youth minister from 1961 to 1963 in Park Ridge.

Jones, a liberal academic from South Dakota, exposed Clinton to the world outside of her conservative Chicago suburb. Through his "University of Life," Jones took his nearly 60 students to debates with atheists, discussions with a rabbi and into Chicago's South Side to experience the drugs, gangs and despair that defined the neighborhood in the early 60s.

"He went full speed ahead to help us understand, question, search for the role we wanted faith to play in our lives," Clinton said. "He was the first person that I had ever met who taught me and my other young compatriots to embrace the idea of faith in action."

Clinton went on to say that Jones "went out of his way" to expose his charges who lived in the largely "sheltered, middle class, all white community" of Park Ridge to the outside world.

Jones introduced Clinton to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by taking her to one of his speeches in the spring of 1962. Clinton was able to shake hands with King - something Jones organized - and has since called that moment one of the most formative of her life.

When Jones died in 2009, Clinton described him as "a lifelong friend and mentor" and wrote in a letter that he "opened up a new world to me and helped guide me on a spiritual, social and political journey of over 40 years."

Unlike her other events, Clinton's appearance at the Methodist women's conference was not a paid engagement. According to organizers, she also declined to accept an honorarium.

"She is the daughter of the United Methodist Church and the daughter of the United Methodist women," said Yvette Richards, board president of the United Methodist Women. "We are paired together; we are connected. She is one of us."

Richards introduced Clinton at the event, highlighting her career, her life in the Methodist church, including the fact that Clinton is a member at a United Methodist Church in New York.

This was Clinton's first speech to the United Methodist Women Assembly, however she, as first lady, spoke to the faith's General Conference on April 24, 1996.


Filed under: 2016 • Hillary Clinton • Religion
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. nintex

    We need Hillary Clinton to be our next president. Period.

    April 26, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. NYNJCT

    I think Clinton Net Work gives a lots of chance to Hillary in good way for 2016. Hillary has double mind and strand. She not
    only is a leader to abort fetus but also deny a merriage is between a man and woman. The Clinton has been avocator for
    GLBT for long times.

    April 26, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. bill

    $50 Lesson

    Recently, while I was working my neighbors stopped to chat as they returned home from walking their dog.

    During our friendly conversation, I asked their little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up.

    She said she wanted to be President some day.

    Both of her parents, Democratic Party members were standing there, so I asked her,
    "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?"

    She replied... "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people."

    Her parents beamed with pride!

    "Wow...what a worthy goal!" I said.
    "But you don't have to wait until you're President to do that!" I told her.

    "What do you mean?" she replied.

    So I told her, "You can come over to my house and mow the lawn,
    pull weeds, and trim my hedge, and I'll pay you $50.

    Then you can go over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house."

    She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight
    in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

    I said, "Welcome to the Republican Party."

    Her parents aren't speaking to me anymore.

    April 26, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. rla

    The manufacturing of a candidate- NO MORE CLINTONS< BUSHES OR KENNEDYS- They were in charge when we had opportunities to be real leaders of a really free world and had the power to back it up.. The oportunity was missed and actually defeated by members of these families NO MORE

    April 26, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  5. Michigan patriot

    The Clintons coming out of church? REALLY? Please, give me a break. They say she carries a Bible with her, maybe she should read it and learn from it.

    April 26, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. don in albuquerque

    Michigan patriot

    "Judge not lest ye be judged."
    "Let him who is without sin throw the first stone."
    Those two lines mean anything at all to ya. Nah, probably not. Maybe you should read your Bible.

    April 26, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  7. don in albuquerque

    bill

    Wow, its been a couple of years at least since I heard that joke. I've heard it worked both ways, but it usually ends up with the smart mouth getting to use his new ObamaCare policy which works flawlessly.

    April 26, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. J Anthony

    Cute story bill, unfortunately it is meanigless. That is, unless you plan on giving the homeless enough yardwork to make an actual living.

    April 26, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  9. NC

    I am a few years younger than Hillary. I am also a lifelong United Methodist. The words she described are what we as United Methodists are taught. We are taught to help those in need with our mission work. Have a Blessed weekend everyone.

    April 26, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    Frankly.......there is zero evidence that Hillary is anything, but an atheist.

    April 26, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    I've always appreciated the openness and acceptance of the United Methodist Church and its emphasis on social justice and doing good works.

    April 26, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  12. Reality

    HC thu-mps Mark 6: 30-44 but did the historical Jesus really say those words or as is most of the NT were the words invented by this Mark fellow who no one really knows?

    April 26, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  13. ultprinefan

    Politicians kissing the behinds of religious nutbags. Will it ever end?

    April 26, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  14. Thomas

    It will be wonderful to have a Royal Family again .

    God Save The Queen !

    April 26, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  15. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Oh come on Bill. We know that didn't happen.
    If you were a true Republican, you'd pick up a mexican guy at Home Depot, have him do all the work of a $50 dollar job by promising him $25, then pay him $10 and tell him to like it or you'll call the "migra". And you'd yell at the little girl to get off your lawn!

    April 26, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  16. Gurgyl

    --you don't know how much I love this family. I dearly love this family. Yes, on Hillary16.
    PS: first woman president of the largest democracy in the world.

    April 26, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  17. Smitty

    I hope Hilly shares her faith with ambassador Stevens family. Or what diff does it make. Cnn wont approve this, its anti Hilly The real war on women is slick Willie

    April 26, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  18. Hooper

    The NRA, warns of a Hillary candidacy. This means I'll vote for her, if I have to crawl to the voting booth.

    April 26, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  19. Edward Haskell

    @NYNJCT
    I think Clinton Net Work gives a lots of chance to Hillary in good way for 2016. Hillary has double mind and strand. She not only is a leader to abort fetus but also deny a merriage is between a man and woman. The Clinton has been avocator for GLBT for long times.

    Did you just stow away on a ship from Bangladesh, or do you actually write like this?

    April 26, 2014 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  20. Rusty Krus

    @bill
    $50 Lesson

    Nice fable Bill, how long did it take you to make it up? How about all of us working our entire lives to end up bankrupt and without a pension due to Republican greed? As for me, I'd rather give the $50 to a homeless person than the Pentagon, or Wall Street. "Just Sayin'", as one of your ilk likes to post on here.

    April 26, 2014 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  21. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @don in albuquerque
    Michigan patriot
    "Judge not lest ye be judged."
    "Let him who is without sin throw the first stone."
    Those two lines mean anything at all to ya. Nah, probably not. Maybe you should read your Bible.

    Don
    The irony is lost on these sheeple. Unless Hannity. Limbaugh or O'Reilly explain it to them, it's over their heads.

    April 26, 2014 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  22. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @Michigan patriot
    The Clintons coming out of church? REALLY? Please, give me a break. They say she carries a Bible with her, maybe she should read it and learn from it.

    What bible did Bush read from when he orchestrated the lies that built up to a war that killed and maimed thousands of our children? You are a "Patriot"? You make me want to vomit!

    April 26, 2014 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  23. Reality

    But where would HC be without that zipper-down Billy "Boy"? Just another hick lawyer from Arkansas !!! Time to cleanse Washington of all the Texas and Arkansas power-playing families !!!

    April 27, 2014 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  24. Chris Asking Question

    Wow! Isn't she afraid that liberals will attack her for her religions beliefs?

    April 27, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  25. Marie MD

    @Michigan patriot, back from Bundy's ranch in Nevada so soon?

    April 27, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
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