I just received a call from Michigan Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey. It was a good conversation, and with his permission, I share the details with all of you.
First of all, Mike apologized for the situation, and he expressed a thoughtful embarrassment for how it unfolded and ultimately resulted. He spent a portion of last week investigating, having had conversations with the right folks. The call to me was to find and promise a better way forward.
Second, he encouraged me to save his mobile number in my contacts and to reach out to him directly in the future. He said he didn’t know it was happening, and had he known, it might have concluded much differently. In my own defense, since the reasons given for the prayer being rejected were set at Mike’s feet, I asked to have a quick conversation with him to gain some clarity. But the one with whom I was negotiating the prayer said that to do this would be to disregard her efforts as his appointee. I took that as I’d be offending her and making it worse for my cause. Initially, I respectfully refrained. After a few days, I called Mike’s office directly (and some of you reached out to him, too, one of you actually passing along my contact information—thank you for that).
Third, but somewhat in relation to the second point, we spoke of the dangers of social media. Again, he wishes I’d spoken with him before sharing the information online, primarily because people will run with small portions of material and find reasons to become vicious. Unfortunately, that goes with the territory. Nevertheless, he’s right. However, and again, in my defense, I shared that I do not have the luxury of press conferences or guest couches on TV shows. Looking up from my lowly station, social media is one of the only avenues one has for making known what’s actually happening. I didn’t share anything other than what I knew, although my satirical prayer didn’t make anyone in his office laugh. Still, on this issue, Mike and I are at peace and all is well.
In conclusion, the prayer I wrote will be heard by our gracious God in the presence of the Michigan Senate. Mike has invited me to be his guest Invocator. We’ll schedule this soon. Also, we had a kindly conversation about what the guidelines should be going forward. From the conversation, essentially, there will be two. The first is that the prayer to be prayed will be submitted for review, but primarily because it’s easier to record the prayer in the official Senate record when a digital copy is made available. The second is that a prayer that calls for action leading to violence will not be allowed. Beyond that, any clergy invited to give the invocation will be free to pray in accordance with his particular faith’s confession.
In conclusion, I’d encourage all to reach out to Senator Shirkey and to commend him for his diligence in this. God willing in this regard, religious liberty has been better fortified by this situation and the resulting conversations. Christian pastors in Michigan need not fear being censored by those who’d find offense by the Word of God.
In essence, this is a win—and it’s good. Also, it would seem a friendship has blossomed between a lowly pastor and a gentleman desiring to govern rightly.