Mike Pompeo's Wichita church calls for prayer over confirmation process

Mike Pompeo is President Donald Trump's choice to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
Mike Pompeo is President Donald Trump's choice to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. File photo

Last week, Eastminster Presbyterian Church called for prayer for Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who is poised to become U.S. secretary of state.

Pompeo is a member and deacon at the Wichita church, which has about 1,500 members.

The Rev. Stan Van Den Berg, senior pastor, wrote on the church’s website that Pompeo’s wife, Susan, had emailed him asking for prayer during “this very important and stressful time.” The couple became members in 2000, and Pompeo was elected as deacon in 2007, three years before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In a phone interview Thursday, Van Den Berg said that Pompeo's resume shows he has a "brilliant mind."

"What people don’t know is he taught Sunday school to children and he served as a deacon, which meant he served the poor and the suffering and the infirm in his church," Van Den Berg said. "That speaks about his heart. I think that speaks to the total character and heart of the man. He’s a man who cares about people.”

It is possible that Pompeo may not receive a majority vote out of committee, Van Den Berg wrote on his blog. The post was written April 11, one day before Pompeo’s confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Our church cares about the leadership of our country and about having Christian representation there,” Van Den Berg wrote. “We also care about the Pompeos as members of our church family. Mike has enemies because of his faith who may try to paint him in a poor light and make it difficult for him to reach the Secretary of State position.”

If Pompeo does not win the committee’s vote, he can still be confirmed by the full Senate.

Pompeo drew attention this week for having a historic meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un. No CIA director is publicly known to have met with North Korea’s leader, according to The Washington Post.

During the nomination process, Pompeo has faced opposition due to his beliefs, particularly regarding the CIA’s interrogation program, Muslims and same-sex marriage.

In the April 12 hearing, Pompeo answered questions from Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, about his remarks on Muslims by saying people should look at his record.

“I’ve heard these critiques,” Pompeo said. “I’ve worked closely with Muslim leaders, with Muslim countries. The CIA has saved countless, thousands of Muslim lives during my 15 months. This is at the core of who I am, Sen. Booker, and I promise you I will treat persons of each faith or no faith with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Booker also grilled Pompeo on his views on same-sex marriage, cutting Pompeo off to ask whether he believes gay sex is a perversion.

“My respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the same,” Pompeo said after confirming that he does not believe it’s appropriate for gay people to marry.

“I do not necessarily concur that you are putting forward the values of our nation when you believe there are people in our country who are perverse,” Booker said.

Pompeo also received support during the hearing, including from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, who called him a man of “integrity and honesty, of hard work and perseverance.”

Eastminster Presbyterian Church celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. The church broke from the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2011, following the denomination’s decision to allow people in same-sex relationships to serve in leadership. The church then joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Religion News Service reported that the Rev. Warren Snyder, assistant pastor, prayed for Pompeo during Sunday’s church service. A Religion News Service reporter was allowed to attend the service under the condition that he would not approach congregants for interviews.

Van Den Berg, the church's pastor, told The Eagle that while the church isn't politically active, it wants to support the Pompeos through prayer as members.

"We know this is tough for them," Van Den Berg said. "Imagine your life being scrutinized, people twisting what you say and how hard that is to hear. We’re going to just lift him up in prayer, praying for strength and for peace."

As a Christian, Pompeo has stood by his belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, Van Den Berg said, even though it might be politically expedient to abandon that view.

Church members have seen Pompeo in both the public and private arena, Van Den Berg said.

Speaking for himself personally, Van Den Berg said he wants "principled, honest, competent men and women in government."

"Mike is that," he said.

When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith, and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on that faith's leaders to respond," Pompeo said

Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @kathsburgess.