From Politics to the Pulpit: Why Washington’s Key Players Seek the Seminary

| 10/23/2014 3:28:00 PM

Between political attack ads and an unsettling House of Cards depiction of Washington, it’s a challenging concept that politicians initially got in the game to change the world for the better. Clinton’s former Press Secretary Mike McCurry—“spin doctor” during the Lewinsky years—traded the White House for the seminary for this reason, and others have followed suit.

Now a professor of public theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, McCurry received a master’s of arts degree from Wesley last year, and has since been “a shepherd to peers interested in making the transition from state to church,” writes the National Journal.

“I think a lot of people inquire just because the culture of Washington is so broken right now,” he said. “They didn’t come here just to get in angry political fights every day. They want to do something positive, and they’re looking for avenues to make that happen.”

McCurry isn’t alone: Former adviser to Mitt Romney and longtime political operative Eric Fehrnstrom announced last spring that he’ll be pursuing a master’s in theological studies at Boston College (for academic credentials rather than ordainment into the priesthood, like McCurry). Matt Rhodes, former spokesman for the House Budget Committee, left his position at the American Hotel and Lodging Association to join the seminary and become an ordained priest for the Episcopal Church. Wesley’s former students also include Kentucky Representative Ed Whitfield, former Democratic National Committee’s Chief of Staff Leah Daughtry, and NPR’s Michael Martin. Former Senate staffers Donna Claycomb Sokol and Adam Briddell both left their jobs to pursue seminarian training, as well, becoming pastor and associate pastor respectively at area Methodist churches.

McCurry’s fellow Wesley professor Shaun Casey, currently on leave to serve in the Secretary of State’s office, said his classes are often filled with both retired federal employees and young Hill staffers who are looking to make a bigger impact. “The Hill can be a place where joy and hope go to die. A lot of people came to D.C. wanting to change the world, and they find it to be a particularly tough environment.”

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