FACTS about 'amen, a woman' -  What Cleaver explains
Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver explains ending prayer with 'amen, a woman'

What is ''Amen'?

The word “Amen” comes from the Hebrew language, in which it means “certainty,” truth” and “so be it,” according to the etymology explained in various dictionaries. The word filtered through Latin and Greek before it eventually became part of the English language.

Kansas City Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II said the opening prayer for the 117th Congress Sunday and his words raised some eyebrows.

The prayer Congressman Cleaver said lasted about two and a half minutes, but it was the last few seconds that has attracted attention. He ended the prayer saying “amen and a woman.”

After some national news outlets posted articles about the prayer, social media lit up with criticism.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, attacked the Missouri congressman’s gesture toward gender inclusion.

“It isn’t a gendered word but that didn’t stop them from being insane. Is this what you voted for?” said Trump Jr., who incorrectly identified the word’s origin as Latin.

Newt Gingrich tweeted “‘Amen and awoman.’ perfect House Democrat prayer ending as House Dems focus on gender security by abolishing virtually every normal gender term like “father. Mother “-the radical madness has begun-Kevin McCarthy for Speaker!”

Re-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently introduced new rules requiring more inclusive language in House documents. The rules will change references to pronouns and familial relations so they are gender neutral, according to a statement from Pelosi.

The changes target words such as “daughter,” “man” and “ombudsman,” but make no mention of “Amen.”

Critics accused Cleaver of taking those new rules too far, in a 13-second clip that has been watched more than 6 million times.

“It’s not a gendered word,” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican, tweeted along with the clip on Sunday.

Cleaver explains ending prayer with 'amen, a woman'

Cleaver, the founder of the Kansas City chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and former pastor of St. James United Methodist Church, responded Monday with disappointment at the furor.

He said the pun was meant as a tribute to his female colleagues and to Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben, the new House chaplain and first woman to hold the role.

“I concluded with a lighthearted pun in recognition of 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,” said Cleaver with Kansascity.com, who led the search committee that selected Grun Kibben, the former chief chaplain of the Navy, for the role.

“I personally find these historic occasions to be blessings from God for which I am grateful.”

Cleaver said he was “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 his “a woman” line was just a lighthearted pun considering the record number of women in congress. “With that kind of gender and inclusion in the Congress, the most diverse Congress in history, I ended my prayer by saying ‘a woman,”he said to KCTV5.

Who is Cleaver?

Cleaver is an ordained minister, previously serving as pastor of St. James United Methodist Church.

He says he’ll continue to pray for our country despite the criticism.

Emanuel Cleaver, II is now serving his seventh term representing Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, the home district of President Harry Truman.

He is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services; Chair of the subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy; member of Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance; member of the House Committee on Homeland Security; member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security; and member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

Having served for twelve years on the city council of Missouri’s largest municipality, Kansas City, Cleaver was elected as the city’s first African American Mayor in 1991.

During his eight-year stint in the Office of the Mayor, Cleaver distinguished himself as an economic development activist and an unapologetic redevelopment craftsman. He and the City Council brought a number of major corporations to the city, including TransAmerica, Harley Davidson, and Citi Corp. Cleaver also led the effort, after a forty-year delay, to build the South Midtown Roadway. Upon completion of this major thoroughfare, he proposed a new name: The Bruce R. Watkins Roadway. Additionally, his municipal stewardship includes the 18th and Vine Redevelopment, a new American Royal, the establishment of a Family Division of the Municipal Court, and the reconstruction and beautification of Brush Creek.

Cleaver has received five honorary Doctoral Degrees augmented by a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M, and a master’s from St. Paul's School of Theology of Kansas City.

In 2009, Cleaver, with a multitude of accomplishments both locally and Congressionally, introduced the most ambitious project of his political career—the creation of a Green Impact Zone. This zone, consisting of 150 blocks of declining urban core, has received approximately $125 million dollars in American Recovery and Reinvestment funds. The Green Impact Zone is aimed at making this high crime area the environmentally greenest piece of urban geography in the world. This project includes rebuilding Troost Avenue, rehabbing bridges, curbs and sidewalks, home weatherization, smart grid technology in hundreds of homes, and most importantly, hundreds of badly needed jobs for Green Zone residents.

During the 112th Congress, Cleaver was unanimously elected the 20th chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In 2016, as Ranking Member of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee, Cleaver successfully co-authored the largest sweeping reform bill on housing programs in 20 years, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, a bipartisan comprehensive housing bill that passed into law with a unanimous vote.

In 2018, Congressman Cleaver received the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation. Past honorees include President Bill Clinton, the late Senator John McCain, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Cleaver, a native of Texas, is married to the former Dianne Donaldson. They have made Kansas City home for themselves and their four children, and grandchildren.

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