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Raphael Warnock tells his flock why he’s wrestling over Senate bid

The Rev. Raphael Warnock told his congregation he’s torn over whether to challenge Republican Johnny Isakson and is wrestling over whether he can serve on the pulpit and in the U.S. Senate at the same time.

Warnock, who pastors Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic Atlanta church, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week he would soon decide whether he will run against Isakson, who is seeking his third term.

Rep. Raphael Warnock at the state Capitol in March. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

Rep. Raphael Warnock at the state Capitol in March. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

In a Sunday sermon, which you can see above around the 38-minute mark, Warnock told his flock he was not leaving the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church no matter what he decides.

“Preachers all over the country, shaking off their resume,” he said. “Tell them to hold on to it.”

He is wrestling instead with whether he can pull off double-duty by preaching on Sundays and voting on Mondays. He pointed to several examples of prominent lawmakers who have accomplished the feat, including former New York Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., but said soul-searching is in order before he makes up his mind.

“This is what I need you to pray about. I need you to pray with me about. The question is not whether I’m leaving. The question is, can I serve the people of Ebenezer and the people of Georgia as a servant at the same time?” he said. “Some people say you can’t. Some people say you can.”

He would become the first Democrat to challenge Isakson, a two-term incumbent who recently announced he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but said it would not jeopardize his ability to serve another six years in office.

Warnock, a political newcomer, faces daunting odds. Isakson enjoys high name recognition, popularity across the aisle and is sitting on more than $4 million in campaign contributions.

But Democrats hope Warnock’s unabashedly left-leaning positions on issues ranging from Medicaid expansion to voting rights could help him appeal to the base and attract droves of new minority voters.

Warnock urged congregants to pray with him as he heads on vacation – Sunday was to be his first day but he decided instead to address his dilemma with his flock – and said he would make up his mind upon his return in a few weeks.

“I’m going back to my vacation, and when I get back, we’ll sit down as a family,” he said. “And we’ll talk. And I’ll hear you out. And however we go, we’ll go together.”

Click here for the rest of the backstory on Warnock’s possible bid.

Here’s a partial transcript of Warnock’s sermon:

“We’ve been doing this work together because it’s the Lord’s work. Whether or not people have healthcare, whether or not people can go to school, have a decent education, can actually vote. We believe, don’t we, that it’s the Lord’s work.

So, I was asked would I consider a run for the United States Senate. I told them I’d think about it. And in the process of thinking about it, obviously I had to go and talk to a few people. Just a small group of folk. And as I was talking to a small group of folk about it, a buzz started about this.

A journalist heard about it, called me on my cellphone, and said, ‘Rev, is it true? Are you thinking about the U.S. Senate?’ And I answered truthfully, Yes, I am thinking about it. But I’ve got to talk to my congregation, I’ve got to talk to my family and friends. I was hoping to just have a quiet conversation. Lo and behold, here we are.

I wanted you to know, number one, I am committed to Ebenezer Baptist Church and I have no plans to leave Ebenezer under no circumstances. None, whatsoever.

That’s not what we’re wrestling with. I’m not leaving Ebenezer. Now, I know that comes with great comfort to some. Preachers all over the country, shaking off their resume. Tell them to hold on to it. We have five pastors since 1886. I plan to keep up the tradition.

This is what I need you to pray about. I need you to pray with me about. The question is not whether I’m leaving. The question is, can I serve the people of Ebenezer and the people of Georgia as a servant at the same time?

Some people say you can’t. Some people say you can. … I want you to pray about it with me.”


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