In a pair of historic firsts, not only will Samuel Rodriguez be the first Assemblies of God pastor to take part in a presidential swearing in, but also the first Hispanic.
Inauguration Day for President-elect Donald J. Trump is Jan. 20 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Rodriguez is senior pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California, and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He told PE News that in mid-December he received a phone call and email from Trump’s inaugural committee asking him to participate. He will join other clergy on the platform, including Franklin Graham and televangelist Paula White.
“The opportunity to speak on the quintessential political platform in the world, and to be able to lift up Jesus on that stage before that global audience, without a doubt is one of the greatest privileges I have ever received in my life,” Rodriguez says. “It’s a God-graced opportunity that one cannot turn down.”
Being the first Latino evangelical ever in U.S. history to participate in a presidential inauguration is humbling and honoring, Rodriguez says.
“It speaks to the growth of the Pentecostal movement,” he says.
Dennis Rivera, director of the AG Office of Hispanic Relations, says that Rodriguez has gained the respect of many leaders in Washington, D.C. Rivera describes Rodriguez as an eloquent speaker who has been careful not to be drawn into backing a political party or candidate. Rivera cites biblical figures Esther, Daniel, and Joseph, whom God called to advise government leaders. “God is still allowing certain men and women to have influence, to have the ear of our leaders,” Rivera says.
He notes that there was a time that Pentecostals would not likely have been invited to take part in such an event.
“It’s an honor for an ordained Assemblies of God minister to achieve this,” Rivera says. “Sam Rodriguez’s commitment is to the agenda of the Lamb, not the elephant or the donkey.”
Rodriguez says that he met with then-candidate Trump last June for “a very healthy discussion” of issues, including religious liberty and immigration. “We also talked about racial unity as it pertains to bringing the country together.” Without endorsing the candidate, Rodriguez worked with the campaign to promote these issues.
Rodriguez will spend a busy inaugural week in Washington, where he will speak at a Christian gala, several prayer services, and hold media interviews, culminating with the inauguration. His wife, Eva, who pastors with him at New Season, will accompany him to the week’s events and sit on a platform close to those participating in the program.
The couple has offered invocations at previous national political events. In 2008, Eva Rodriguez's prayer opened the Republican National Convention while Samuel Rodriguez’s prayer opened the 2012 convention. In 2008, Samuel Rodriguez took part in the prayer service for President Barack Obama at St. John’s Episcopal Church, next to the White House, on inauguration morning.