When the President’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was uncovered, Wogaman was thrust into the national spotlight. He took great pains to treat Clinton’s personal issues with the same respect and confidentiality he would offer any other congregant.
Suddenly, all eyes were on Wogaman and other ministers who had met with Clinton, including Billy Graham. As politicians and the American people questioned the sincerity of Clinton’s public apology, the media was anxious to talk to anyone who was close to the President, especially a pastor who stood beside the now disgraced politician.
Meanwhile, Wogaman became one of three spiritual advisers tasked with guiding the President through his impeachment process and the remaining days of his presidency. According to Wogaman, the three advisers—himself, pastor Gordon MacDonald of Grace Chapel near Boston, and Mount Carmel Baptist Church associate pastor Tony Campolo—took active steps to limit any chance of another presidential indiscretion.
“We buttoned down the West Wing of the White House so that nothing like that could ever happen again,” Wogaman explained, adding that the three also took turns meeting with Clinton for an hour or so each week, offering both prayer and counsel. Still, Wogaman maintains that by the time he was called in to help counsel him, Clinton was already repentant.
“There was never a need to confront him about it. He was already confronting himself,” said Wogaman, adding that “he was deeply embarrassed and chagrined.”
“If he hadn’t been genuinely interested, the meetings wouldn’t have lasted as long or continued for the rest of his term, as they did.” With the President’s busy schedule, an hour was considered to be a lengthy meeting. According to Wogaman, Clinton’s attitude was extremely intentional. “Sometimes the world had to wait,” said Wogaman.
Nonetheless, many in the media remained skeptical. Wogaman recalls an interview with Nightline’s Ted Koppel, in which he was told Koppel was “sure” that Clinton was using the public apology and clergy meetings alike to garner favor with a disenchanted public. Wogaman said that Koppel told him Clinton would surely gloat if he won in the impeachment hearings. However, the pastor never lost faith in the genuineness of the President’s repentance.
While the controversy drew him closer to Clinton, it had other ramifications for Wogaman as well. Within the Beltway, Wogaman and his church were branded by Clinton’s ongoing scandal. Senator Bob Dole ultimately left Foundry to avoid potential conflict with Clinton, who became his presidential campaign rival. Later, George W. Bush, upon arriving in Washington, was rumored to have sought out a Methodist church “other than Foundry” because of the well-known relationship of the Clintons to that church.
Obama’s Outspoken Pastor
Joshua DuBois was sitting in a restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, when he saw the Democratic National Convention on TV. There on the convention stage was then-Senator Barack Obama. Touching on his faith, Obama said, “We serve an awesome God in the blue states!”