If Floyd H. Flake had faced a choice between running for Congress and keeping his pastorate, he says the decision would have been easy: he would not have run for office. As it turned out, the Methodist clergyman was elected last November to the U.S. House of Representatives. Yet he continues to pastor the 4,000-member Allen A.M.E. Church in Jamaica, New York. A Democrat, Flake represents a community in Queens. He spoke with CHRISTIANITY TODAY about his legislative goals and the challenge of combining ministry with elective office.

When you decided to run for office, did you plan to keep your pastorate?

Absolutely. The church members supported my congressional campaign in large measure because they knew my commitment was to remain there. Clearly, if it had been a choice between Congress or the pulpit, I would not have run.

Why did you run for Congress?

Former U.S. Rep. Joseph Addabbo (D-N.Y.) had served the district for 26 years. During the last couple of terms, the district turned predominantly. When Addabbo died, the community wanted to elect a different kind of leader. So a number of clergy and community leaders met with me. My wife and I had to do a lot of serious praying to determine if this was the leading of the Lord. We resolved that if it was his will it would happen; and if not, it wouldn’t.

Obviously the Lord was with us, because after a special election in June 1986 to fill Addabbo’s seat, we had to go through a court test. [Flake lost the special election and challenged the outcome in court because his name was omitted from absentee ballots. He lost in court, but the case rallied supporters.] People galvanized around my candidacy, and ministers got their people involved. By the time of the primary in September, ...

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