Head of White House faith-based office stepping down

(Photo: Catholic Charities USA)

The head of the White House Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships office, which links government to secular and religious non-profit organizations to advance policy goals, is stepping down at the end of this week.

President Obama made the announcement Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., an annual event where Christian leaders gather for table fellowship and prayer with the president.

Joshua Dubois, 30, had been at his side "in work and prayer – for years now," said Obama. "He's a young reverend, but wise in years. He's worked on my staff. He's done an outstanding job."

The Pentecostal reverend, who began his work with Obama in 2009, will now teach at New York University and write a book based on devotionals he sent to the president, according to the New York Times.

In a speech to more than 3,000 participants at the event, Obama recounted how Dubois sent him a daily meditation by e-mail.

"[A] snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on," the president said. "And it has meant the world to me."

Dubois, a Nashville native, said in response via Twitter that he was "[h]umbled beyond words. Grateful to God for a good President, and a good friend. Thankful for all of you. And excited about the future."

The office links the federal government and non-profit organizations, both secular and faith-based to serve Americans in need, according to the White House.

Policy goals of the faith-based office included strengthening the role of community groups in the U.S. economic recovery, reducing unintended pregnancies, supporting maternal health and reducing the need for abortion. Under Dubois leadership, the office also promoted responsible fatherhood and strong communities and furthered interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, the senior pastor of a megachurch in Florida - Northland, A Church Distributed - and the first faith-based advisory council appointed by Obama, said Dubois was able to increase "accessibility to policy conversations by faith communities," according to the Times.

The office was established in 2001 during the presidency of George W. Bush. In 2012, the office released a report offering guidance on public/private partnerships between the government and faith-based groups. But advocates for the separation of church and state criticized failing to resolve the issue of federally-funded groups that are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion when it comes to hiring.

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