Ogilvie Won’t Return; 4 Finalists Remain

Posted June 10, 2003 at 6:34pm

Former Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie has declined an invitation to return to his position as spiritual adviser to the Senate, opening the door for another member of the clergy to relocate to Washington to assume the duty as the chamber’s new cleric.

Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and two members of the search committee confirmed Ogilvie’s decision in separate interviews Tuesday, and the Majority Leader said the list of candidates to fill the chaplain’s post has been narrowed down to four people.

While Frist and others close to the search process would not divulge the names of the candidates under consideration, the Tennessee Senator did say a new chaplain is likely to be named by the Fourth of July recess.

“I would like to, sometime in the next three weeks, bring it to close,” Frist said of the candidate search. “But right now I am still talking to each one individually.”

The Chaplain position, which pays $130,000 a year, has been vacant since Ogilvie stepped down March 15 after an eight-year tour of duty. The Senate Chaplain is charged with opening the Senate with a prayer each day as well administering religious services to the Senators, staff and their families as well as conducting Bible study sessions.

The Office of the Chaplain Web site estimates the Chaplain serves “more than six thousand people.”

Since late last year, the bipartisan search committee has been interviewing candidates from across the country to replace Ogilvie, who announced his retirement to focus his full attention on his ailing wife. Ogilvie’s wife, Mary Jane, died April 1.

Several of his Senate friends thought he would reconsider his retirement, putting the search for a replacement on hold temporarily. However, Ogilvie decided not to return.

“He is not receptive to doing that,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Chaplain search committee. “His family is all out in California.”

Inhofe said he “personally was kind of hoping [Ogilvie] would be in a position to reconsider” his retirement, a sentiment that was expressed by Senators on both sides of the aisle.

“We would have loved to have him come back,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who served alongside Inhofe on the search committee. “He has a very special status with us.”

No one close to the process would provide names of candidates to succeed Ogilvie, but the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported on several occasions that Bishop George McKinney is a “finalist” for the job and recently told the newspaper he is thankful that “the Lord has given me patience.”

The San Diego bishop preaches in the heart of San Diego’s inner city and serves on the national board of the Church of God in Christ.

Dozens of other candidates around the nation also applied for the job, and some were invited to Washington to give the Senate’s opening prayer earlier this year.

More recently, a number of guest Chaplains, including House Chaplain Dan Coughlin, have filled in and offered the opening prayer each day.

Frist, who is eager to get a permanent Chaplain in place, will make the final decision. The Tennessee Republican said he has already interviewed the candidates — “all four at least twice” — in an effort to find the right person.

“It is hugely important, because it is so important to everybody,” Frist said. “So I have spent a lot of personal time looking at tapes, [and] talking to people.”

Inhofe described the search process as thorough and noted the committee interviewed “a lot of good applicants.”

“We did have long interviews,” Inhofe said. “We had breakfasts almost on a daily basis and a lot of really good ones.”

Mikulski, too, said she thinks Frist has a good slate of candidates.

“Of course we are looking for someone to kind of keep the tradition of Lloyd Ogilvie, who was the Chaplain not only to the Senators but to the [Senate] family,” she said. “I feel very good about the search and look forward to coming to a conclusion now.”