All are men, two of them white and three black — including the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a graying lion of the civil rights movement. Two, the entrepreneurial dynamos Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion.
None of these pastors are affiliated with the religious right, though several are quite conservative theologically. One of them, the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, the pastor of a conservative megachurch in Florida, was branded a turncoat by some leaders of the Christian right when he began to speak out on the need to stop global warming.
But as a group they can hardly be characterized as part of the religious left either. Most, like Mr. Wallis, do not take traditionally liberal positions on abortion or homosexuality. What most say they share with the president is the conviction that faith is the foundation in the fight against economic inequality and social injustice.
“These are all centrist, social justice guys,” said the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, a politically active pastor of Azusa Community Church in Boston, who knows all of them but is not part of the president’s prayer caucus. “Obama genuinely comes out of the social justice wing of the church. That’s real. The community organizing stuff is real.”
The pastors say Mr. Obama appears to rely on his faith for intellectual and spiritual succor.
“While he may not put ‘Honk if You Love Jesus’ bumper stickers on the back of his car, he is the kind of guy who practices what he preaches,” said Mr. Caldwell, the senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston. “He has a desire to keep in touch with folk outside the Beltway, and to stay in touch with God. He seems to see those as necessary conditions for maintaining his internal compass.”