Hillary Clinton’s spiritual adviser apologizes for plagiarizing devotional published in new book

Hillary Clinton and Rev. Bill Shillady with “Strong for a Moment Like This,” a book of devotionals Shillady and others wrote for Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Hillary Clinton and Rev. Bill Shillady with “Strong for a Moment Like This,” a book of devotionals Shillady and others wrote for Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. Courtesy of the Rev. Bill Shillady

Hillary Clinton’s pastor and spiritual adviser apologized this week for plagiarizing part of a devotional – one that he sent to the presidential candidate the day after the election – that was published in his new book, according to published reports.

The Rev. Bill Shillady, a Duke Divinity School alum and executive director of the New York-based United Methodist City Society, apologized Monday for borrowing heavily from an Indiana pastor’s blog post when he emailed his daily devotional to Clinton on Nov. 9, the day after she lost to President Donald Trump.

Shillady, a friend of the Clinton family since 2002, began crafting devotionals with a Bible verse, a meditation and a prayer, shortly after Clinton announced she would run for president in 2015. He continued the practice through the end of 2016.

He selected 365 for a book called “Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton,” which Abingdon Press released Tuesday.

But CNN and The Washington Times reported Monday that one of those devotionals was “borrowed heavily” from a March 2016 blog post by the Rev. Matthew Deuel, a pastor at Mission Point Community Church in Warsaw, Ind.

According to The Washington Times, Shillady wrote Clinton the day after the election to assure her better days were ahead.

“Sunday is coming,” he wrote. “For the disciples and Christ’s followers in the first century, Good Friday represented the day that everything fell apart. All was lost. The momentum and hope of a man claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah who was supposed to change everything, had been executed.”

CNN reported Monday that Deuel had contacted the network after it published an excerpt to say that Shillady’s devotional appeared to be “inspired” by something he had written. Shillady told CNN that he’s often inspired by material on the internet but didn’t recall lifting text verbatim from another pastor.

“I do not remember cutting and pasting from a particular column so much as bits and pieces from a variety of places on the Internet,” he said.

Shillady later apologized to Deuel in a statement that was published by CNN.

“In preparing the devotional on the morning of November 9, I was determined to provide comfort with the familiar adage that ‘It’s Friday But Sunday is Coming,’” he said. “I searched for passages that offered perspective of this theme. I am now stunned to realize the similarity between Matt Deuel’s blog sermon and my own. Clearly, portions of my devotional that day incorporate his exact words. I apologize to Matt for not giving him the credit he deserves.”

Deuel told the Times he was “shocked” when he read Shillady’s email to Clinton. But he said he wouldn’t be “publicly pursuing anything” against Shillady.

“The last thing the world needs right now is two pastors having a public dispute over a blog,” Deuel said. “The reality is, there’s nothing new under the sun.”

Shillady, an early riser, told the News & Observer this month that he crafted the devotionals first thing every day, and that he wrote them based on what was happening in the campaign, around the world or in Clinton’s life at the moment. Several months into the project, he enlisted the help of other pastors and lay people.

“They were written specifically for her,” Shillady told the N&O. “Sometimes they were about strength and perseverance, qualities the campaign demanded endlessly. Sometimes I would write about joy, with a reminder to seek and savor the exciting and exhilarating moment, like the birth of her grandson.”

Clinton, a lifelong Methodist, has said she read the devotionals first thing each day and that they helped to keep her centered. After the election, she encouraged Shillady to publish a collection of them.

Shillady said he couldn’t be sure if additional text from his book was plagiarized. His publisher, Abingdon Press, told CNN it is confident the rest of the book is attributed properly.

“We worked with Rev. Shillady to faithfully cite all of the many contributors to the devotionals,” Editor-in-Chief Mary Catherine Dean told CNN. “His failure to attribute portions of the November 9 devotional does not change the fact that the 365 passages in the book were sent to Hillary Clinton, are part of the historical record of her campaign, and gave her the inspiration to stay strong.”

Clinton has not commented on the reports.

Martha Quillin: 919-829-8989, @MarthaQuillin