Hillary Clinton on faith, family and the importance of church

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers the keynote address to the United Methodist Women Assembly at the Kentucky International Convention Center, Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Louisville, Ky.

Frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton has given an uncharacteristically personal address in which she shared about her Christian beliefs.

As 7,000 women gathered for the United Methodist Women's Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, Hillary took the opportunity to speak of the impact that faith has had on her career, while also underlining the importance of equal rights for men and women.

As a young girl growing up in Park Ridge, Illinois, Christian influences were all around her, she shared. Her grandmother was fond of singing hymns and she remembers her father praying every evening.

"That made a very big impression on me," Clinton said.

"My father had been a football player, had been a petty officer during World War II in the Navy; he was a rough gruff kind of man, self-made, independent, small businessman, and there he was - humble on his knees before God every single night."

The family also went to a local church, which Clinton said "helped to deepen my faith and ground it".

"I love that church," she added. "I love the doors that it opened in my understanding of the world."

It is this understanding rooted in a personal faith that has led Clinton to campaign against such issues as human trafficking.

"Like the disciples of Jesus, we cannot look away," she declared. "'You feed them,' he said. 'Feed them, rescue them, heal them, love them'."

An unwavering commitment to her beliefs has also provided a base upon which to promote the rights of women. She has long been a loud voice in the fight for equality, perhaps most famously declaring "human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights" at a women's conference in Beijing in 1995, a time during which she was First Lady of the US.

On Saturday, Clinton reinforced her belief in this statement and recommitted to championing the rights of women worldwide, as well as in her native America.

"There are too many women in our country today trying to build a life and a family that don't just face ceilings on their aspirations and opportunities.  It's as if the floor is collapsing beneath them," she said.

"These are our sisters, our daughters, granddaughters. Some are hungry, not just for nutritious food but for opportunity, for chance to thrive, for their own piece of the American dream. Don't think we can sit back and wait for someone else to step forward and solve these problems."

It's been interesting to watch the reaction to Clinton's remarks; the cynicism with which UK Prime Minister David Cameron's recent comments on his own Christian faith were met has not featured nearly so prominently.

Rather many have commended Clinton's openness, while Methodists will no doubt welcome her praise of the Church which she says "gave us the great gift of personal salvation but also the great obligation of social gospel".

"It's really like a homecoming to be here with all of you across our country and around the world," she added. "To celebrate the great web of compassion and compassion and connection that ties all Methodists together."

Devika Bhat of The Times, however, has noted that Clinton's "move into religious rhetoric will be considered a crucial part of the American political culture by those in the know...speaking of religion remains crucial in the US to attract conservative voters, who continue to constitute a vast swathe of the population.

"It is, perhaps, the biggest sign yet that Hillary Clinton intends to stand for the White House in 2016," she suggests.