Trump's evangelical advisers reject calls to abandon president

U.S. President Donald Trump is seen on a screen as he delivers remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2017. | Reuters/Carlos Barria

Members of President Donald Trump's evangelical advisory board have rejected calls to resign from the group despite criticisms from other religious figures.

Last week, Howard-John Wesley pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia released a list of Trump's evangelical advisers, decrying the fact that none of them have stepped down in the wake of the president's comments about the unrest in Charlottesville.

"While CEOs are walking away from Trump here are the names of his Evangelical Religious Advisory Council—men & women of God who have said nothing about his handling of Charlottesville or stepped down from his side. Is your pastor on this list? Shame when business is more righteous than church," Wesley wrote.

Several corporate leaders, including 3M's Inge Thulin and Campbell's Denise Morrison, have decided to leave Trump's manufacturing council following his comments about the incident in Charlottesville, where a group of white supremacists protested the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

A.R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center megachurch in Brooklyn, New York, announced on Friday that he had quit from the president's Evangelical Advisory Board, but none of the remaining members have resigned as yet.

Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area, 40,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church, said in an interview with The Christian Post that he believes it would be "immoral" for the members of the board to abandon the president.

He noted that the advisory board, now called The Faith Leaders Initiative, is not an official council or a government body, and it functions in a primarily pastoral and spiritual capacity.

"What we may say to the president privately in calling him out, or expressing our concerns anything he or a member of his team might do ... people want us to expose the president or to express our disdain for this, that or the other. That's not our responsibility as I view it," Graham said. "Do we want him to be more of a uniter right now? Absolutely," he added.

Graham noted that President Barack Obama also had a faith advisory group during his term, but there were no calls for members of the board to resign when the former president came out in support of same-sex marriage despite strong opposition from the advisers.

Bishop Harry Jackson, who pastors at Hope Christian Center in Beltsville, Maryland, lamented that some pastors are now ascribing the problem of racism, which has plagued the country for 400 years, to a president that has been in office for a mere seven and a half months. He expressed his belief that the government would not be able to bring a "divided society" together and stressed that what America is experiencing is fundamentally a "sin problem" that the world cannot solve.

Johnnie Moore, who also serves as an informal evangelical adviser to the White House, issued a statement clarifying that evangelicals oppose racism in every way, but he noted that the advisers have a responsibility to "fulfill our spiritual and national duty" and continue their relationship with the Trump administration.