Earlier this week, several dozen evangelical leaders gathered in Illinois “to discuss the future of evangelicalism amid concerns their movement has become too closely associated with President Trump’s polarizing politics,” according to the Religion News Service.
Ever since word of the meeting got out, some of Trump’s most vocal evangelical supporters have been trying to discredit it, saying that the people involved are not actually Christian leaders and that real leaders such as themselves were not invited.
Robert Jeffress, a top evangelical ally of Trump’s, told One News Now on Monday that he was displeased by the potential of such a meeting to criticize Trump, who “is, without a doubt, the most faith-friendly president we’ve ever had.”
On Tuesday, a CBN story co-authored by Trump enthusiast David Brody reported that unnamed people had walked out of the event after it turned into “crazy Trump bashing.”
Brody and his CBN colleague Jenna Browder interviewed a few members of Trump’s faith advisory board, none of whom, they say it’s “important to note,” were “present or ever officialy invited,” including Jeffress and former Southern Baptist Convention official Richard Land, who dismissed the meeting participants as nobodies, and Trump faith advisory council spokesman Johnnie Moore, who said he was praying for the participants and respects their religious liberty rights “even when they are unkind”:
Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas is part of the president’s evangelical advisory group and says this gathering is of no consequence.
“It’s a meeting that will have very little impact on evangelicalism as a whole,” Jeffress told CBN News. “Many of them are sincere but they are having a hard time understanding that they have little impact on evangelicalism.”
Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary also questioned the weight of the meeting given the absence of some well-known names.
“Any definition of ‘thought leaders’ and any definition of evangelicalism that excludes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Franklin Graham is a pale imitation – anemic and incomplete,” said Land.
Other members of Trump’s faith advisory council spoke to CBN News off the record, one voicing his concern over what he sees as this group of evangelicals trying to steal the microphone from those who support Trump. He pointed to the fact that many invited to participate are part of the anti-Trump movement and hold more progressive views on public policy than traditional evangelical Christian voters who supported Trump in 2016.
Johnnie Moore, an unofficial spokesman for the faith advisory council, was among the many pro-Trump evangelicals not invited.
“We don’t take it personally; we just pray for them,” Moore said in a statement to CBN News. “I’ve said it many, many times, but I’ll say it again: we have been honored to fight to protect religious liberty that even extends to protecting the rights of those who disagree with us on religious grounds, even when they are unkind.”