"I urge, then, first of
all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and
thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all
those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet
lives in all godliness and holiness."
I Timothy 2:1-2
About 100 evangelical leaders were
invited to dinner at the White House last week for what
was a prayer-filled event that's been compared to a
church camp meeting and a campaign rally.
Dubbed a "state dinner" for evangelical leaders, the
event was held specifically in the "honor of evangelical
leadership." The dinner was attended by dozens of
evangelical pastors, evangelists and activists who've
been involved in informally advising the administration
including well-known figures like Franklin Graham, James
Dobson, and Greg Laurie.
The dinner was also attended by Vice President Mike
Pence, Secretary of Homeland Security Ben Carson,
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
Alex Azar and Ambassador at-Large for International
Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. The event was
officially hosted by first lady Melania Trump.
"We are here today to celebrate America's heritage of
faith, family and freedom," Trump told the crowd. "As
you know in recent years, the government tried to
undermine religious freedom but the attacks on
communities of faith are over. We've ended it."
Trump continued by boasting about the promises his
administration has kept to a conservative evangelical
base that played a large role in helping him win the
2016 presidential election.
The president went on about how his administration has
taken several steps to protect religious liberty for
conservatives who object to things like abortion or gay
marriage, his administration's pro-life victories and
how the administration has spoken out about worldwide
Trump even took a moment to recognize Dobson and his
wife, Shirley on their 58th wedding anniversary. Trump
concluded by telling the crowd that they are "very
"The support you have given me has been incredible
but I really don't feel guilty because I have given you
a lot back — just about everything I promised,"
Trump said. "As one of our great pastors just said,
'Actually, you have given us much more than you have
promised.' And I think that is true."
Before the dinner, Trump met privately with a small
handful of evangelical leaders and their wives including
Texas megachurch pastor Jack Graham, Franklin Graham,
Jerry Falwell Jr. and the American Association of
Christian Counselors' Tim Clinton. Florida televangelist
Paula White and her son also reportedly joined the small
Jack Graham, the senior pastor at Prestonwood Baptist
Church in Plano, Texas, who has served as president of
the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Christian Post
that Trump opened up the mic during dinner to allow
evangelical leaders in the room to speak their minds.
What ensued, Graham said, was about 35 to 40 minutes of
pastors expressing their appreciation for what the Trump
administration has been able to do to progress a
socially conservative agenda in the last 18 months.
While Christians are often called to speak "truth to
power," Graham said the leaders in the room felt
called to speak "love to power."
"They were getting up and saying what we appreciate
and care about, expressing our faith and our love. It
was very similar to a meeting that you would have at a
church," Graham said, adding that it was like a
testimony meeting. "With that many preachers and
Christian leaders in the room, we believe the spirit of
God was very present. Scripture was shared, verses were
given to the president. The truth was delivered and love
However, some who spoke during the open mic session
warned that evangelicals must keep up the "vigilance"
because a negative outcome in the 2018 midterm elections
could put the gains of Trump's first 18 months in
"We need to maintain our vigilance in the upcoming
days. The concern is that this is a spiritual warfare,
this is a battle and ultimately battle is won on our
knees," Graham said. "It is very clear, we voiced
to the president that we need to pray, pray for him,
pray for our country."
Graham noted that many prayers were offered throughout
In a statement provided to CP, Dr. James Dobson, the
founder of Focus on the Family and Family Talk
radio, said the dinner was "wonderful" and unlike
any event he has attended at the White House before.
"I have served five presidents in the past 38 years
and this was perhaps the most exciting event in that
time," Dobson said. "The president spoke first
and thanked us generously for the support we have given
to him and his Administration since his inauguration. At
least 15 ministers and leaders then rose to thank Mr.
Trump for keeping his promises during the campaign and
since his inauguration."
"Great appreciation was expressed for defending the
sanctity of human life, for preserving religious
liberty, for the quality of judges appointed, for his
defense of Israel, for his support of the military, for
ending the Johnson Amendment that had denied the church
freedom of speech, and many other issues for which we
are grateful," Dobson added.
"Many in attendance pledged their intention to help
get out the vote for the midterm elections. There were
heartfelt prayers for the president and the first lady,
and also for Vice President Mike Pence and his wife,
Karen, who were also in attendance. It was a moving and
encouraging gathering, I think for the invitees and also
for our president."
Dallas megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress, one of Trump's
staunchest evangelical supporters, told Fox News that
the event almost turned into a bit of a "campaign
"Leader after leader stood up and started talking
about why they supported President Trump," Jeffress
Other notable evangelicals who attended the meeting
include Family Research Council President Tony Perkins,
conservative radio host Eric Metaxas, televangelist
Kenneth Copeland, megachurch Pastor Jentezen Franklin,
Faith & Freedom Coalition's Ralph Reed, Maryland Bishop
Harry Jackson, San Diego megachurch Pastor Jim Garlow,
former Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie
Floyd and Hispanic evangelical leader the Rev. Samuel
Other notable attendees from the administration include
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Trump's
daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump and her
husband, Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House
adviser. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway was
The meeting comes after a similar dinner involving about
40 to 50 evangelical leaders was held at the White House
last May before the National Day of Prayer.
The difference between Monday's dinner and last May's
dinner, Graham said, is Monday's dinner was far less
structured and allowed for more of a "conversation"
between the leaders and the president.
"It was basically like a state dinner in the way that
it was organized with the president, vice president,
members of the cabinet and so on," Graham explained.
"It was the first time that anyone knows about ... a
sitting president of the United States that has gathered
evangelicals at a state-type dinner."
Of course, the meeting drew the ire of some left-leaning
Christian critics. Some have claimed that the event was
nothing more than another attempt by Trump to pander to
his evangelical base.
"We have prayed for an opportunity to speak to the
president of the United States and we would have a voice
and an open door to express our views. We have a
president now who wants to hear from us," Graham,
who has been very active in his informal involvement
with the administration, said. "The answer to anyone
who says it is just pandering is: he is keeping his
"If it was just photo-ops and pandering, then nothing
would happen," he added. "But all these things
are happening and we are amazed that we are seeing these
things accomplished in the two years or so."
Some might argue that the evangelical dinner is an
attempt to distract from the troubling news of Trump's
lawyer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to campaign finance
violations and claiming that Trump ordered him to
arrange a hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to
keep her quiet over an earlier affair she had with Trump
during the 2016 election.
Graham explained that he received an invitation for the
event at least six weeks ago.
"I know some are saying that given the events of last
week, the president is just trying to get his boys
together. This has been planned for a minimum of six
weeks," Graham said, admitting that the event was
"timely" given the "very tough week last week."
"In providence in the plan of God, this was planned
weeks ago," Graham said. "Tonight was the night
and it was a very special night with a very special
leader and his wife with some great people in that room
who are working hard for our churches and our
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– is this a good rendition? I read where
an early rendition of Deuteronomy
33.2-3, when Asherah’s influence had not
yet been fully subordinated reads: ‘YHWH
came from Sinai and shone forth…. at his
right hand his own Asherah’.”