Orlando Magazine | 50 Most Powerful 2017: Philanthropy & Community Voices

3. Paula White
Pastor, New Destiny Christian Center; Presidential Adviser

How A Local Pastor Became Part Of Trump’s Inner Circle
By Jim Leusner

It was 15 years ago while watching television that New York billionaire Donald Trump first spotted Paula White. He immediately called her studio, talked with the televangelist, recounted three of her sermons and told White: “You have the ‘it’ factor.” He asked her to come to New York to meet him.

And so started her spiritual relationship with the real estate magnate who would become president. White says she later became close to Trump and his family, including daughter Ivanka. She says she has held hands in prayer with him before Trump’s former Apprentice television shows, during the presidential campaign and, now, in the White House.

White, who pastors a local nondenominational church, was front and center at Trump’s inauguration, giving an invocation and joined by five other prominent religious leaders. Since then, she has been photographed next to the president at the White House on days when he nominated a U.S. Supreme Court justice and signed an executive order on religious liberty. (In the inset photo above, White is shown in February with Trump and National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre.)

“My main assignment for him [Trump] is to pray for him and be his friend,” says White, who chairs the president’s Evangelical Advisory Council. “…The president trusts me.”

White says she acts as a “facilitator’’ on matters involving religion or areas in which she has expertise or contacts—including the needs of the poor in the U.S. and Africa, human trafficking, homelessness, and rehabilitating criminals through her prison ministry. She helps put Trump, White House staff, the State Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in touch with the right people during her almost weekly visits to Washington. A White House spokesperson confirmed the evangelist’s role.

Unlike his public image as a bully and sexist toward women, White says she has seen another side of Trump—a God-fearing man who is a “phenomenal listener” and is “extremely compassionate.” Trump, she says, is a family man with an open-door office policy at work.

Shortly before White’s granddaughter, Asher, was born last July, Trump wrote her a signed typed letter that read in part:

“Welcome to the world! You have fabulous parents and the most wonderful grandmother so you are already blessed.” 

Over the years, White has been best known as a preacher of the prosperity gospel, a controversial doctrine asserting that God will reward believers with material wealth on earth as well as eternal salvation. She became pastor of  New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka in 2012.  In 2015, she married keyboardist-songwriter Jonathan Cain from the band Journey.

Her church’s mentoring of school students, donating food to the needy, assisting families victimized by violence and ministering to help young women trapped in the adult entertainment industry has been inspiring, says Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer. “What I see her doing in the community,” he says, “is of tremendous value to Apopka and northwest Orange County.”

Read more at 50 Most Powerful 2017: Philanthropy & Community Voices.