Members of President Donald Trump’s faith advisory council are criticizing a recent closed-door meeting of evangelical leaders that is aimed at discussing the concerns about the evangelical movement’s close association with the president.
About 50 evangelical leaders gathered at Wheaton College in Chicago on Monday and Tuesday to address controversial issues such as racism, immigration and the role of women in church.
The meeting has drawn criticism from several evangelicals who questioned the absence of Christian leaders who support Trump.
“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 Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary, according to CBN News.
The participants at the two-day event include the Rev. A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center in New York City, Trillia Newbell, director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Fuller Theological Seminary President Mark Labberton; and church historian Mark Noll, Religion News Service reported.
Pastor Robert Jeffress, who leads First Baptist Dallas, contended that the meeting will have “very little impact on evangelicalism as a whole.”
“Many of them are sincere but they are having a hard time understanding that they have little impact on evangelicalism,” Jeffress told CBN News.
Other members of Trump’s faith advisory council expressed concern that the meeting was aimed at trying to take away the voices of those who support the president. One member who spoke with CBN News anonymously pointed out that many of the participants are part of the anti-Trump movement and hold progressive views on public policy.
Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, said that the event was aimed at identifying the “areas in which we may have missed the mark in terms of our witness to the world.”
While some of the participants wanted to take the focus off Trump, others stressed that the meeting was aimed at discussing the alliance between the president and white evangelicals.
“Yes, the reason we are getting together is the 2016 election and the role that white evangelicals played in electing Trump,” said Katelyn Beaty, editor-at-large of Christianity Today.
Beaty noted that the problems within evangelicalism are not going to be fixed with one meeting, but she said that she is grateful that the “conversation is happening.”
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, who co-chaired the meeting with Yang, said that he was not aware whether members of Trump’s faith advisory council were invited to the meeting or not, but he maintained that he looks forward to meeting with them in the future.
“These are our friends. It’s not us against them,” Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, said, as reported by CBN News.