Nearly 100 Evangelical Leaders Met With White House Staff for 'Listening Sessions' Last Week
Donald Trump's White House expanded its engagement with faith leaders last week by holding three different listening sessions that featured nearly 100 different Christian leaders and activists, participants have told The Christian Post.
Just weeks after a gathering of about 30 evangelical leaders met for an all-day workday in Washington on July 10 that was highlighted by a prayer session over the president in the Oval Office, the White House Office of Public Liaison expanded its evangelical outreach by inviting faith leaders who have not yet been involved in previous meetings with the administration to voice their concerns and thoughts.
Johnnie Moore, a prominent evangelical figure who serves as an informal adviser to the White House, told CP that he attended all three meetings held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington.
"The White House has continued to have listening sessions with evangelical leaders and they had three more this week. Almost 100 evangelicals [participated]," Moore, who heads a public relations company that serves many notable evangelical pastors, said Friday. "Each listening session was about two hours and involved briefings from administration officials and an opportunity for folks to express their thoughts on various issues."
Moore explained that each meeting featured different groups of leaders. The Thursday morning meeting, Moore said, featured a multi-denominational group of ministry leaders while the Thursday afternoon meeting featured mostly leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention.
"It wasn't just the group from two weeks ago, it was other people," Moore stated. "The White House is interested in hearing from a large group of leaders."
Others who participated in at least one of the three meetings are California evangelist Greg Laurie, social conservative radio host and apologist Michael Brown and former Southern Baptist Convention presidents Jack Graham and Ronnie Floyd. Moore told CP that Anne Graham Lotz, an evangelist and daughter of Billy Graham, was present for at least one of the meetings. Florida televangelist Paula White, one of Trump's most trusted faith advisers, also participated.
Floyd, who pastors Cross Church in Arkansas, told CP on Sunday that he participated in both of the Thursday meetings.
"The goal has been evidently to try and widen the circles," Floyd explained. "The meetings two to three weeks ago were mostly some of the main faith leaders who had been around ever since we had been asked to serve in helping a year ago along the way especially after the president was elected to advise him on matters. That is all we have every done is that and to pray for him."
According to Moore, the listening sessions included quick briefings on various issues from officials in White House's legislative and judicial affairs departments. Most of the meetings, Moore added, consisted of open-table discussions between the leaders with White House officials in the room taking notes.
"It's a listening session. It's not about these leaders coming so they can be lectured to," Moore said. "It's about actually making an opportunity to come to the White House as citizens and faith leaders and talking about what was on their mind."
The meetings with White House officials gives the faith leaders the opportunity to learn details about issues that they wouldn't normally hear in the news. Moore said that one of the biggest areas of frustration amongst the leaders in the different meetings was the delay in judicial appointments. However, the faith leaders were told that the delay for many of these appointments was because of the Senate's "blue slip" tradition.
"The leaders expressed frustration when they learned about a blue slip system, which is an arcane Senate tradition, where a senator from a state in which an appointed judge resides would have to hand a blue slip of paper to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee as a courtesy before it proceeds in hearing," Moore said. "The Democrats are using the blue slips as kind of veto when it is just Senate tradition and there is no rule or anything. I would say a lot of the leaders zeroed in on judicial appointments and were surprised to hear the way in which the Democrats were being obstructionists as it relates to these judicial appointees."
Floyd added that besides judicial appointments, another issue that was brought up in the meetings he was in was Obamacare.
Moore asserted that as time goes on, there "will be more" of these types of meetings between administration officials and the faith leaders.
"What I understand is they intend on inviting lots and lots and lots of leaders to listening sessions among various constituencies," Moore said. "There will be more of them. They want this to be people's house and they want to make sure there is no problem getting in touch with them and expressing points of view and those points of view are taken into account."
Floyd agreed there will be "deeper engagement" between the White House and faith leaders.
"Regardless of what people say, ... there are two things we need to be encouraged [about]," he said. "First, this administration has proven that they care about what people of faith want and what people of faith are concerned about and they are addressing them. It is very obvious that they are addressing them. Secondly, this administration ... is zealous for people to pray for them. Obviously, they need it and we all need it in our country and they are very willing to pursue God about matters in this relationship and asking people to pray for them."