The Rev. Franklin Graham, who last month was criticized by the NAACP over his remarks about President Obama's Christian faith, met with the group in North Carolina on Tuesday to discuss the issue and how they could best work together to fight domestic and foreign injustice.
The group's discussion centered not only around Graham's recent comments on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," but also on his hesitancy to support a president who believes in abortion and same-sex marriage.
Mark DeMoss, president of The DeMoss Group and the firm who handles public relations for Rev. Graham and Samaritan's Purse, attended the meeting and said the tone and outcome were productive.
"I would describe the meeting as amicable, polite, direct and constructive," DeMoss told The Christian Post. "The meeting started and ended in prayer and that's always a recipe for a productive discussion."
This latest controversy began when Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and the CEO of Samaritan's Purse, appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," in late February and was asked if he believed President Obama is a Christian.
"I think you have to ask President Obama," said Graham. "You can ask me do I believe if you're a Christian but I think the best thing for a person is to ask you directly. He's come out saying he's a Christian so I think the question is what is a Christian."
Soon after Graham's comment grabbed headlines worldwide, the NAACP wrote an open letter to him saying they were "disturbed and disappointed" by some of his remarks.
"As Christian denominational leaders, pastors, and, most importantly, followers of Jesus Christ; we are greatly troubled by recent attempts by some religious leaders to use faith as a political weapon," the letter read. "We were disturbed and disappointed by statements made by Rev. Franklin Graham during an interview on MSNBC that questioned whether President Obama is a Christian."
Almost immediately, Graham responded with a public apology. "I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama," he stated. "The president has said he is a Christian and I accept that (and have said so publicly on many occasions). I apologize to him and to any I have offended for not better articulating my reason for not supporting him in this election – for his faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a candidate."
In early March, leaders from the NAACP phoned Graham to request a personal meeting and after a short discussion, Graham invited the group to his Charlotte, N.C., complex for a tour and lunch.
DeMoss said the group sat down for an extended lunch after the tour and that's where the NAACP and Graham aired out issues both sides believed to be important.
"There were basically three issues that both Rev. Graham and the NAACP leaders addressed," said DeMoss. "The first was one, which is what precipitated the meeting, was their concern that Rev. Graham was raising doubts over President Obama's Christian beliefs by his response on MSNBC. They didn't feel he applied the same standards when asked about Santorum or Gingrich."
The reference to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, both of whom are seeking the GOP presidential nomination, became apparent when the host on MSNBC's program asked Graham if he thought they were committed Christians.
Graham responded affirmatively, saying he indeed thought both were. Santorum and Gingrich are both practicing Catholics.
The evangelical leader also told his guest why he could not support President Obama or anyone, regardless of their party affiliation, who advocates abortion and gay marriage.
DeMoss said several of their pastors agree with Graham, that they too did not support either issue.
However, their overriding concern was that many times they felt white, evangelical leaders such as Graham only cared about social issues and that the divisions created by the two major political parties were hurting race relations and further alienating blacks and whites.
"Franklin also wanted to address his concern for the slaughter taking place in Sudan," added DeMoss. "Millions are being killed at the hands of the government and Franklin is passionate about the Sudan people and he asked the NAACP for their help in applying pressure to Obama to help with the peace process."
Samaritan's Purse has built over 365 churches in Sudan and Graham has made the country a top priority. He has written President Obama and asked him to invite the Sudanese leader to America for a "Camp David type" meeting to discuss how to end the nations bloodshed.
Although the NAACP leaders acknowledged Graham's concern for foreign issues, they indicated they preferred to see Graham and other white evangelicals focus of domestic issues, such as the case surrounding South Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
An unarmed neighborhood watch leader shot Martin to death and the NAACP has demanded justice in the shooting case.
"We came to an understanding that the black church is going to stand with Franklin Graham and his passion on Sudan and asked him, in turn, to stand with us calling for justice for Trayvon Martin in Orlando," said Pastor Jamal Bryant, a member of the NAACP's Religious Affairs Committee, according to WSOCTV.
DeMoss also agreed the meeting was a success and said that the group issued an invitation to Graham to join the NAACP.
"The best outcome was how the meeting ended – that the dialogue would be on-going," said DeMoss. "I believe both sides left pleased with where things could go from here."