This did not sit well with prospective attendees, many of whom claim that they had no intention of endorsing Trump, with one calling him “an insult and embarrassment. But he represents the country we have become.”
Bishop Paul S. Morton of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship tweeted on Friday that he had refused to meet with Trump, saying that the candidate lacks “respect for people.”
“I was asked 2 meet with Mr Trump too but I refused because until he learns how to respect people you can’t represent me thru my endorsement,” Morton wrote.
Faced with a potential disaster on their hands should the attending pastors address the reporters in front of the candidate, the Trump campaign called off the press conference and stated the meeting would remain private — no press allowed.
“On Monday, Mr. Trump will host an informational meet and greet with many members of the Coalition of African American Ministers,” Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks said on Sunday. “This is not a press event, but a private meeting, after which, a number of attendees are expected to endorse Mr. Trump’s campaign for President.”
In an op-ed published by EBONY magazine on Friday, Christian activists asked pastors who might back Trump to consider the implications of endorsing a candidate who is considered by many to be an unrepentant racist.
[columns] [column size=”1/2″]1 Dr. Brittney Cooper, professor, Rutgers University
“We write to you as fellow clergy, community organizers, scholars, socially aware Christians, and/or concerned voters who are deeply confounded by your decision to participate in an upcoming telecast meeting with Presidential contender Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump routinely uses overtly divisive and racist language on the campaign trail. Most recently, he admitted his supporters were justified forpunching and kicking a Black protester who had attended a Trump rally with the intent to remind the crowd that “Black Lives Matter.” Trump followed this action by tweeting inaccurate statistics about crime prevalence rates in Black communities — insinuating that Black people are more violent than other groups. Those statistics did not reflect the fact that most crimes are intraracial, meaning that most people do harm to people of their own race. They also did not speak to the crime of neoliberalism, capitalism, and white supremacy which kill thousands of black and nonblack people each day.
Trump’s racially inaccurate, insensitive and incendiary rhetoric should give those charged with the care of the spirits and souls of Black people great pause. As people of God, you are surely aware of the emotional, spiritual, and physical toll continued structural and state violence takes on Black people. Being continually reminded of reckless police disregard for Black life through the circulation of videos that show them murdering our young people, like 12-year old Tamir Rice, 7-year old Ayanna Stanley Jones, and 17-year old Laquan McDonald are both heartbreaking and stress-inducing.
Moreover as people of God, you know that our theology shapes our politics, and politics are a great indicator of our theology. What theology do you believe Mr. Trump possesses when his politics are so clearly anti-Black? He routinely engages in the kind of rhetoric that brings out the worst sorts of white racist aggression, not only toward Black people, but also toward Mexican-Americans and Muslim-Americans, too. Surely, we can agree that this kind of unloving and violent language does not reflect the politics of the Christ we profess?
We are urging the Coalition of African American ministers to return to the revolutionary politics of our religious roots. Historically, the Black church has fought for the livelihood of Black communities. Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner’s cries and religious protest during enslavement, Maria Stewart and Garfield T. Haywood’s preaching about the moral responsibility of the church to fight for racial justice during Reconstruction, Zora Neale Hurston’s prophetic ruminations on the problems that Black women faced during the Renaissance, and Ella Baker, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Thurman and so many other preaching men and women’s unwillingness to sit and die while facing the beast of Jim Crow is a testament to the influence and power of the Black church to enact social change in our communities.
Further, if we take James Cone’s words, “The gospel is found wherever poor people struggle for justice, fighting for their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” we must ask if the ‘gospel’ will be present at your upcoming telecast with Donald Trump? Will you speak to the experiences of your congregants who often pay their offerings and tithes with what little money that they have? Will you rightfully divide the word of truth on the behalf of the Black children in your congregations who attend lackluster schools, or the Black women who struggle to find reasonable health care, or even the elders who live from social security paycheck to paycheck?
We are concerned that your choice to meet with Mr. Trump, particularly in such a visible way, will not only de-radicalize the Black prophetic political tradition, but will also give Trump the appearance of legitimacy among those who follow your leadership and respect your position as clergy. Mr.Trump will use that legitimacy to gain Black political support, while using that support to govern in a way that harms Black communities. Surely, Black people have been misused and abused by politicians long enough. Surely we can count on our clergypersons not to actively facilitate this kind of treatment of our people, many of whom are the “least of these.”
Beyond the immediate issue of your choice to meet with Mr. Trump, this movement moment is a moment of great reckoning for the church at large, and the Black church in particular. Will we be a church that centers the love of Christ and service to the least of these at the core of our mission? Or will the integrity of the Black church be ruined because it is primarily concerned with creating alliances with powerful people who care more about buying votes than they do securing material equity? Will we be a church that openly welcomes without shame, blame, and harm all Black lives, including the lives of queer and trans Black people, or will we be a Church that only cares about the Black lives of people who look, think, act and talk like us? Will we be a Church that thinks actively about the ways that unregulated capitalism brings great harm to the communities we serve, or will we pursue powerful alliances — under the guise of a “prosperity gospel” some prophets profit from — with capitalist chieftans like Trump? Or will we insure that the capitalism that hurts the most of us won’t hurt the least among us?
What kind of Church will we be? And whose servants are we?
This Movement Moment is about far more than the police-killings of Black people. It is also a charge and challenge to all of us who work actively on behalf of and in service of Black lives. This moment invites us to imagine new possibilities for how we can liberate our people. The movement for Black lives “goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes” as Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter, has argued. “It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
By siding with a presidential candidate whose rhetoric pathologizes Black people, what message are you sending to the world about the Black lives in and outside of your congregations? Which Black lives do you claim to be liberating?
To stand with Jesus is to have great skepticism about systems of power and a willingness to question the motives of the powerful. Or, as James Baldwin once penned to Angela Davis: “If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name. If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night. Therefore: peace.”
For the cause of justice,
2 Min. Ahmad Greene-Hayes, writer, New Jersey
3 Darnell L. Moore, writer-in-residence, Center for the Study of African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice, Columbia University
4 Min. Joshua L. Lazard, C. Eric Lincoln Minister, Duke University
5 The Rev. Broderick Greer, Curate, Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Memphis, TN
6 The Rev. Dr. Regina D. Langley, Fellow, Center for Theology and Gender, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ
7 Rev. Cheni Khonje, Bridgeton, NJ
8 Paul Daniels II,Missionary in the Episcopal Church, USA
9 The Rev. Marcus Halley, Associate Priest, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, MO
10 Kiese Laymon, writer and teacher
11 Rahiel Tesfamariam, Founder/Publisher, Urban Cusp
12 Rev. Neichelle Guidry, Associate Pastor, Trinity UCC Chicago and creator, shepreaches
13 Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, Bayard Rustin Fellow, The Fellowship of Reconciliation
14 Rev. Andrew Wilkes, Executive Director, Drum Major Institute // Associate Pastor of Young Adults and Social Justice, The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York
15 Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters, Founder and Senior Pastor, Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church, Dallas, Texas; Chair, Martin Luther King, Jr. Center of Dallas.
16 Min. Rachel Livingston, Wilmington, DE
17 Cleve V. Tinsley IV, Co-founder, BLMHTX; Graduate Research Fellow, Rice University
18 Min. Ryan Hawthorne, Youth Missioner St. Stephen Episcopal Church, Houston, TX
19 Lawrence W. Rodgers, Pastor of the Westside Church of Christ, Baltimore MD.
20 Rev. Dr. Greg B. Jones, Executive Pastor, Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, New York, NY
21 Rev. Valerie Bridgeman, Ph.D, President and CEO of WomanPreach! Inc. and Associate Professor of Homiletics & Hebrew Bible, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
22 Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, director of clergy organizing, PICO National Network
23 Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle, Associate Pastor for Mission, Wayne Presbyterian Church, Wayne, PA
24 Min. Eruke Ohwofasa, Oakland, CA
25 Min. LaThelma C. Armstrong, NextGen Church, Princeton Junction, N.J.
26 The Rev. Rashad D. Grove, Pastor, First Baptist Church , Wayne, PA
27 The Rev. Shawn P. Torres Jr., Youth Minister, St. Luke A.M.E. Church, New York, NY
28 Candace Yonina Simpson, M.Div Candidate at Union Theological Seminary, New York
29 Michelle Y. Thompson, Community Minister, Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY
30 Carla Alleyne, Fellow, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
31 Julian DeShazier/J.Kwest, Pastor, University Church, Chicago, IL
32 Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes, Co-Minister to Young Adults at The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York. Yale Divinity School M. Div. candidate.
33 Jessica B. Davenport, Co-Founder, BLMHTX; Graduate Student, Rice University
34 Semaj Vanzant Sr., The Christ Experience, Oklahoma City, OK
35 Min. Rashad Raymond Moore, Assistant Minister, The Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York
36 Min. Wesley Morris, Faith Community Church, Greensboro, NC, Student at Union Theological Seminary in NYC
37 Rev. Nyle Fort, Princeton University
38 The Rev. Dr. Gary V. Simpson, Senior Pastor, The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, NY
39 The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson, Executive Pastor, The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, NY
40 Minister Verdell A. Wright, United Church of Christ, M.Div Howard University
41 Reggie L. Williams, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago Illinois
42 Elder Damien A. Conners, Executive Director, Excel Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT
43 Matthew Wesley Williams, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Forum for Theological Exploration
44 Rev. Thomas Grinter, AME Zion Church, Chicago Theological Seminary
45 Reverend Tiffani T. Douglas, Associate Minister Zion Hill Baptist Church, Atlanta Georgia
46 Rev. Shakeema North, Youth Pastor, The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, NY
47 Jamye Wooten, KineticsLive.com
48 The Rev. Jonathan Tennial, Pastor in Residence, The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, NY
49 Dr. Timothy Tee Boddie, General Secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. Washington DC
50 Rev. Leslie D. Callahan, PhD, St. Paul’s Baptist Church, Philadelphia PA
51 Pastor Brenda Brown-Grooms, New Beginnings Christian Community, Charlottesville, VA
52 Fran Watson, Social Justice Activist, Houston, Texas
53 Rev. Tamara Jackson, Sacred Safe Coordinator for American Baptist Churches of NJ
54 Minister Stephanie Grigg, Co-Youth Pastor at the Shekinah Youth Church of The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York // Princeton Theological Seminary, M. Div. candidate
55 Whitney R. Bond, M.Div Candidate, Candler School of Theology at Emory University
56 Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq., Associate General Secretary, Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace, National Council of Churches of Christ, USA
57 Willie Dwayne Francois III, Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Pleasantville, NJ[/column] [column size=”1/2″]58 Gregory Perkins, Executive Pastor, The View Church, Temecula, CA
59 Rev. Frances Cudjoe Waters, President North Texas Conference United Methodist African American Clergy
60 Rev. Dr. Kevin E. Donalson Sr, Zion Baptist Church, Columbia, SC
61 Brandi Holmes, Community Organizer; BLMHTX Activist, Houston, Texas
62 Rev. Nichole R. Phillips, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology, Religion and Culture, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
63 Biko Mandela Gray, Graduate student, religious studies, Rice university, political activist.
64 Rev. James H. Alexander, Senior Pastor, Zion Hill Baptist Church, Newnan, GA
65 Reverend Howard A. Peyton, Associate Minister, Zion Hill Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
66 Minister Naomi Christine Leapheart, United Church of Christ, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, Student at Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster, PA
67 Rev. Alyson Browne Johnson, M.Div., CPC
68 Marcus Burnett, Grant Chapel AME Church, Trenton, NJ
69 Rev. Lamont Anthony Wells, President -African Descent Lutheran Association of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Asst. to the Bishop/Director for Evangelical Mission -Metro NY Synod (ELCA)
70 Deontez Wimbley, Master of Divinity student at Boston University
71 Rev. Natalya A. Johnson MDiv, BCC, Vallejo, CA
72 Min. Susan A. Webley-Cox, Rivers of Living Water, Student at New York Theological Seminary
73 Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins, Senior Pastor, St. Matthew’s Baptist Church of Harlem
74 Deirdre Jones, Seminarian, Chicago Theological Seminary. Park Manor Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
75 Rev. Kenyatta R. Gilbert, Associate Professor of Homiletics, Howard University School of Divinity
76 Anthony Bennett, Senior Pastor, Mt. Aery Baptist Church, Bridgeport, CT
77 Rev. Morgan Dixon, Youth Minister, DuPage AME Church, Lisle, IL
78 Rev Erin Hayes, Rahway, NJ
79 Rev. Sandhya R. Jha, Director, the Oakland Peace Center
80 Elyse Ambrose, Ph.D. Student at Drew Theological School
81 The Reverend Roderick D. Belin, Pastor of Lee Chapel AME Church, Nashville, Tennessee
82 Rev. Gwen Thomas
83 Charles Atkins Jr., Supervisor of Religious Services, Garden State Youth Correctional Facility; Pastor of Église Évangélique Française de New York
84 Melanie C. Jones, Graduate Student, Chicago Theological Seminary
85 Rev. Kamal Hassan, Pastor, Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church, Richmond, CA
86 Min. Ronné Wingate Sims, Director of Children, Youth and Young Adults, Imani Community Church Oakland, CA
87 Rev. Reginald W. Williams Jr., Sr. Pastor, First Baptist Church of University Park, University Park, IL
88 Cassandra M Hill, Pastor, Covenant Freedom Church, Yeadon, PA
89 Rev. Dr. Lawrence Livingston, Sr. Pastor, Mother African Union Church, Wilmington, DE
90 Bishop Andre’ L. Jackson, Pastor, New Vision Full Gospel Baptist Church, East Orange, NJ
91 Elder Randle Eichelberger, Senior Pastor, New Spirit Church, Atlanta, GA
92 Rev. Rose Hardy, MA, CSW, Executive Pastor, Restoration Temple Ministries, NY
93 Phillip Haywood Shearin, Seminarian in The Episcopal Church, Trinity College in the University of Toronto
94 Daryl Joy Walters, Princeton Theological Seminary Student
95 Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins, Senior Pastor, South Euclid United Church of Christ
96 Jonathan LaMar Allen, Southern Methodist University | Perkins School of Theology
97 Rev. Anita Wright, Ruling Elder Memorial West Presbyterian Church, Newark, NJ
98 Dr. Tikia K. Hamilton, Princeton ’15, Columbia, ’04, Dartmouth, ’98
99 Secunda Joseph, Community Advocate, Truth 2 Power Houston, Texas
100 Min. Teddy R. Reeves, Executive Minister at Calvary Baptist Church Jamaica, NY and Program Administrator for the Center for Black Church Studies at Princeton Seminary
101 The Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Princeton Theological Seminary
102 The Rev. Shonda Nichole Gladden, Senior Pastor, Allen Temple AME Church, Marion, IN
103 Rev. Alisha Lola Jones, Founder, Insight Initiative | Ethnomusicology, Indiana University
104 Taft Quincey Heatley, Pastor-Elect, Shiloh Baptist Church, Alexandria, VA
105 Rev. Shaun J. Lee, Pastor, Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
106 Jacqueline J. Nelson, M.Div. candidate, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ
107 Kanisha Billingsley, MDiv., ThM, Senior Pastor, Dream Life Fellowship Church, Decatur, GA
108 Ronell Howard, Pastor, East Avenue United Methodist Church, Norwalk, CT
109 The Rev. Fernando Rodriguez, Witherspoon Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN
110 The Rev Dr. Donald Morton, Executive Pastor, Tabernacle Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, Wilmington DE
111 The Rev. Adolphus C. Lacey, PhD, Senior Pastor, The Bethany Baptist Church of Brooklyn
112 Bishop Dwayne D. Royster, Senior Pastor, Living Water United Church of Christ
113 Jevon Caldwell-Gross, Pastor, St. Marks UMC, Montclair, NJ
114 Samuel Phillips III, Pastor for Congregational Care, Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, New York[/column] [/columns]