From the moment President Trump became a political candidate, he’s been a divisive figure to evangelicals. This past Tuesday, that divisiveness extended to his own evangelical advisory board with the resignation of Brooklyn megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard.
My statement regarding my resignation from the President’s Evangelical Advisory Board. pic.twitter.com/Ocae6SQxjZ
— A. R. Bernard (@ARBernard) August 18, 2017
Bernard released a statement on Twitter saying that while he had hoped to be of influence to President Trump on “faith and inner city” issues, he no longer felt he could stay on the board.
“It became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration. I quietly stepped away from my involvement with the Board several months ago, and submitted my letter of formal resignation as of Tuesday, August 15, 2017.”
Board is Little More than a ‘Photo Op’
Bernard’s withdrawal comes after an interview with CNN where Bernard suggested the evangelical advisory board was nothing more than a “photo op.” This is similar to sentiments expressed by others involved with the board.
“During the campaign and right up to the present moment, there were meetings and there were group photos after that, but nothing substantive moving forward,” Bernard told CNN.
Other Evangelicals Double-Down Support
Bernard’s resignation reflects an increasing polarization between evangelical Christian leaders. Some, such as Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, and Paula White have doubled-down on their support. Jeffress has praised Trump’s handling of the recent Charlottesville controversy, Falwell has been on cable news after the president referred news outlets to him, and Paula White has said Christians have a mandate to support Trump “because God says that He raises up and places all people in places of authority.” White made these comments on Jim Baker’s television show. “It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.”
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 20, 2017
Southern Evangelical Seminary president and evangelical advisory board member Richard Land said that while he disagrees with Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville incident, he will continue to stay on the board.
“If I had been advising him and he had shown me a copy of that speech … the thing is there is no copy of that speech. This is the problem. We get more of the president’s id than we do any other president,” Land told the Christian Post. He doesn’t stop to reflect on saying [things] in a more careful manner.”
Land’s comments reflect the feelings of many church leaders who continue to support President Trump, acknowledging his flaws and problems while still believing he is a friend of the evangelical community who can be persuaded to make positive change. However, Bernard said for him the potential for influence wasn’t worth the trade-off.
Matter of Moral Standards
“My moral standards are above any agenda that I have,” Bernard said. “If pushing an agenda is going to violate my moral standards and I’m going to violate those, then I don’t have any moral standards. Moral standards create a boundary in which you work. It creates limitations as to how far you are willing to go in any given circumstance or situation.”
Giving further reason for his decision to distance himself from Trump and his evangelical supporters, Bernard says, “especially when clergy are involved in politics we must make sure we establish boundaries before going into it. Otherwise, the political climate and political agendas can push us to cross those moral boundaries.”