President Trump has appointed author and controversial pastor Paula White to work in the Office of Public Liaison as the advisor over his Faith and Opportunity Initiative. The appointment gives White an official role in Trump’s inner circle, where she has been influential for some time.
“For nearly fifteen years, I’ve had countless conversations with Donald Trump about the Bible,” White told the Christian Post in a 2016 interview. “Often when I was in the city, I would just swing by his office and we would talk. We talked about a wide variety of topics that ranged from faith to family to world events.” She said she is firmly convinced of the sincerity of the president’s faith, saying, “I know of his love for the Word of God.”
Pastor Paula White Now the Initiative’s Advisor
On May 3rd, 2018, President Trump issued an Executive Order on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, the goal of which was to support “faith-based and community organizations, to the fullest opportunity permitted by law, to compete on a level playing field for grants, contracts, programs, and other Federal funding opportunities.” Stating that such organizations are essential to the health of communities, “the Federal Government welcomes opportunities to partner with such organizations through innovative, measurable, and outcome-driven initiatives.”
The order’s signing took place on the National Day of Prayer at the White House that year. In a statement, the White House said the overall purpose of the initiative is to protect religious freedom and listed some of the ways the Trump administration had done so up until that point, including supporting baker Jack Phillips. The initiative faced criticism from those who feared it went too far and would lead to discrimination, as well as those who thought it was insufficient to protect religious liberty because it was too vague. A writer for Religion News Service expressed skepticism, calling the executive order “belated” in comparison to similar initiatives from President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.
Over a year later, the administration has finally named the initiative’s Advisor, who seems to be a logical choice for the role. Pastor Paula White has had close ties to the president for some time now, having been a regular guest at the White House and described as Trump’s “personal pastor.” The New York Times reports, “As a liaison to Mr. Trump, Ms. White has regularly facilitated meetings for conservative pastors and White House officials, assuring the president’s core constituencies that he addresses their interests.” Trump also asked White to lead the inauguration prayer on January 20th, 2017.
Prosperity Gospel Controversy
Pastor Paula White is a controversial figure in the evangelical world for a few reasons, but primarily because of her association with prosperity gospel teachings. When the Christian Post asked White about claims that she preaches a prosperity gospel, she denied them, saying she believes God uses suffering to teach believers “so much.” She also said she holds to traditional Christian doctrines, such as the inerrancy of Scripture, Jesus’ divinity, and that Jesus died to save us from our sins. Said White, “I have been accused of so many things that are so untrue. Some of those accusations persist despite their being entirely false, but I’ll just continue preaching the Gospel.”
However, there seems to be some basis for the criticism against White. For example, a page on her website asks people for money based on biblical teaching to honor God with their “first fruits.” “Your FIRST FRUITS Offering for 2019 WILL release you from your past and align your future for His blessing!” reads the page. “I am decreeing and declaring 2019 will become a year of supernatural recovery and advancement, and I am agreeing with you now that with God all things are possible.”
Another page on White’s website site asks people to “Sow $130 Favor Seed” in order to obtain resources so people can learn how to gain God’s favor: “Is there an enemy of debt, depression, a job, or a health issue prevailing against you? Sow a ‘Favor Seed’ in faith today!” The Gospel Coalition also reported on a sermon in which White asked for “someone that God is speaking to” to sow a resurrection seed of $1,144 to her ministry, a number based on John 11:44.
Whatever concerns evangelicals might have about White, she is now established in the Office of Public Liaison, which according to The New York Times, is responsible for “outreach to groups and coalitions organizing key parts of the president’s base.” And White seems optimistic about the president’s chances for re-election next year. She told the New York Post, “I’ve never seen the base more energized than it is now.”