WASHINGTON (RNS) — In an exclusive interview with Religion News Service, President Trump said in a written statement that he no longer identifies as a Presbyterian and now sees himself as a non-denominational Christian.
“Though I was confirmed at a Presbyterian church as a child, I now consider myself to be a non-denominational Christian,” Trump, who has repeatedly identified as a Presbyterian in the past, said in a written response to RNS.
Saying that his parents “taught me the importance of faith and prayer from a young age,” Trump went on to say that “Melania and I have gotten to visit some amazing churches and meet with great faith leaders from around the world. During the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, I tuned into several virtual church services and know that millions of Americans did the same.”
The revelation about Trump’s religious identity appeared in an interview that was conducted in writing and covered a variety of faith topics, ranging from the president’s own spiritual life to his plans for the White House office tasked with engaging faith groups.
Questions for the interview, which were first negotiated with the White House press office, were presented to the president by Paula White, a Florida pastor and the head of the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, according to the White House.
White House staffers said that the answers are attributable to the president.
Despite the unusual context, the result is a rare exchange about religion-related matters with a president who, while allying closely with evangelical Christian leaders, has said relatively little about his own faith.
Asked whether he learned anything spiritually from his experience of contracting COVID-19, Trump responded that he and Melania “felt the prayers of Americans from all across the country — and even around the world” when he was recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“I said, ‘There were miracles coming down from heaven.’ I meant it — Melania and I are very thankful to God for looking out for our family and re-turning us to good health,” he wrote.
Though the president didn’t directly answer a question about particular spiritual lessons he had learned from his influential evangelical supporters, Trump praised their faith and said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of his father Billy’s evangelistic organization and of the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, had visited the Oval Office to pray for him earlier this month.