New York Megachurch Pastor A. R. Bernard Resigns From Trump’s Evangelical Council

Most of President Trump’s evangelical advisers have stood by him this week following much criticism over his response to violent clashes in Charlottesville, even as several CEOs left business advisory councils and members of his Committee on the Arts and Humanities have announced they are leaving the panel.

In a first for his evangelical advisory council, New York City megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard announced Friday that he had stepped down from the unofficial board of evangelical advisers to Trump. Bernard sat at the president’s table on May 3, the night before the National Day of Prayer when Trump gathered several religious leaders to announce an executive order on religious freedom.

Bernard’s Brooklyn-based Christian Cultural Center, which claims 37,000 in membership, has been described by the New York Times as the largest evangelical church in New York City. He said he submitted a formal letter on Tuesday, the same day Trump made controversial remarks about the events that took place in Charlottesville.

During a news conference, while he condemned white supremacists, Trump defended some “fine people” in Charlottesville and asked why the “alt-left” had not been criticized for violence. On Thursday, the president mourned the loss of “beautiful statues and monuments,” referring to monuments to Confederate leaders.

Bernard was part of Trump’s advisory council during the campaign, but he told the Times last year that he had stepped away from that election role because he felt more like “window dressing” than a genuine adviser. The Times also reported that Bernard is a registered Republican, though he voted twice for Bill Clinton and twice for President Obama.

Attempts to reach Bernard Friday night were unsuccessful.

Bernard has been part of a group of a few dozen leaders who have given advice through the White House’s liaison office. Other leaders who have been involved have been mostly a mix of Pentecostal and Southern Baptist pastors, including Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas and Paula White of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida.

Eric Metaxas, a popular evangelical author who took a photo of himself with Bernard at the White House in May, said he plans to stay on Trump’s council.

“This president is in a tough spot, and people who love Jesus know that when someone is down that person needs God more, not less,” he said in a statement. “Jesus people don’t run from trouble.”

Other leaders, including Southern Baptist pastors Jack Graham and Robert Jeffress, Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and televangelist Mark Burns, doubled down in their support of the president.

However, Chicago-area megachurch pastor James MacDonald reminded his followers that he resigned after the Access Hollywood tapes were published during Trump’s campaign. MacDonald had called Trump “lecherous and worthless” in a letter to the rest of the council.

Johnnie Moore, a former vice president of Liberty University, said in a text message that the group still plans to extend invitations to Bernard on various issues.

“I am responsible for attempting to give them good advice if I have the opportunity to do so,” he said. “I believe it would be immoral not to try and make a difference when and how I can.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Sarah Pulliam Bailey