President Donald Trump met with a group of predominantly black pastors at the White House Monday as he continued to criticize one of the more prominent African American members of Congress and the city he represents.
Along with Vice President Mike Pence, Trump met with a group of about 20 clergy as they discussed the progress the administration is making on a number of issues impacting inner cities such as employment, criminal justice, prison re-entry and opportunity zone initiatives.
The meeting comes almost a year after Trump met with a group of inner-city pastors last August to discuss similar issues to help their communities.
Monday’s meeting included: Maryland Bishop Harry Jackson, a social conservative who pastors Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland; Bishop Darrell Hines of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; pastor and gospel singer Marvin Winans Jr.; Pastor Bill Winston of Living Word Christian Center in Illinois; the niece of Martin Luther King Jr. and Trump supporter, Alveda King; Las Vegas Pastor Benny Perez; and the Rev. Bill Owens, founder of the Coalition of African American Pastors.
Photos of the meeting posted to Pence’s official @VP Twitter account and later removed show that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson also participated in the meeting. Pence’s account later posted another tweet without photos that called the meeting “productive.”
“These Pastors have put their faith to work in their own communities, revitalizing inner cities and delivering positive results while working with President @realDonaldTrump on so many important initiatives,” Pence’s tweet reads.
According to Jackson, the meeting was a follow-up to the White House meeting with inner-city pastors Trump held last year, many of whom were also in attendance for Monday’s meeting. Many pastors who attended the meeting last year received criticism for their decision to participate from those in the African American community who oppose Trump.
“What I was impressed by is how much support we got from the African American pastors,” Jackson told The Christian Post of Monday’s meeting. “And they’re basically saying that we realize that we’re in a volatile, contentious political environment but we think that Trump has been more than faithful in just following up and making sure things that he promises he does.”
The meeting comes on the heels of a weekend in which Trump took to Twitter to criticize House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings, calling his congressional district, which includes parts of Baltimore, as a rat infested and crime ridden place “no human being would want to live.”
Trump also called the 68-year-old African American lawmaker “racist” and said that “his radical ‘oversight’ is a joke.” Trump did not let up on his criticisms Monday, labeling left-leaning activist Al Sharpton as a “con man” as he traveled to Baltimore to criticize Trump’s remarks against the city and Cummings.
East Baltimore Pastor Donte Hickman said he turned down the offer to join the White House meeting because he was unavailable, The Baltimore Sun reports, adding that he wasn’t sure if the invitation was in response to Trump’s remarks on Cummings and the city.
Hickman added that he invited the president to visit him in Baltimore last year and that invitation still stands.
“I think it’s important for the president to engage with and really see the community of which he talks about and has talked about giving support to,” Hickman told The Baltimore Sun.
Jackson told CP that the Cummings ordeal had “no bearing” on the timing of the White House meeting from a “macro” level. However, the meeting was not listed on the president’s public schedule Monday.
“I think it was on the White House’s mind a long time ago,” Jackson said, adding that he wasn’t sure when the decision was made to have the meeting on Monday. “I talked about this trip and coming back together again. And pretty much, it’s all about locking down schedules. And then, you get a short framework. But I would have expected it to happen a couple of months ago, actually.”
During the meeting, Jackson said that pastors discussed everything from the administration’s work to lower unemployment in the African American community, the creation of opportunity zones to provide tax incentives for investment in low-income communities, and the passing of the bipartisan criminal justice reform and other advancements that will help inner-city communities.
“We talked about everything from religious liberties, to life issues. So what impressed me was the positivity,” Jackson added.
“So it sounded like [it would be for] evangelicals who support Trump with one important exception. And that is that in black communities, there’s a lot of backlash against the president and a lot of name calling. But in that room, they were saying, ‘Hey, if our people got a chance to hear your hearts as we heard, they wouldn’t think the way some of them think.’
Pastor Kyle Searcy of the multiracial Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, Alabama, also participated in Monday’s meeting just as he did last year.
“I offered a strategy for entrepreneurial development and training in the inner cities of America, as well as in prisons. I know the administration has a great deal of acumen in the business realm,” Searcy told CP. “And my suggestion was to begin to take those skills and that interest and begin to incentivize corporations that provide entrepreneurial training and development that can stem the tide of poverty and other things.”
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Source: Christian Post