White House Appoints Paula White to Oversee Faith and Opportunity Initiative

Pastor Paula White delivers the benediction at the close of the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Monday, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Donald Trump’s go-to spiritual adviser and longtime prayer partner, Paula White, has been named to an official White House position in the Office of Public Liaison, the New York Times reported Thursday and Religion News Service confirmed on Friday.

White, a Florida televangelist often associated with the prosperity gospel, joins the administration’s outreach efforts through the Faith and Opportunity Initiative, the Times wrote. Formed last year through an executive order, the initiative set out to deepen faith-based partnerships, particularly around poverty relief, and to protect religious liberty on the federal level.

White, who met Trump 17 years ago through her televised sermons, was among the 25 evangelical advisers who joined his campaign in 2016. She visits with the president regularly to pray and discuss faith and politics. This year, she appeared with the president during several official events, including his religious liberty address to the UN and a White House gathering of persecuted religious minorities from around the world.

White has not made an announcement or confirmed the appointment on social media. She stepped down from her church in Orlando in May.

Before praying at Trump’s inauguration in 2017, she told CT there was a “possibility” she would assume an official White House role. After more than two years of prayer breakfasts, National Day of Prayer ceremonies, and Oval Office prayer meetings, the controversial but popular preacher has reportedly done just that.

The Faith and Opportunity Initiative was announced in May 2018, the first move to formalizing the Trump administration’s faith efforts. President George W. Bush established the first faith-based initiatives office in 2001, and Barack Obama renamed and reconfigured it as the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009. In his first month as president, Obama appointed Pentecostal minister Joshua DuBois, then 26, to oversee relationships with clergy and faith groups.

Melissa Rogers, with Obama’s faith outreach office, shared her advice for White with RNS: “Form partnerships with faith-based and humanitarian organizations to serve people in need. Do so by partnering with organizations that reflect diverse faiths and beliefs. And do this work in a way that is consistent with the Constitution.”

In contrast to the formal faith advisory council established by his predecessor, Trump’s religious ties have remained unofficial and ad hoc. Evangelicals like Johnnie Moore have said there is an “open door” for them at the White House.

As of Friday morning, none of the pastors who gathered with White to pray for the president earlier this week had publicly acknowledged the New York Times report naming her to an official White House post.

White considers herself the bridge-builder introducing Trump to evangelical leaders, as she described her unofficial role in a 2017 interview with CT. Her relationship with the president has also been controversial among evangelicals who theologically oppose what they deem the “name it and claim it” approach of with the Word of Faith movement.

Moore commended the role White has played so far. “She has also been a very effective liaison to many types of Christians and deserves a great deal of credit for her role in advancing a bi-partisan policy agenda,” he said in an email to CT Friday afternoon, listing her involvement in efforts for religious liberty protections, pro-life policies, criminal justice reform, and more.

He noted, “Total theological congruence is not a prerequisite for cooperation in advancing the common good.”

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Source: Christianity Today