Several dozen anti-Trump evangelical leaders are meeting today and tomorrow at Wheaton College to discuss how to rescue the movement they contend has become tainted by its association with President Trump.
Doug Birdsall of the Lausanne Movement and Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary have arranged the invitation-only meeting of likeminded pastors, authors, and seminary staff together. According to The Christian Post, they want to refocus the movement away from politics but fully expect Trump to be the "elephant in the room." Attendees reportedly include Pastor Tim Keller, Wheaton College's Ed Stetzer, Fuller Seminary President Mark Labberton, NYC megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard, and many others who have publicly expressed their displeasure with President Trump.
Other high-profile individuals in evangelicalism – like Franklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse, Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University, Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist-Dallas, and a host of other evangelicals who support President Trump – are "not involved in [the] discussions yet," Birdsall responded when asked.
"I have been in touch with two of their offices with a desire to engage in a meaningful conversation," CP quotes Birdsall saying. "I don't think they are globally perceived as evangelical thought leaders by virtue of what they have written or by virtue of the values that are reflected in their public statements."
Dr. Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary says a look at who's invited – and who's not – betrays their real purpose: marginalizing evangelicals who support President Trump.
"Any definition of 'thought leaders' and any definition of evangelicalism that excludes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Franklin Graham is a pale imitation – anemic and incomplete," says Land.
The organizers' complaint is that supporting Trump excuses his past indiscretions and taints the evangelical movement. Robert Jeffress – who is among Trump's evangelical advisors – says the president's past and very public failings are immoral and offensive, but still better than the alternative in 2016.
"He is, without doubt, the most faith-friendly president we've ever had" Jeffress tells OneNewsNow, "and I include George W Bush and Ronald Reagan in that."
The real agenda of the new coalition, Jeffress argues, is to liberalize evangelical theology on issues like immigration, climate change, and the role of government.
According to a report in The Washington Post, organizers even discussed the upcoming meeting last month when they attended the funeral of evangelist Billy Graham. That drew the ire of an unidentified evangelical leader who told WP that it seemed "profane" to "plan a potentially divisive meeting" while attending such a solemn occasion.