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Christian groups express ‘grave concerns’ about Trump agenda, appointments

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a church service in Detroit on Sept. 3, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlo Allegri/

(RNS) The National Council of Churches and several other Christian organizations have released a statement expressing “grave concerns” with President-elect Donald Trump’s policies and picks to lead his Cabinet and other departments.

“We urge President-Elect Donald Trump, who has said he shares our Christian faith, to take seriously his responsibility to bring our nation together and to heed the oath he will take to preserve, protect and defend America,” read the statement, released Friday (Jan. 6).

“He can start this work before the oath of office is taken with his policy agenda and political appointments.”

Among the policy items that “would put the most vulnerable among us in jeopardy,” is his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, if Trump does not immediately offer a replacement, the statement said. Scripture instead instructs Christians to care for the poor and vulnerable, it said.

It also said the organizations’ members were “deeply troubled” by the president-elect’s choices of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist and Michael Flynn as national security advisor.

“These objectionable nominees represent a bygone era of hatred that we have denounced and worked tirelessly to eradicate. Their corrupted credentials, which include condoning and supporting racist, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim ideologies, are not only unacceptable but they should disqualify them for service as public officials,” the statement reads.


RELATED: Trump advisers: The faith factor


Christians aren’t the only religious group speaking out this week against Trump’s picks for Cabinet and other department heads, particularly Sessions.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism released a statement Monday (Jan. 9) expressing concerns about Sessions’ nomination. Khizr Khan, the Muslim Gold Star father who – along with his wife Ghazala Khan – spoke about the death of his son U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan at the Democratic National Convention, wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing Sessions’ confirmation.

PICO National Network, the largest network of faith-based groups in the United States, also has taken a stand against Sessions’ nomination. And Moral Mondays organizer Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II led about 250 interfaith clergy and moral leaders in a rally opposing his nomination Monday on Capitol Hill, according to Think Progress.

Sessions previously was a prosecutor for the Justice Department. He was denied a federal judgeship over testimony that he had made racist remarks.

He’s made clear he’s “not happy” about the direction the department has taken under President Barack Obama’s administration, calling its refusal to defend a federal ban on same-sex marriage “shameful,” according to The New York Times. As a senator, he voted in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage.

Sessions’ confirmation hearings are set to begin Tuesday.

The National Council of Churches represents 45 million people in more than 100,000 congregations in the United States, according to its website.

Its 38 member communions include six of the 10 largest Protestant denominations in the United States: the United Methodist Church; American Baptist Churches USA; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and The Episcopal Church (USA). Trump has identified as Presbyterian, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S.

The Conference of National Black Churches, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative and Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference all had signed onto the National Council of Churches’ statement.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

48 Comments

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  • What did these people expect? A thrice married casino mogul, with a history of verbal abuse and sexism, who even mocked a handicapped person are just NOW giving these groups “grave concerns.” Do the world a favor next time and stay home on Election Day.

  • “Black pastors have denounced ‘baseless’ accusations that Sen. Jeff Sessions … is a racist. … ‘the serious charge of racism is carelessly leveled against anyone with whom the Left disagrees … when there is actually no proof for it …  Sessions helped desegregate schools in Alabama. …  Even the Democrats know that – this is all a big charade because they object to Sen. Session’s policy views and don’t want to debate the issues in public …  They are afraid he might actually take the politicalization out of the Department of Justice and actually enforce the laws on the books, such as the immigration and marijuana laws.  … In Alabama, black folks and white folks are coming together like never before and Jeff Sessions is the kind of politician who embraces those values.  … If you look honestly at the track record of Jeff Sessions, honestly not biasedly, you will find him to be a kind and decent man, one that many Democrats — black Democrats and whites alike — have supported and deserves to lead this nation as its top lawyer.  … It was Sen. Sessions who first introduced the bill in 2001 and continued to fight for it for nine years until it finally became law. In 2011, Sen. Sessions and Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal led the drive to pass the Finding Fugitive Sex Offender Act. It was President Obama’s pen that signed that bill.'” (Christian Post, Jan 9, 2017)

  • Didn’t they support him before November 8? I thought I remember them buying the show he put on when he was prayed over and pretended to pray.

  • They should have been much more vocal and organized in opposition before he got nominated and elected. Too late now. Their only hope now is a legal misstep leading to impeachment or resignation. He seems destined to screw up.

  • By and large I would agree. Interestingly, despite the number of 45 million cited, I would suspect many of these are nominal members of their respective denominations and not active in their faith. The denominations cited are also among those that members are fleeing in ever growing numbers because of unbiblical positions taken by church leadership.

  • How typical. Make hate, greed and indifference an integral part of Christian belief.

    Christians are fast running out of people worthy of respect as decent human beings.

  • Sessions lied about his efforts in a Alabama. He was denied a prior position, years ago for a history of racist behavior which was far too much for the Senate to overlook. Sessions is notorious for using bigoted and paranoid language to attack immigration reform.

    He supports using the justice system to make war upon the poor. Marijuana laws serve the purpose of giving young people criminal records for de minimus justifications. The only thing catch and deport has done is enable easy exploitation of illegal alien labor. 50 years of draconian immigration and drug laws have only created a profitable underground economies with nothing of value to show for it.

    Sessions is a terrible politician and human being.

  • I think we are talking about progressive Christian groups here. They tend to lay low and pop up long after the fact, when they are least relevant. Their chief fault is an unwillingness to call their reactionary Christian brethren to task for their excesses.

  • Ah okay – that might be the case. I think the progressive Christians were vocal against Trump, so I cut them a little slack. But you are correct in saying they are usually late to the game on most issues. (I had a progressive Christian tell me a couple years ago that gay marriage equality is the result of progressive Christians fighting for gay rights. I almost spit my coffee on my computer I laughed so hard!)

  • Fundamentalist Christianity, whether Protestant or Catholic, has been aligned with political ultra-conservatism in the U.S and other countries for some time…most obviously at this time.

    Fundamentalist Christians see ultra-conservatism as the bulwark of certainty and security in an age of paradigm-shifting change. In short, overwhelming fear drives people and institutions, even religious ones, to hang on to the past for dear life…against all Biblical admonitions to let go our clinging and give up our judging against one another.

    There are even fundamentalist liberal Christians so fearful of the past holding sway over newly-raised consciousness and scientific discovery…that they engage in hate campaigns right along with their ultra-conservative brothers and sisters here and elsewhere on the internet.

    Blame-throwing will get us nowhere; neither will despair help us move forward.

    We do need the wisdom of the past in order not to keep repeating the same horrid mistakes over and over again. But like Lot’s wife in Genesis 19, Christianity itself may turn into a pillar of salt for looking back longingly at what is left behind when “moving on” is the order of the day.

    So in this U.S. election, we must move on and take responsibility for how our country is going to treat PEOPLE and other nations…take responsibility for how much we do or do not value the freedom, equality, and unity which we Christians claim God has given us in the name of Jesus.

  • “There are even fundamentalist liberal Christians so fearful of the past holding sway over newly-raised consciousness and scientific discovery…that they engage in hate campaigns right along with their ultra-conservative brothers and sisters here and elsewhere on the internet.”

    Please supply a link to an example of this. I smell a false equivalence here.

  • Trump is one of those nominal members apparently. His own putative church (Marble Collegiate Church of Norman Vincent Peale fame) in NYC has stated that he is not a member.
    While I would objectively include these groups as Christian only because for a broad definition is useful sometimes, I agree that it would have been helpful for RNS to note that all of these groups are liberal-leaning and never supported Trump nor would be expected to do so.

  • National Catholic Reporter, a more liberal-leaning publication, had so much trouble with reader comments on both sides of the liberal/conservative divide (particularly in the past few years) that it decided to use Civil Comments instead of Disqus for its comment sections. https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/comments-ncr-now-will-be-civil

    As for “smell(ing) a false equivalence here,” are the liberals the good people and the ultra-conservatives the bad people or visa versa? Or are we all human, each influenced by our own “party’s” giftedness and unintentional propaganda?

  • Exactly. The churches in the NCC, in contrast to those who voted for the pres-elect, are not known for who they condemn and hate so they don’t make news like the others. They use the most accurate biblical translation based on correct use of ancient Hebrew. That means that some things Christians “always believed” are based on incorrect readings. The idea of changing those traditional, but incorrect, ideas is very frightening to many. Hence attacks on the NCC member churches.

  • On what planet is NCR a liberal leaning publication? Liberal in comparison to World Net Daily or Breitbart? As compared to Storefront?

    It’s a mouthpiece for a church whose political leanings here are most undoubtedly conservative.

  • You are mixing up voices of the religious right with these people. Remember Rev. William Barber, mentioned in this article, speaking at the Democratic National Convention? He’s been leading a movement in N. Carolina for over a year — through the bathroom law debacle, about voting rights, etc. I suspect you aren’t tuned in to denominations and organizations that have been speaking out against Trump’s policy proposals and words since he entered the race. Look at magazines like Christian Century and Sojourners, or the pbs program Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, or Onbeing. Heard of Nuns on the Bus? (To name only a few Christian specific, not the interfaith groups or groups from other traditions.) For years these groups have been talking about climate change, civil rights, prison reform and immigration, hunger issues, poverty initiatives, etc. They are not “just now” having grave concerns. There are even groups like Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights, or the Religious Campaign Against Torture, Bread for the World. . . and so on. Not to mention do you think everyone who works for the ACLU or the NAACP is not religious?

  • You have to set this “black pastors have denounced ‘baseless accusations’ against the thousands of Christians — theologians and pastors– who signed and delivered a petition against Sessions yesterday, led by Lisa Sharon Harper (at Schumer’s office) And the hundreds of pastors (black, white, etc.) who stood with Rev. Barber yesterday outside on the capitol steps. https://thinkprogress.org/interfaith-leaders-protest-sessions-1013e9cec5be#.qwfj75uhz

    Remember, HRC was by far the favored candidate of black Americans and black church leaders. But like any group, they do not vote in lockstep, and it shouldn’t be hard to find Trump and Sessions supporters in a group so incredibly varied. That doesn’t mean they are the majority.

  • Are they late to the game, or do they have a hard time getting into the media? Who does the press call when they want a religious voice?

    Not to mention that people on the religious left don’t always pull into themselves to organize. You’ll find them in Black Lives Matter, in the NAACP and the ACLU — not to mention filing cases in the gay marriage fight, and representing those cases. Or do you assume that the people you see on the news, if they aren’t wearing a 6 inch cross, aren’t religious?

  • The NCC is an organization of denominational bodies. They didn’t get 45,000 members to sign off on something — they did it as organization of organizations. That said, there are plenty of mainline Christians who are not Trump supporters. Think: Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of them. And a pretty good example of one, maybe. Religious, but not particularly boisterous about it, involved with politics her whole life but without her religion given as the reason for every vote she ever took. She has history with the Children’s Defense Fund, whose founder (Marian Wright Edelman) is also a deeply religious person, but has made common cause with lots of people, religious or not.

  • Oh I know they are out there. I rarely hear a Christian praise the ACLU; that one is funny. (Even though they should since the ACLU is the best thing for religious liberty!) They are not organized as Christians per se like the conservative groups – you are probably right. I assume any person who decides to wear a cross somewhere on their person is religious. I also always approach them cautiously until I can get a good sense of where they stand on things. I’ve been called a sinner enough in “polite” conversation to have learned my lesson! Having spent years fighting for gay rights, I can tell you that aside from speaking out against the boisterousness of the Westboro Baptist Church, few, if any, progressive churches supported gay rights. Again, maybe like you said, they did so in their hearts, but it was not until the battle was practically over that they started being public about it. Which makes sense – there was more money to be made by changing their view to be more accepting.

  • I appreciate you sharing these (well, the first one, which was free to read). I did not realize that. I wonder what happened to everyone in the 80s and 90s! I guess AIDS and the Republican acquisition of religion hurt their involvement. I do stand corrected though on my previous statement !

  • Sure. I think the article attributes the change to the rise of the Religious Right in the 70;s — but one would have to further explain. During those years there were also debates about ordaining gay clergy, pflag groups proliferating, and in the 80’s some churches were heavily involved in AIDS work — that might have shifted the focus for a time. It certainly absorbed the attention of churches in larger cities.

    Sorry the second is behind a paywall, but it is a review of the book “Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights.” by Heather Rachel White. U of N. Carolina Press.

  • I’m sorry, but laying low? When Rev. William Barber spoke at the Democratic National Convention, I didn’t regard that as laying low. He’s been leading the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina for over a year — through the bathroom debacle, against voter suppression, labor suppression, etc. Or people like Jim Wallis and Lisa Sharon Harper or Yolanda Pierce or Brian McLaren or Tony Campolo– have been addressing their conservative co-religionists (the religious right) for months about Trump. (Sometimes on this site.) But their writing tends to get published elsewhere, not on the pages of the New York Times. Not to mention the many religious organizations speaking out about immigration, poverty, climate change, the rights of Palestinians and other specific issues.

  • But it is a little more complicated. Most of the member bodies (denominations) are quite broad. Jeff Sessions is a member of a United Methodist Church, for example, one of the member bodies of the NCC.

  • I took a look and am concerned it has the potential (without a commitment to meaningful dialogue) to simply bully minority dissenting opinions off the page. I am not sure that back and forth changes positions for highly emotionally charged topics that tend to attract trolls or persons with extreme positions – think there was an article on this site talking about this. Personally, I would rather see either a requirement that you paraphrase first what the other person said as an understanding check that is confirmed before making a response back or simply have comments closed for certain topics to simply keep them out of public/social media discourse. Kind of like with kids – if you can’t play nicely, you don’t get to play at all.

  • Simply as an aside – while Trump has claimed Peale to be his favourite preacher that he would listen to for hours on end, he also claimed to be Presbyterian. My guess is that he listened to hours of Power of Positive Thinking tapes. So one putative church and possibly one putative denomination.

  • Um, scratch that middle sentence there. The one about using the “most accurate biblical translation” etc. Nope.

    The NCC is what it is, but that ain’t sayin’ much these days.

  • With Putin’s Imperial court jester or if you prefer, fool/operative, or in this case clown, having a national pout in a couple of days, sadly at our expense in more ways than one, this may be a very long winter of national discontent of biblical proportions!. From some redneck country and western “artist” baying a the moon at his staged swearing in to the closet case little Frankie Graham “praying” to the Jesus Cowboy of counterfeit christianity, invented and promoted by the American “evangelicals” with such notable ex cons as Jim Baker as a proud member of this lodge of the Nazgul, this usurper will have a lot to tweet about or so he thinks. What we will really have will be his leaving that stage early so he can respond to the snub from legitimate artists and celebrities and the demonstrations from the people who can actually spell, read and write, and have an IQ larger than their waist size!
    The bottom line is simple if you hold to the tenets of the Gospel as given by Jesus you cannot be a Republican nor a so called evangelical nor a follower/worshipper of the Golden Calf but if you believe in a system of greed and injustice commonly called “capitalism” then the party of the anti-Christ otherwise known as the Republican Party is for you and your Comrade Leader!
    When the progressive Christians and Democrats can cuss like Harry Truman, lead like FDR, and deal brake like LBJ there will be hope for the Republic but as long as the NCC and Democrats act like “Rebecca of Sonny Brook Farm”, talk like Joyce Brothers, and eat the bitter herb of political correctness the Republic is lost!

  • Your response merely indicates your opinion, which you’re welcome to.

    Ignoring the new research leading to better understanding of the ancient Hebrew is similar to climate change denial. The facts are in, but one can always simply deny them.

  • I once wondered what drove some of more ‘rabid’ Christian theology of the more conservative churches. So I took a look at what theological training was provided at about 5 or 6 accredited institutes. Was truly surprised to find minimal time spent – 1 course – on the Gospels over a 2 or more year period. Lots of OT time, and more than just a single course on the rest of the NT. Maybe it is better now.

  • “Bible colleges” are notorious for their lack of depth and rigor. They teach their version of orthodoxy and specific verses to support that version.

    In contrast, the ELCA teaches tools – ancient Hebrew, Koininia Greek, lengthy history courses, classes on the Pentateuch, Historical books, Wisdom writings, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, each gospel separately, Acts, Paul’s letters, others letters, apocalyptic books, christology, worship, dogmatics, homiletics, and more I don’t recall, plus one full year of internship. It’s a 4 year program resulting in a fully accredited Masters degree. Part of the goal is not to tell the students what they must believe, but to provide the tools for them to come to their own system of belief. Ordination requires a pledge to certain Lutheran doctrines. If a student cannot agree to those doctrines she may seek ordination elsewhere or choose another use for her knowledge.

    I believe the UCC, UMC, and ECUSA have similar educational standards. The RCC is similar, but more rigid in requiring the strictest adherence to dogma. (Established RCC clergy are more likely to diverge from dogma.)

  • NCC speaks for Christians, not the evangelical CINOs who voted for Trump. This latter group is American Christianity’s biggest enemy.

  • If we are discouraged by trolls, well…shame on us! Best to just ignore them, discuss around them and flag them when they have gone over the line. But NEVER to let them chase us away from open discussion and action.

    This may very likely be the strategy we will need in all things personal, religious, and political in the coming years.

  • It depends on the “bible college” in question. I’ve seen bible “colleges” run on a shoe string or less that I too would question with respect to their academic rigor. But I have also seen conservative schools and seminaries that require the very academic standards and courses you describe, while compelling graduates to adhere to specific doctrine before they can be ordained, as you note. And personally, just personally, I would look askance at a process which allows a wide latitude in developing “their own system of belief.” This would lead and has lead to theological anarchy within Christendom.

  • Excellent point. I would agree with you about Trump’s probable nominal standing as a member of the faith, but I hope for better things, though my definition of better would not be in accord with the members of the National Council of Churches.

  • Edward, when I say “bible college” I’m talking about unaccredited schools that students attend for perhaps a year, give or take. They are then named “pastor” and sent out to lead a church. I’ve worked with several such gentlemen. While they were usually well-intentioned, they were woefully ignorant.

    I’m not referring to any seminaries or 3-4 year schools or conservative institutions. I don’t believe I said all conservative institutions are inferior. I don’t know just what their standards are so I didn’t list them.

    Everyone everywhere has their own system of belief, seminaries included. But as I said, students are not ordained, and thus eligible to become an ELCA pastor, unless they agree to certain standards set by the ELCA. “Theological anarchy” (I like that phrase Edward) does not occur.

  • Okay…my bad, but to your point, I agree and am familiar with just such “institutions” as you were referencing, unfortunately I jumped to a conclusion.

  • Ah, Spuddie, thank you! I should have said National Catholic Reporter is “a more liberal-leaning CATHOLIC publication.” And yes, the political leanings of ROMAN Rite Catholicism are, as you say, “undoubtedly conservative” in comparison to its suppressed Vatican II rendering of Catholicism and the world. https://RiteBeyondRome.com

  • Perhaps we should STOP wondering what Jesus would think here and start wondering what to DO in response to this inevitable capture and consent of “evangelicals” (including the U.S. Roman Catholic Church) by/with/to dangerous propaganda.

    How do we encourage/support religious outreach which is NOT in line with G.O.Propaganda? Google Rite Beyond Rome.

  • My dear Sister, Just take the time to explore http://JesusWouldBeFurious.org and you’ll see that far from just “wondering”, my web site GOES WAY BEYOND WHAT YOU WISH !
    And, if you want to help motivate Liberals to get off their keisters AND DO SOMETHING TO STOP Trump & Co., then explore and then help spread the word about my new http://WhyWeLost.org .

  • Ray, I did try to explore http:/JesuWouldBe Furious.org website and landed on “400 Error page”. You might want to check out and edit the link you posted. You have obviously done a great deal of work on your WhyWeLost.org website.

    BTW, I am more interested in what is causing the great liberal/conservative divide which will continue to fuel a fascist presidency/reign regardless of how you might “motivate Liberals to get off their keisters AND DO SOMETHING TO STOP TRUMP & CO.” IMHO.

  • Happy MLK day to all.
    Sis, I’m glad you are so “interested in what is causing the great liberal/conservative divide” because that has intrigued me for decades and resulted last year in a new Domain Name to lay out what I view as the greatest insights that you’ll find anywhere = http://LiberalvsConservative.org .
    P.S. The problem with that link is that one of the 2 leading // s disappeared. Weird!

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