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U.S. evangelical delegation meets with crown prince of Saudi Arabia

A delegation of conservative evangelical Christian leaders from the United States met Thursday (Nov. 1) with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who is under fire after the death of a journalist in his country's embassy in Istanbul. Photo by Saudi Press Agency, provided by Johnnie Moore

(RNS) — A delegation of conservative evangelical Christian leaders from the United States met Thursday (Nov. 1) with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who is under fire after the death of a journalist in his country’s consulate in Istanbul.

The delegation met with the embattled leader at the royal palace in Riyadh to hear his vision for the kingdom and the region — a first for a group of U.S. evangelicals, according to a press release about the meeting from A. Larry Ross Communications.

The meeting comes one month after the death of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, for which Saudi Arabia has acknowledged responsibility after first denying knowledge of the journalist’s disappearance, then deflecting blame onto rogue intelligence agents.

RELATED: Silenced forever: Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi is dead

Khashoggi disappeared Oct. 2 after visiting the consulate in Istanbul to get documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee. The Saudi government publicly has called his death a “terrible tragedy.”

But questions remain, and most recently the Washington Post reported that Salman claimed in a phone call with U.S. officials that Khashoggi was dangerous and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Khashoggi’s family denies.

The crown prince also reportedly urged President Trump’s advisers Jared Kushner and John Bolton in the call to preserve the alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

“There’s a lot of people who would say this is the wrong time to go to Saudi Arabia and meet with the leadership there. I understand that criticism, but I disagree,” author Joel Rosenberg told CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) News.

Rosenberg, who wrote an opinion piece praising Salman as a reformer in late August for Fox News, led the delegation, which included Christian media leaders and several of Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisers.

RELATED: Pat Robertson on the Khashoggi Affair (COMMENTARY)

The group decided to meet with Salman despite the controversy surrounding him because, according to the statement, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most important nations in the Middle East, in all of history.” It also is “the beating heart of the Arab and Islamic world,” influencing Muslim theology around the world, it said.

“While the Kingdom is restrictive and controversial in various and serious respects, it has under the Crown Prince begun to undergo reform and professed the desire to change in profound ways,” the statement said.

The invitation had been extended to the U.S. evangelical group more than two months ago, according to the joint statement from the delegation.

The delegation included Michael Little, former head of CBN; the current and former presidents of National Religious Broadcasters, Jerry Johnson and Wayne Pederson; and Larry Ross, founder of A. Larry Ross Communications.

It also included former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Both were members of the Trump campaign’s evangelical advisory board, which no longer exists in an official capacity.

Also on the trip were Mike Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, and Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque in New Mexico, who has attended several White House events for evangelicals.

Johnson told CBN News the delegation was there not as representatives of the United States but as “ambassadors for Christ.”

And a joint statement from the delegation Thursday said, “As Evangelicals, it is our desire to lift up the name of Jesus whenever we are asked and wherever we go.”

Earlier in the week, the Americans attended a meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, as well as Christian and Muslim leaders in the United Arab Emirates. The delegation to the United Arab Emirates also included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a USCIRF commissioner, and Kay Arthur, founder of Precepts Ministries International.

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.


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  • To be read in conjunction with this article – no spinning necessary:

    (1) Joint statement by the US Evangelical delegation: “We were pleased by the invitation extended to us more than two months ago by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was an historic moment for the Saudi Crown Prince to openly welcome Evangelical Christian leaders to the Palace. We were encouraged by the candor of the two-hour conversation with him today. We discussed his ‘Vision 2030’ plan, the region, Islam and Christianity. Without question, this is a season of tremendous change in the Middle East, and therefore we have been grateful for the opportunity to meet in-person with key Arab leaders to understand their goals and to ask direct questions. We look forward to building upon these relationships and continuing the dialogue.”

    (2) Joel Rosenberg: “We care about the people of Saudi Arabia, Christianity in the Arabian Peninsula, … freedom of worship, even Christian churches being allowed to be built … Leaders … have the opportunity to make life better for Christians and Muslims and potentially for Israel”.

    (3) Johnnie Moore: “[I] go [and] meet … as a Christian called to be a peacemaker, as an advocate for freedom of worship, as an advocate for tolerance and peaceful coexistence”.

    (4) Michele Bachmann: “We’re here to build long-term relations and to benefit our brothers and sisters that are here in this region”.

    Source: Chris Mitchell, “Christian Leaders Meet with Saudi Crown Prince in Historic Step”, CBN News, November 1, 2018.

  • Spuddie, bingo. What “pro-life” white Amerian Christians have revealed about their cause as they have taken off their mask is pretty horrifying — the most anti-life cultural-religion around, in my book.

  • “Khashoggi disappeared Oct. 2 after visiting the consulate in Istanbul to get documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee. The Saudi government publicly has called his death a ‘terrible tragedy.’”

    I had been under the impression that one can’t have “death” without first having had “life.”

  • “In [your] book”? No wonder: “For someone who wrote [as your] book titled The Moral Landscape, … [Sam] Harris is basically a low-rent Hitchens, sans wit or the wisdom to waterboard himself.”

    Source: Ian Murphy, “The 5 Most Awful Atheists: Many notable atheists believe in some powerfully stupid stuff, thereby eroding the credibility of all atheists”, AlterNet, August 3, 2012.

  • How sad. If Jesus had met with the Crown Prince He would have at least admonished the Prince for all the killing in Yemen, the starvation of men, women, children, lack of medical care, the killing that goes on and on. But, no, these “Evangelical” “Christians” have nothing but praise. These “Christians” love his worldly power. Oh, WWJD?

  • Possibly; but I doubt it. There are probably more welcoming countries to start in – Iraq for example.

  • So, a mystery.

    The word “life” still doesn’t appear in the article.

    To whom does “Pro-life my eye.” refer and why?

  • Thank you for supplying this link. Amnesty International stresses three important points:

    “UN member states must end their deafening silence on Saudi Arabia and do their duty of scrutinizing the cruelty in the kingdom in order to prevent further outrageous human rights violations in the country and in Yemen”

    “The gruesome death of Jamal Khashoggi has shown how far the Saudi Arabian authorities will go in their repression of peaceful dissent, a crackdown which has only intensified since Mohammad bin Salman became Crown Prince”

    “All arms-supplying states must suspend their arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its coalition members, given the clear evidence documented by Amnesty International that they could be used to commit serious violations, including possible war crimes, in Yemen ”

    Not nearly so diplomatic as the joint statement by the US Evangelical delegation!

  • He would say “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.”

    What he would NOT say is “Pro-life my eye.”

  • “If Jesus had met with the Crown Prince”? “If”? Too bad you didn’t know prior to Evangelical-bashing trolling per the usual, but that happened already!

    “A painting of Jesus Christ attributed to Leonardo da Vinci …Salvator Mundi, a Latin name that means ‘Savior of the World’ … depicts a blue-robed Jesus holding a crystal orb and gazing directly at the viewer. … The Louvre Abu Dhabi was tight-lipped over the identity of the buyer …an obscure member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Badr bin Abdullah … acting on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman” – said “viewer” of the icon, apparently!

    Source: The Standard, September 4, 2018, “Daub of mystery over Jesus painting”.

  • Jesus the Muslim prophet (second after Mohammed in rank) meets with every Muslim in the Qu’ran. And every Muslim awaits the return of Jesus to judge the world at the end of time.

  • I wonder how much freedom of religion these so called Christians were able to negotiate for Christians in Saudi Arabia? I wonder how many churches the crown prince will allow to be built in Saudi Arabia? Were this visitors allowed to bring Bibles into Saudi Arabia and wear a cross?

  • Just goes to show the primary focus of “Evangelical Christians” is political power and has nothing to do with the teachings of the Christ.

  • Ah, well. You see, the real need is to distinguish between what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. Perhaps within the Prince’s eye, religion, and culture it is legitimate for him to allow an enemy of the state to be executed. We do it here, under the idea of law and order, when we execute criminals.

    We do it under the idea of “just war.” We are supporting Saudi Arabia in bombing the life out of Yemen, killing thousands of women and children, and starving or denying health care to those they don’t get with bombs, but only leave injured, homeless. Is that Caesar’s?

    I doubt our Lord would recognize this as just an issue of “render to Caesar.” God would have a bit to say about it.

  • There is no indication at this point that the Prince was the instigator let alone aware of a plot to abduct and kill Jamal Khashoggi.

    That is a fact despite your opinion, Dr. Lindsey’s opinion, or anybody else’s opinion.

    We are supporting Saudi Arabia. So is Israel. It is the enemy of Iran, which we are not supporting.

    And at the same time Saudi Arabia is conducting a campaign against the Houthi rebels – a Zaidi sect Zaidi-Shia-led aligned with Iran – in Yemen, along with Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain.

    As in Syria, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam civilians are being killed.

    Handing Yemen over to the Houthi is not a solution.

    I don’t believe any of the commenters know what God would think about the Saudis.

  • They are bombing places where civilians live, they are denying the ability of food and medical supplies to get through to help women and children.

    I definitely don’t think you know what God would think of the Saudis. But he said much about caring for the poor, the hungry, the sick, children.

  • What a disgrace. The damage done to the Christian Gospel by these blind leaders will take decades to undo. “Evangelical” Trump supporters, and now Saudi supporters, reveal their motives — holding onto power and influence at any cost. Their willingness to sit with, and thus condone vile, ungodly leaders because they lead nations among “the wealthiest, most powerful…” shows them for the Blind Guides they are. Where is the truth-telling outrage of John the Baptist and Jesus? The “Father of Lies” is alive and well.

  • War is hell.

    The North during the Civil War denied the ability of food and medical supplies to get through to help women and children.

    Basically there is nothing the Saudis are involved in that we, the British, Russians, Syrians, and on and on have not at one time or another been involved.

    That’s not an endorsement.

    That’s pointing out that there are worse things than the Saudis, that I personally don’t have enough facts to determine the extent of culpability of them in dealing with forces that mingle with civilians, and that dumping Saudi Arabia could have catastrophic consequences.

  • If you can acknowledge that it was wrong then, why can’t you acknowledge that it is wrong now? It is especially wrong for the U.S. to support such a war, to sell arms that are used in such a war. It is evil. Why aren’t you opposed to it? We don’t have to “dump Saudi Arabia,” but we should not support this action by Saudi Arabia. There is much we could do to continue to support the Saudi’s without selling them arms that are used in this war.
    We do have enough facts to know what is happening in Yemen.

  • No, we do not have enough facts to know what is happening in Yemen.

    We do know there is a war.

    We do know that both sides are Muslims, that they do not subscribe to Christian views on warfare, and that the rebels – like the Iraqi regime, ISIS, the PLO, and others – embed themselves in civilian locations likely to create casualties.

    We do not know if the civilian casualties were intended, accidental, or in between.

    Therefore, I can’t acknowledge that it is “wrong”.

    In WWII we worked with the Soviet Union. We provided them arms. We provided them food. We provided them tanks, airplanes, and jeeps.

    Any idea what would have happened if we refused to sell them arms?

    In WWII we worked with Great Britian, which was targeting civilian populations for carpet bombing – a war crime. Among the festivities visited upon the German civilian population:

    And idea what would have happened if we refused to sell them arms?

    I appreciate the fact that the simplistic Bilgrimage contingent, including Dr. “Pro-life my eye”, have strong opinions on a variety of matters.

    Unfortunately these strong opinions are often unaccompanied by facts, or evidence of an in-depth consideration of the issues being opined on, or in fact any evidence at all that an effort was made to make an in-depth look at the issues.

    And I believe that to be the case here.

  • Children are starving, they lack medical care, and the Saudi’s continue to bomb and refuse to allow ships carrying food, medical equipment and supplies and medical help to come in. They won’t let them in.

    Willful blindness. And, after all, whose problem is it? We just buy and sell stuff with the Saudis and, heaven knows, the world needs their oil, and the Saudis support us in trying to limit Iran’s influence, and they don’t support those who oppose Israel. What is Yemen to us?


  • Amnesty International operates on a higher plain of morality and truthfulness than that Evangelical delegation.

  • I know what he would NOT do.

    He would not decide to hand an entire country over to the Houthi movement.

    I am not sure where you’re getting your information.

    At one point the Houthi themselves were blocking food, medical equipment and supplies:

    What do you think will happen to the items mentioned; will they go to civilians, or go to the Houthi militia, or be sold on the black market to buy the Houthi militia weapons and ammunition?

    The real world is rife with complex multi-dimensional situations like this that don’t lend themselves to simplistic solutions.

    Yemen, to us, is a poor state in political crisis due to conflicts between the Houthis, al-Islah, and an al-Qaeda insurgency.

    The Houthis attempted to take control of the country after a coup d’état.

    If they are successful, Saudi Arabia will be flanked by a pro-Iranian regime and become a base of operations for attacks on both Saudi Arabia and Israel.

  • I thought American evangelicalism couldn’t do any more to prove how broken its moral compass is. But there’s always deeper to dig, apparently.

  • I wonder which will be more effective: the vinegar of Amnesty International’s approach, or the honeyed words of the evangelical delegation.

  • “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The least the Evangelical could do was to remind the Crown Prince that he overlord the 2 Holy cities and Islam is the religion of Peace. Maybe his opulent palace made the Evangelical dumbfounded.

  • Had early Christians been unwilling to sit with ungodly leaders and people, Christianity will still be a small Palestinian sect.

  • 1. They provide material support and political protection for Wahhabism/Salafism worldwide. i.e. the Saudi government provides the foundational underpinning for radical Islam, and have done since the 1970s. The rise of Islamic terrorism since that time is a direct result of this.
    2. They have waged a brutal bombing campaign in Yemen over the past few years. They have deliberately targeted hospitals, markets, weddings, funerals, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of non-combatants.
    3. They maintain a regime of internal oppression so extreme that people are beheaded on absurd charges, such as of being “witches and warlocks”.
    4. They just conducted an appalling assassination/murder in a foreign country, clearly ordered from the very top.

    Talking and interacting is one thing. In the case of the Saudis this needs to be sternly conducted by people who know what they’re doing, from a position of strength and with appropriate behavior-changing objectives. These evangelicals trooping over there and sucking up to MBS merely strengthens his image at a time when he should be an international pariah.

  • 1. Some provide material support and political protection for Wahhabism/Salafism worldwide. Whether the rise of Islamic terrorism since that time is a direct result of this is arguable.

    The Soviet Union made Saudi Arabia look like girl scouts. We opened factories for them there and lent materiel, food, and other support as an ally in WWII.

    2. War is hell. Like ISIS, Al Queda, the Hussein regime in Iraq, the PLO, and others the Houthi militia hide amongst the population as a defense. The evidence that the Saudis have deliberately targeted civilian hospitals, markets, weddings, and funerals approximates zero.

    3. Saudi Arabia is a sovereign country which is tribal in organization and feudal in political structure. It is strict Sunni Islamist, which by Western standards is “oppressive” by their standards is acceptable.

    We have been and are allies with worse.

    4. The evidence the abduction and murder were ordered from the very top is non-existent.

    There appears to be no evidence that the evangelicals were “sucking up”. Suggesting we make him an “international pariah” when he is primary ally of both the United States and by proxy in maintaining peace in the Middle East and containing Iran, which IS an international pariah is advocating a cure worse than the disease.

  • Looks like evangelicals really helped in preventing Khasogghi’s murder but as long as rump says it’s ok…

  • Ya know. It seems that the presence of Khadafi and Hussein had somewhat of a calming effect on the Middle East. You might even say they helped to stabilize the region. But they questioned the status quo of the us and israel desiring to control the region. Khadafi even threatened the petrodollar.So the us dedied they both had to go. I’m sorry that my country has spent more than a century keeping other nations and regions unstable. All of us didn’t do it. Just the politicians.

  • “All of us didn’t do it. Just the politicians.”

    IMHO that’s a chickensh-t copout.

    The politicians were elected..

  • We have two political parties running this shithole. Bad and worse. Some of us actually vote for the one we think is the beet choice. The others are so stupid they vote against their own best interests and those of the world as well