Conservative clergy attack Barber for saying prayers for Trump ‘border on heresy’

Praying for the president in the Oval Office

Richard Land, who heads Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, describes a prayer visit with President Trump -- and criticism of it by the Rev. William Barber.
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Richard Land, who heads Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, describes a prayer visit with President Trump -- and criticism of it by the Rev. William Barber.

Conservative clergy are returning fire at the Rev. William Barber for his criticism of ministers who prayed over President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last week.

At a Wednesday news conference in Charlotte, five faith-based leaders said that Barber, the liberal president of the North Carolina NACCP, was misguided and un-biblical when he called the White House prayer “theological malpractice bordering on heresy.”

“The scriptures are exceedingly clear that we are to pray specifically for our leaders,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, which organized the news conference. He also quoted Jesus’ command to pray for enemies. “It doesn’t matter which side of the political aisle you may be on, whether Republican or Democrat, conservative or progressive, Jesus’ words don’t leave any room for the kind of qualification in our prayers set forth by Dr. Barber.”

Barber addressed the White House prayers for Trump, which included the ministers’ laying hands on him, last weekend on MSNBC’s “AM Joy.”

“It is a form of theological malpractice that borders on heresy when you can p-r-a-y for a president and others when they are p-r-e-y, preying on the most vulnerable,” said Barber, who has spoken up for the poor and against GOP policies as leader of the “Moral Monday” movement. “You’re violating the most sacred principles of religion.”

One of the ministers who was in the Oval Office and placed hands on President Trump was at the Wednesday news conference called to counter Barber.

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, took exception to Barber’s charge that he and the other clergy meeting at the White House do not care about the plight of the poor. He said he and others meeting at the White House pressed the Trump administration to do more to help impoverished residents of the inner city.

“Mr. Barber’s party and Mr. Barber’s policies have not exactly liberated the inner city, have they?” said Land, referring to the Democratic Party. Barber spoke at last year’s Democratic National Convention.

On Wednesday, Land also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who once said to first love those you’d like to change.

“I don’t feel very loved by Brother Barber,” Land said.

The Rev. Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, cited another widely respected minister, Charlotte-born Billy Graham, a pastor to presidents who regularly prayed for occupants of the White House, Republicans and Democrats, for decades.

Harris, who recently filed to run for Congress as a Republican in North Carolina’s Ninth District, also suggested Barber “visit some of our churches” before criticizing conservative pastors for their stands regarding the poor.

Harris’ Charlotte church, for example, has provided space for Brookstone School, whose students are predominantly African-American and from the inner city, and has a history of feeding 5,000 people every Thanksgiving.

He added that “what churches are doing is the most effective means of truly helping the poor, not government programs where the money … never seems to reach those who need it the most.”

At times, the Wednesday news conference took on a partisan tone. Appearing with the ministers and echoing many of their comments was Robin Hayes, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party.

And a few of the speakers took aim at the Democratic Party for its support of abortion rights and welfare programs that they claimed victimize the poor and minorities.

Clarence Henderson, who heads the Frederick Douglass Foundation of North Carolina, said he would like to ask Barber: “How are you affiliated with a party that brought about the Great Society (the federal anti-poverty program passed in the 1960s) and the welfare program … that said, in order for the woman to receive a check, then the black man could not be be there.”

Added the Rev. Leon Threatt, pastor of Christian Faith Assembly and a former Republican candidate for Congress: “I would say to the Mr. Barbers of our society that if you really want to make a difference in the communities of color, you need to address the egregious acts of abortion in America.”