A Charlotte-area evangelical leader said he won’t resign from a Trump administration advisory council despite discomfort with President Donald Trump’s comments on the Aug. 12 violence in Charlottesville, Va., that left a woman dead.
Trump came under fire for blaming “many sides” for the clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters. Two days later, the president explicitly condemned racism and the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, said in a statement Thursday that Trump’s initial comments were “inartful and begged to be misconstrued and misunderstood in ways that are very hurtful to people.”
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But Land said he’ll continue to serve on the president’s Evangelical Faith Advisory Council, saying “Jesus did not turn away from those who may have seemed brash with their words or behavior.”
“A leader presented with the challenges that President Trump is facing needs counsel and prayer from Bible-believing servants now more than ever,” the statement said. “Now is not the time to quit or retreat, but just the opposite – to lean in closer.”
Land said he and other council members, in communicating with the administration, have condemned racism and bigotry as contrary to Christian teachings.
But only one of Trump’s evangelical advisers has quit despite business leaders, artists and Republicans distancing themselves from the president, the Washington Post has reported. The Rev. A.R. Bernard of New York cited “a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration” in his resignation.
White evangelicals have been some of Trump’s core supporters, with 81 percent voting for him last November. Land was among 20 conservative Christian leaders, members of the evangelical leadership group, who prayed with the president at the White House last month.
Land said at the time that most evangelicals would likely agree that Trump as president has “exceeded our expectations.” He cited Trump’s nominations of strict constructionist judges to the federal bench and denial of U.S. money to international groups that promote or perform abortions.