Trump Pastor Offers “The Most Explicitly Partisan Prayer Heard at a Major Party Convention in Modern Times”

From Bloomberg17 July:

A prominent African American evangelical leader has been added to a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention — a last-minute scheduling change by Trump campaign strategists in the wake the shooting deaths of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Pastor Mark Burns, who often opens for Trump at his campaign rallies, will deliver a speech with a message that focusses on the need for bridging divisions in America.

“Unity — that’s the central theme to my message,” Burns said. “We need to talk about coming together as a nation. I will be talking about unity and love. We must not be focused on our divisions. We are one people. We need unity and love.”

And here’s how that message of “unity and love” panned out the next day – Amy Sullivan reports:

After telling attendees of the Republican National Convention that “Our enemy is not other Republicans but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party,” a South Carolina pastor offered the most explicitly partisan prayer heard at a major party convention in modern times.

…”We are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ,” Burns told delegates, before closing his eyes in prayer.

That the Republican National Convention might feature a religious leader who calls on God to give a Republican candidate “the power and authority to be the next president of the United States of America” may not surprise many who have followed the role of the religious right in American politics over the past few decades. But while some pastors have sometimes offered such prayers within their own churches and communities, party conventions have largely featured religious leaders who make an effort to keep their language nonpartisan.

Burns’s prayer was the Benediction for the RNC’s daytime business – the better-known Paula White (blogged here in 2012 being wrapped in a Torah scroll) gave a second Benediction at the end of the evening session, by which time the convention hall was mostly empty.

Time has the background for White’s involvement:

Last September, White gathered a group of preachers to meet with Trump at Trump Tower, including prominent pentecostal televangelists Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Jan Crouch, “Preachers of LA” reality star Clarence McClendon, and newcomers to the national scene like South Carolina pastor Mark Burns.

Trump’s attempt to look pensive and reverent as the preachers laid hands on him was one of the more amusing sights in the history of his campaign.

White has apparently been a “close friend and spiritual mentor” to Trump for 15 years, and she recently announced that “God has His hand” on the candidate. She was also the source of the story that Trump had recently accepted “a relationship with Jesus Christ”, which was made public by James Dobson following Trump’s meeting with 900 evangelical leaders in New York City last month (the “leaders” also included Joseph Farah, whose website WND guided Trump during his birther period). Dobson famously called Trump a “baby Christian”, so as not to raise expectations unrealistically. Also backing Trump is Jerry Falwell Jnr – although there was controversy when Falwell and Trump were photographed in Trump’s office with a framed cover from Playboy in the background.

Bloomberg‘s description of Mark Burns as “prominent” evangelical leader supporting Trump is somewhat circular: unlike White, Burns has achieved prominence because of his association with Trump. Time has a profile by Elisabeth Dias and Diane Tsai:

Trump surrogate Mark Burns, 36, is a televangelist, and he runs a church television studio in Easley with his wife and six children. Trump’s candidacy has thrust Burns into the national political spotlight for the first time. For Burns, it is a sign of God’s blessing. “For someone like Donald Trump to say, ‘Hey, your heart is right, your spirit is right, you’re my real friend, come follow me,'” Burns says, “that speaks volumes.”

And Burns straightway left his net and followed him.

Further RNC Benedictions at are scheduled from Sajid Tarar (Founder of American Muslims for Trump – profiled here), Archbishop Demetrios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans) and Roger W. Gries (Catholic – Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus).

Covering the invocations: Rabbi Ari Wolf and Monsignor Keiran Harrington (Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, NY) spoke yesterday; following up will be Harmeet Dhillon (a trial lawyer from San Francisco), Nathan Johnson (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and Reverend Dr Steve Bailey (New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church).