Pastor becomes first to quit Trump's evangelical advisory board

August 18, 2017, 7:29pm

CEOs from the business world are abandoning him. Leaders from the arts community have exited stage left. And now President Trump heads into the weekend with a member of his evangelical advisory board joining the mass exodus post-Charlottesville.

A Brooklyn-based preacher on Friday became the first member of the unofficial Christian council to resign his post. “There was a deepening conflict of values between myself and the administration,” A.R. Bernard said in a statement, adding that he had “quietly stepped away” from involvement with the group several months ago and then on Tuesday submitted his formal resignation.

Before resigning, Bernard also co-signed a letter with other members of the Executive Committee of the Commission of Religious Leaders group, stating “we will not be silent” in the condemnation of white supremacist groups, Trump, whose bid for the White House was heavily supported by evangelicals, was widely criticized earlier in the week for failing to condemn the neo-Nazis who marched at Charlottesville, Virginia, and sparked violence that left three dead.

Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical who has maintained his support for the president during another turbulent week, has yet to respond publicly to the resignation. Neither has Trump responded, and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Members of the president’s religious council, created shortly after Trump became the GOP nominee last year, had an emergency call on Thursday to discuss Trump’s response to the events around Charlottesville.

“No one spoke about disbanding. We’re called by God, not by political ambition,” said Pastor Mark Burns, an evangelical preacher from South Carolina who sits on the board. “We may not agree with everything the president says — we are not a bunch of yes-men and yes-women — but we do believe in the power of prayer and we know the president does truly value what we say and what we believe. That’s important to us, and that’s why we’ll stay.”

Still, Burns, who was invited onto the evangelical advisory board by Trump’s close confidant and so-called “God whisperer,” Florida televangelist Paula White, said he “would have been stronger in reference to pointing out how America does not stand behind neo-Nazis and the KKK — especially me being a black man from South Carolina. I despise that group.”

Nonetheless, he said that the majority of members had resolved to stay the course. “I believe God placed the president there, and I also know that he is still walking into his assignment,” Burns added.

The evangelical advisory board — whose members include former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann — have bimonthly teleconference calls, often with a White House representative on the line. Burns said that Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner had been on more than one of the calls.