Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd is among perhaps 500 evangelicals and other conservatives planning to meet with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about his faith and values at a June 21 meeting in New York.
Family Research Council President and Southern Baptist Tony Perkins, and United In Purpose leader Bill Dallas who partners with nearly 50 groups to uphold biblical principles in the U.S., recruited Floyd among a small group of leaders to spearhead the meeting as the steering committee.
Members of the steering committee will question Trump before the larger meeting, but logistics and details of the gatherings were still being communicated, Floyd told Baptist Press. The meeting is billed as an opportunity to share information, values, principles and beliefs.
“We want to talk to Mr. Trump humbly. He doesn’t need to hear us preach. He needs to hear our heart,” Floyd said. “We need to talk to him about what matters to us. The term evangelical is not a voting bloc. The term evangelical is a name tag, a declaration of who we are, about various truths of the Scripture.”
Photo by Matt Miller, Baptist Press
U.S. Supreme Court nomination opportunities, the sanctity of human life, religious liberty and racial reconciliation are topics Floyd hopes to address in the meeting. He expects to be able to invite other Southern Baptists to the meeting, he said, but is awaiting details.
Two former SBC presidents Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, are other prominent Southern Baptists already involved in the venture.
The meeting is not designed to endorse a particular candidate, and Floyd is not aware that any members of the steering committee have endorsed or taken sides against Trump.
Floyd said he doesn’t know where the meeting will lead, but encouraged Southern Baptists to continue to demonstrate love during this political season.
“Regardless of how passionate they are about all this, we don’t need to judge one another for where people may be and have various positions. There are many Southern Baptists who have supported Donald Trump and there may be many others who end up supporting Donald Trump, and we don’t need to cast suspicion on people that do,” Floyd said. “And if we speak out, we need to speak out about the issues, and we need to be very careful that we speak out in a spirit of love and we do so in a way that honors God.
Trump’s rise to the top of a crowded Republican slate of 17 candidates was unexpected, Floyd said, but evidently indicative of the mood of the nation.
“People can say what they want about Mr. Trump, and they can have their personal opinion, but it is unquestionable that he is speaking to the heart of the American public, or else he would have never” surpassed the other candidates, Floyd said. “America is desperate for leadership.
“Mr. Trump has a very demonstrative way to lead. He led with extreme boldness along the way, making statements that people thought would never be received, but they have been received, embraced and endorsed by many people, and that’s why they have voted for him so aggressively and generously.”
Floyd said he and other Southern Baptists have a responsibility to participate in the political process.
“Evangelicals cannot sit this out,” he said. “I think we have a biblical responsibility and I think we have a responsibility as citizens of the United States to participate and be a part of the political processes of this country. Men and women have died on the battle fields all across this world so that I might have that liberty and that privilege, and I will take that privilege always with humility and give honor to our nation, regardless of where our nation is, because I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Christians must pray, vote and be willing to treat with respect whomever God chooses as the nation’s next leader, Floyd noted.
“Whoever ends up being president, we must support and we must encourage in relationship to praying for them and being engaged in the processes of American life that are afforded to us by the Constitution,” he said. “Southern Baptists need to go to the polls. Southern Baptists need to be leading the way in being a part of this process. We cannot be seen as not interested or so mad we’re not going to be engaged. I just don’t think that’s healthy.”
Floyd expressed disappointed that neither political candidate has discussed racial reconciliation, a topic Floyd will address at the SBC’s annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.
“We have a conversation that has been totally ignored, and it’s one of the greatest problems in the country today. I would like to ask Mr. Trump, whoever else is left and ends up running … ‘what do you plan on doing about that?’” Floyd said. “But I also want to tell them, you need to call upon the church to be the church, because in my humble opinion government is not going to solve that. The church has got to step up regardless of what the government does.”
United In Purpose, responsible for many logistics of the meeting, was not available for comment. The groups describes itself as working “to unite and equip like-minded conservative organizations to increase their reach, impact, and influence through the latest technology, research and marketing strategies for the purpose of bringing about a culture change in America based on Judeo-Christian principles.”
Among United In Purpose partners are Americans United for Life, the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches, CatholicVote.org., the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Liberty University, Regent University, Tea Party Express, The Frederick Douglas Foundation, Unity Coalition for Israel and the Kitchen Cabinet.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor.)