By Bob Allen
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz has announced endorsements from both his current pastor and a semi-retired Southern Baptist preacher who baptized him when he was 8 years old.
Gregg Matte, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston, called it an honor to be the Cruz family’s pastor.
“We all know Senator Cruz as a brilliant, strong and confident leader, unswervingly handling the Constitution with respect and wisdom, but I also know him as a husband, father and friend,” Matte said in a news release on the Cruz campaign website.
“Because of what I have seen of Ted Cruz, as a father, a husband and a Christian, both in and out of the political arena, I heartily give my personal endorsement to Ted Cruz as our next president,” Matte said.
Pastor Gaylon Wiley, who baptized the young Cruz at Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston, reconnected with the candidate during a campaign rally in August.
“I was told Pastor Gaylon Wiley was here,” Cruz told an audience at a community center Aug. 12 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. After spotting the semi-retired minister who now lives in nearby Lebanon, Tenn., Cruz told the crowd: “I haven’t seen Brother Wiley since I was a kid.”
“Brother Wiley led my dad to the Lord,” the candidate said after a pause.
Now a pastor, in the 1970s Rafael Cruz was estranged from his second wife, the mother of then 3-year-old Ted. After attending a Bible study in 1975, the elder Cruz became a born-again Christian, leaving behind his days as a practicing Roman Catholic.
Wiley remembered Ted Cruz as being like most other kids, “except he had the IQ of his father — he was three stages ahead.”
“I believe he is God’s man for this hour, for such a time as this,” Wiley said of the candidate. “He is the most constitutional, conservative candidate in either party. The hand of God is on him, and if God’s people rise up, he will be the man.”
The GOP hopeful attended Second Baptist High School in Houston as a teenager and went to high school at the Second Baptist School. After returning to Houston in 2008, Cruz and his wife, Heidi, began attending First Baptist Church.
Last year Cruz and Matte worked together to rally pastors after the city’s mayor subpoenaed church sermons for a lawsuit involving Houston’s controversial equal rights ordinance.