Three former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention are among more than 250 religious leaders joining a call by evangelist Franklin Graham to set aside Sunday, June 2, as a special day of prayer for President Donald Trump.
“President Trump’s enemies continue to try everything to destroy him, his family, and the presidency,” the heir to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said on Facebook May 26. “In the history of our country, no president has been attacked as he has. I believe the only hope for him, and this nation, is God.”
Graham, a leading evangelical apologist for the president, also leads Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief ministry that, among other things, recruits churches and other civic groups to pack shoeboxes with small gifts each December in an annual program called Operation Christmas Child.
Faith leaders including former SBC presidents Steve Gaines, Jack Graham and Johnny Hunt signed on, asking people to pray “that God would protect, strengthen, embolden” the president.
“We believe our nation is at a crossroads, at a dangerous precipice,” signatories agreed. “The only one who can fix our country’s problems is God Himself, and we pray that God will bless our president and our nation for His glory.”
Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee, is immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, presiding over annual meetings in 2017 and 2018.
Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, is a member of Trump’s unofficial evangelical executive advisory board. He was elected SBC president in 2002 and 2003. Graham once threatened to hold church funds for the denomination in escrow due to criticism of Trump and his evangelical enablers by Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Hunt, who followed Frank Page as SBC president in 2008 and 2009, nominated Graham for the presidency in 2002. Hunt, 66, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, Georgia, started a new job last year as senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the SBC North American Mission Board.
“This is a critical time for America,” Franklin Graham said in his Facebook post. “We’re on the edge of a precipice. Time is short. We need to pray for God to intervene. We need to ask God to protect, strengthen, encourage, and guide the President.”
Southern Baptist pastors endorsing the call to prayer include Kie Bowman, senior pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas; Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a Trump adviser; Gregg Matte, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston; and Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Other signers include Richard Land, former head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission now serving as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council who recently served as interim pastor at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Louisiana.
Other names include former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, historian David Barton, James and Shirley Dobson, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., author Eric Metaxas and Paula White-Cain, a prosperity gospel preacher and confidante of President Trump.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former pastor once elected president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, added his support to the effort, along with Founders Ministries President Tom Ascol, Southern Baptist author and radio personality David Jeremiah and Jerry Johnston, who resigned in February as president and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters.
Johnson previously worked at two SBC seminaries and served as a seminary trustee during a change of denominational leadership in the last century commonly referred to as the “conservative resurgence.”
The SBC, the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics, convenes for its 2019 annual meeting June 11-13 in Birmingham, Alabama.