It’s not enough to be in the King’s presence, you must understand your assignment in the King’s presence. Some of us are in such a rush to be in the presence of the King without fully processing the responsibility that we fall short and concede the assignment for a seat. As we see with Esther, Daniel and the three Hebrew boys, God sets His people in high places to bring His agenda with them. -Fred Willis, “The Weight of the Wait” 2017
I’ve spent the better part of the day trying to wrap my mind around the paradoxical gathering in the cabinet room of the white house on yesterday. President Donald Trump gathered with Black and Hispanic Pastors to discuss prison reform. What actually happened was nothing short of another notch in President Trump’s belt of untruth. As is customary with this administration, the attendees fell victim to Trump’s trademark bait and switch. In short, these Pastors got played-they walked right into a bear trap only paralleled in hilarity by a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Perhaps the meeting ran longer than the published 31 minute video and text transcript, but that seems to be the entirety of the meeting. Instead of broaching the topic of prison reform in depth, its need and how these Pastors would better serve the initiative, the men kowtowed to the President, lauding his “action” on the issue, economics and employment.
The black Pastors were in the white house to talk about prison reform but this contrast was too stark for me to ignore. When the white Pastors were in the white house. they prayed for…prayed over the President and crowded him but this meeting on yesterday evoked a different attitude. One that put each of those powerful preachers seated, under the influence of Donald J. Trump. Per usual, Pastor Darrell Scott found a way to dominate the news cycle with an ostentatiously vulgar love of untruth in favor of President Trump.
You must understand, this meeting was limited to the rolodex of Pastor Paula White. This explains both, the scope and intent of the meeting. Can you imagine if Bishop T.D. Jakes were in the room? He should have been in the room and I’m pretty sure I know why he couldn’t or didn’t
make the meeting. Last year at the Pastors and Leaders Conference in Dallas, Texas, Bishop Jakes took issue with Pastor White and Bishop Harry Jackson during the “Polemics of Politics and the Pulpit” panel. Joined by Joshua Dubois, Father Michael Pfleger and moderated by April Ryan, the exchanges simmered to a boiling point and all but severed previously held personal ties. The panel remained cordial afterward and even posed for pictures together, but something changed that day in Dallas.
President Trump meets with urban pastors at the White House.
President Trump traffics in misinformation and misdirection, and used the silence of the Pastors to his advantage. Not once was there a rebuttal or request for the fact (mis)represented during the conversation. The assertion that Trump and his administration are the cause for prisoner hires and increase in their quality of life is easily refutable. It is reported that the Pastors were told that the President wouldn’t take questions, yet none of them offered up a retort in the face of outright untruth. Pastoring is just that, beyond the exposing of malice, but the resolution of malice and these men did the members and communities they serve a severe disservice in the presence of President Trump on yesterday.
In the number were Trump team members Bishop Harry Jackson, Pastor Darrell Scott, Dr. Alveda King and Pastor Paula White. Earlier this summer, President Trump hosted Kim Kardashian-West for a meeting on the matter which resulted in the release of Alice Johnson. You could surmise that this meeting with clergy is the follow-up to the meeting with West. What is problematic about the meeting is the stench of inaction. When Kardashian-West went home, there was already something in the works pursuant to Ms. Johnson’s impending clemency. The news day has come to a close and all we have about yesterday’s meeting is…well, nothing! I’ll opine here and say that this yet another reason why people are dismissive of the spiritual and natural power the church claims to possess. How could a room full of Pastors not eek out a release, call for air conditioning in prisons, or a decrease in private for-profit prisons?
The severity of this level of inaction has grieved me to a point I have not been grieved before. In fact, the only occurrence that comes to mind is the night George Zimmerman was acquitted. I cried from a deep place in my soul I never want to re-visit again. If Pastors like these have their way, I may need more Kleenex. Pastor Jamal Bryant used his absence from the meeting to challenge those in attendance and seek out answers for himself and those us also perplexed by their silence at the table.
I like these Pastors. Many of them are dynamic in the pulpit and magnanimous in their communities. Why they were silent yesterday puzzles me. As stated earlier in the article, one glaring omission from the meeting was Bishop T. D. Jakes. Why he wasn’t at the meeting is unknown to me and not worthy of conjecture. What I will speak on is T.O.R.I. (Texas Offender Re-Entry Initiative) at The Potter’s House in Dallas. This program is one of the largest anti-recidivism programs I know of and successfully re-integrates its program graduates into society as successful contributors and rehabilitated persons.
I attended a T.O.R.I. graduation a few years ago at the church and Judge Greg Mathis was on hand to speak to the graduates. In the few minutes I was able to speak with graduates, Bishop Jakes and Judge Mathis, my mind was blown at the level on which this program operates. Also in the room were politicians, local business owners and government officials who all work together on the multi-tiered effort to ultimately eradicate recidivism. The graduation is held each year and this year, the speaker was political commentator Angela Rye. It’s worth noting that 2014 Valedictorian LaHeather Wilson spent this past Tuesday evening addressing graduates of the Dallas County DIVERT program. Graduates of this program are able to have their records expunged.
Another glaring omission from the table was the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. In effect, Dr. Barber has picked up where Dr. King left off at his untimely death. Dr. Barber’s reiteration of the poor people’s campaign is impacting Americans much like the original iteration. No doubt, prison reform is an extension of civil and human rights, so to have this generation’s drum major absent from the meeting is a severe character flaw. Dr. Freddy Haynes of the Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas would have also been a great addition to the conversation, had there been one. Just this week, Dr. Haynes address Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in an open letter from his pulpit.
Bishop Darrell Hines was a part of the meeting, but why not Bishop Charles E. Blake? Bishop Blake is currently the Presiding Prelate and Chief Apostle of the Church of God In Christ, International and has been a staunch advocate for ending the incessant subjugation of underrepresented people and offering a hand of fellowship and aid. Through their COGIC Urban Initiatives Department, the RITES Program works to make re-entry possible through entrepreneurship. Certainly Bishop Blake or Bishop Bass (President, CUI) would have been more suitable for the meeting.
Father Michael Pfleger would have also been better suited for the meeting, given his 50 years of work in the greater Chicagoland area and working directly with and for the people of his parish. Undoubtedly, he knows the strain violence, crime and even the threat of recidivism put on his community. Pastor, Rudolph McKissic, Dr. E. Dewey Smith, Bishop Joseph Walker or Bishop Paul Morton would have also been worthy additions to the conversation. I can almost assure you that the roundtable was filled with these men not because of their voices, but their complicit silence! These are only a few suggestions and don’t cover all the possible seats at this proverbial ‘table’. Surely there are countless others who are worthy of note and it is my hope that in the wake of this fallout, we become better acclimated to the good work they do in regard to activism and prison reform.
‘Optics’…Pastor John Gray Addresses His Presence At the Table
The Conclusion of the Matter
My issue with this meeting is simple, it yielded no results, or even a plan for the future. Will there be a future meeting? Ask the HBCU heads who now feel jilted after their meeting with the President. While many of the Pastors are thankful for the invitation to the table, this meeting is nothing like Daniel in Babylon working under Nebuchadnezzar. In that instance, the nation was under his wicked rule and God used Daniel’s gift to not only make room for him, but for his friends as they were made heads over provinces in the Kingdom. Like Daniel and his friends, it would have been advantageous for at least one to decline the “meal” of furthering the Trump agenda in the form of the dubious photo opp. President Trump has done some good for the country, but majority of what he does is to the detriment of the greater good of all citizens.
For trusted Pastors to use their opportunity to compliment a man that sows discord, deceive his base and discredit this democracy is stomach churning. These men didn’t show grace, they showed cowardice! I’m reminded of Mordecai’s words to Esther when he reported Haman’s plot:
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
What happens when you have the opportunity to speak truth to power and affect change and instead choose to praise oppression? Haman laid it out for his cousin: “they’re will kill you, too!” Such is the case, for these Pastors as they return home to their congregations and their incarcerated family members who are no better today than they were yesterday! Pastor Edwrin Sutton of Smith Metropolitan AME Zion Church in Poughkeepsi, New York eloquently voiced the frustration most of us feel, today (read Pastor Sutton’s statement in full, here):
l also firmly believe that when you are not invited to the TABLE it’s because you are on the MENU. However, how humiliating it is when you are at the TABLE but still ON THE MENU! If you are going to sit at the table, AT LEAST place your order! Moses met with the Pharaoh, but he placed his order! He said LET GOD’S PEOPLE GO! When did one preacher at least one time PLACE THEIR ORDER while they were at the table?!? Furthermore, when I read the official minutes of the meeting l was deeply disturbed! If you are going to be a TRUE PROPHETIC WITNESS, there must be at least two components; You must HEAR FROM GOD and you must SPEAK FOR GOD! No one spoke for God FULLY!!!Whenever we become “starstruck” with those who are influenced by the powers of darkness, we stop being PROPHETS and start being PUPPETS, controlled by our mesmerization of PEOPLE, PLATFORMS and POWER! To those who might have went to the meeting out of pure motives, my question for you is where was the wisdom? Surely, if you didn’t go for a Photo Op, wisdom would tell you that the President invited you for a Photo Op! If you don’t support the President, surely wisdom would tell you He was going to have his team market it as such!!!! If you were conflicted about going, surely wisdom would have told you to seek council from credible black Pastors who fight for the liberation of minorities. You’ve been TRUMPed!