Dear Trump’s preacher:


Dear Mark (or, if you prefer, The Reverend Mr. Burns):

I gather that you are the closest thing that Donald Trump has to a preacher, judging from your performance at the RNC in Cleveland a couple of weeks ago.  You and I have never met, though I am a native of South Carolina.  I’ve never been to your Harvest Praise & Worship Center in Easley but I have been known to be a preacher and a teacher of preachers and I have visited in Easley.  While I am in awe of your taking on the role of being The Donald’s pastor and spiritual advisor, I would welcome the opportunity to talk homiletical shop with you.

Preacher to preacher, you’ve got your hands full.  I was once the pastor of a sleazy Congressman who went to the slammer after an FBI sting, so I can tell you that it’s not easy being court chaplain these days.  I felt abused by him after I saw myself pictured in one of this guy’s campaign ads – without my permission.  I can only imagine the challenge of being used by The Donald.

In one sense, I’m glad to hear that, under your guidance, The Donald has gotten religion and now has a fitting spiritual guide.  As you know, The Donald has never been big on church. In fact, he has apparently rarely entered a Christian church and lacks even the barest understanding of the faith. Earlier in the campaign, he claimed he was a member of Marble Collegiate in NYC.  I checked — another case of Donald’s playing loose with the facts.  He said he was a “Presbyterian” but I checked with lots of Presbyterians and they say that’s not true.  The folks at Marble Collegiate don’t seem to know him (his main relationship with MC is that he allegedly met Marla Maples there. You and I both know that certainly doesn’t qualify him to be a Presbyterian).

Your prayer at the RNC gave me pause. “Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump” I guess you didn’t mean that we’re thankful for Trump’s sexual morality, married life, relationship with minorities, charitable contributions, truth-telling, confession of sin, etc.  Maybe you are thankful for his business dealings — except for his numerous bankruptcies.

Then you prayed, “We’re thankful that you are guiding him….” Come on.  Do you really think that’s a nice thing to say about Our Lord?  Just where have you noted the guidance of Our Lord in The Donald’s life?   I’ve missed that.  He says he doesn’t believe in making mistakes or apologizing for anything.  Doesn’t sound like he’s had much divine guidance.

You said, in response to the outcry over your unpreceded, partisan prayer that brought the RNC to its feet, rather than their knees, “I’m a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And for me, whenever I get – every opportunity I get to declare his name on whatever platform, I’m going to do so.”  That’s good.  I’m curious to know just what in The Donald’s life connected with Jesus?  Indeed, where in your prayer did you lift up Jesus’ name or way of life, death, and resurrection?  I missed that.

Your failure to mention anything specific about Jesus or to quote Jesus was probably a good call.  I can think of a long list of things that Jesus said and did that you really don’t want to mention to your buddy, Donald.

In your interview with NPR’s Bob Inskeep you said, “I think I’m a lot like Mr. Trump in some ways….”  I assume you are not talking about your marital life, your language, gambling, or bullying.

Bob directly asked you, “Do Donald Trump’s values match your values as a Christian?”  My ears perked up as you said, “Absolutely. There are three major points that Donald Trump is standing on that I support as a Christian. Number one, he supports, you know, the sanctity of marriage.” (Wow.) “Number two, he supports abortion.” (Forgivable slip.) “He supports, you know, the life of babies. He’s pro-life.  Families, so yeah, absolutely.” (Wow.)

I guess at Harvest Praise and Worship Center you have a creative definition of “sanctity of marriage.”  And while I’m sure the Trumps make some of your troubled families at HPWC look good, still….

“I actually feel appointed for such a time, I feel just like Esther did,” you said, referring to the great Bible story (which I’m fairly certain Donald has never heard about). “When Mordecai came to her and said, you need to have your ear to the King, you need to go out and speak to the King, you have access, so you have to help protect our people.”  OK. You see yourself as Esther, though you have set the bar high for yourself.  Best to you.

I understand that you are not – as you have claimed — a member of that distinguished African American fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi.  Sorry that you didn’t get a bid.  I also understand that your boasts to have attended Furman, North Greenville University, and Southern Wesleyan U are shaky.  I am beginning to see why you and The Donald are tight.

If Donald can claim to have seen things on TV that never happened, then I am sure you can boast of having matriculated at schools that don’t know you and have pledged KAP even though they vehemently deny it.  Still, I wonder.  To be working for the one who was not only the way and the life but also the truth, you and the Donald seem to sit light on veracity to say nothing of reality.

Don’t worry.  The Donald has demonstrated that prevarication isn’t a problem for Americans.  Your position at HPWC or The Donald’s place as the Republican standard-bearer isn’t in jeopardy.  These days, there’s just about no lie you can tell that makes any difference.  Not sure if our Lord looks at the same way, but best to you in your ministry.

Will Willimon

58 thoughts on “Dear Trump’s preacher:

  1. Watching from outside it really seems that your current electoral cycle is isn’t a judgment on where you’re going, it’s a welcome to where you are. Two aspects of US culture are looking into two mirror reflections of themselves.
    How does the Gospel speak into a western culture that is gravitating toward demagogues and disaffected rejection of existing power structures to embrace uncertain and unproven alternatives?


  2. I think what all of the kids are saying these days is, “burn!” Bishop Willimon was authoritative and truth-telling, something he clearly believes The Donald and his “preacher” lack. I think Jesus would agree, truthfulness matters – for laity and clergy alike, and even for our politicians, businessmen and candidates for POTUS.

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    1. I don’t believe Jesus would have said anything. I believe he was about God’s work telling us all to love one another and not trying to be the story. Brother Willimon is an example of why I no longer attend the Methodist church or any church. I believe all peachers should stay out of politics and preach about how we are all sinners and need Grace from God. If we were reminded of our sins regularly perhaps there would be fewer liars and greedy politicians in both parties.


      1. Jesus said lots of things, including about the government, politics, and social issues. The world around us and religion aren’t mutually exclusive. Our faith shall absolutely inform every aspect of our lives, including political elections.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think he has every right to stansld up for Jesus, especially when we have a mean bully of a tax collector and Judas preaching the gospel.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I think part of the point is that the Republicans have ordained themselves to be the moral standard bearers. Democrats tend to be a little more humble in that respect. They don’t claim moral superiority.


  3. “You got burned!” Isn’t that what all the kids are saying these days? Or is it “Mic drop?” Either would work in this piece of welcome truth-telling… something that is needed not only from our politicians, businessmen, and candidates for President, but also from our laity and clergy alike. As Jesus teaches, truth is important.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Many good points, but perhaps it would benefit Bishop Willamon to review his own credibility in calling in personal failures to confront those attacking the UMC. Would that the UMC have a Bishop that would be as bold in confronting corruption in the UMC tribe, as this review of another Pastor/ church.


  5. Sorry Rev Will but your words of judgement and condescending tone remind me of why the UMC is declining and has lost favor in Christiandom. Christianity ISN’T an exclusive club. It welcomes ALL, including those with views we don’t always agree with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, the church does not welcome ALL. It welcomes those who reject all that is evil and repent of their sins. (Was it not the Donald who said something about not needing to repent? And I should add that the Church is a community defined by some pretty exclusive beliefs – usually about that Jesus fellow.) I wonder, Jay, what is the difference between being judgmental and truth telling? Could it be that sometimes we confuse style with substance? How would you define your style in the comment above?


      1. Yes, Brent, it did say it did not need to repent. And the comments it made about the Holy Communion … well, I am sure the whites of my eyes were showing. It was so offensive I went straight away to my study Bible and prayed over it for mankind. Christianity DOES welcome all to repent, accept the savior, and be baptized. Christianity IS an exclusive club, the congregation of true believers, and after repentance, accepting Jesus, and being baptized, true believers are to live as did the Messiah. As The Donald breathes, I do not see it doing so.


  6. A few scriptures come to my mind. Things about Christian’s not judging others, being a light in this world. Your words wreak with judgement and disdain for a man you don’t know, but have admittedly gossiped about in the Presbyterian circle. Is your gossip and hate any less of a sin than the Donald’s many transgressions that you have so fully inventoried in your post? Seems like you’re more concerned about the approval of man then you are of God. Anger, even self righteous, is a sin, because man is not God and has no right to bring judgement on another.


    1. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 is my reference to what Dr. Willimon is speaking about. I wonder if these scriptures has ever come to your mind? Funny how moral issues are always put in with the judging issue.


    2. One does not have to judge another if that other’s words and deeds are there to be known. And then you are to purge the evil person from among you (the congregation of true believers).


  7. Reverend Willimon seems steeped in a very long tradition–not sure if it’s Pharisee or Sadducee. If God had any sense, certainly He’d take his instruction.


  8. As a pastor, I think I would rather have received your rebuke in a personal letter, email or phone call. To air it out so cynically and publicly seems harsh. Dr. Willimon, you are a superb writer, preacher and speaker, and a man of distinct credentials. To publish these thoughts appear as though you are attempting to establish yourself as a satirist as opposed to reaching out to a brother in ministry. Just sayin’

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Will: my RCA colleagues might correct me, but I think that DT’s mother was attracted to Vince Peale’s preaching and that’s how the T family arrived at MCC. Keep kicking my @$$. Jeff


  10. I think your critique of their witness to the gospel is legitimate – it makes me angry, too. But if Trump, his Pastor, and Trump’s supporters are going to be roundly condemned for it, their should be an article measuring Hillary the same standards, including her behavior related to how victims of sexual assault should be treated, Christian values, her business dealings (Whitewater and the Clinton Foundation), and how truthful she is (Benghazi and private email servers).

    Some choice we have…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you. You did this without obvious anger and said what so many of us can’t without a vitriolic outburst.

    Sent from my iPhone



  12. Will, thank you for your courageous truth telling. However, I fear you will be set upon and criticized by the christian (small c) tribe.
    Some of the comments to your post remind of the German churches response to Rev. Bonhoeffer’s warnings about another narcicist sociopath who was seizing power about 80 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s crap like this that turns people away from church. If Donald has asked for forgiveness of his sins why would anything about his past matter now?
    How do you know he is not born again?
    Have you prayed for him Doctor?
    Why the open letter? Why not hand deliver it to the Reverend and you guys talk about your judgement of Mr. Trump.
    It’s ok
    If I had something negative to say about Rev. Burns I would be a coward just like you. That Rev is a big fellow.


    1. The words from it’s own lips were – when asked if it had ever asked for forgiveness – “I don’t think so.” It said it does not regret never asking God for forgiveness, partially because it says it doesn’t have much to apologize for.

      Christ did not corner someone about an issue, He spoke up about it in front of everybody.


  14. Waiting to hear your observation of Mrs. Clinton. I would love what to know what you think about her morals and integrity. Yes I know she is Methodist.


  15. Bishop how have you been leading all these years within the Methodist church. It seems that some of the things Bishops do may not line up with Jesus’ teaching. Lets just start with your healthcare plan, or should I call it a Cadillac plan, the one the IRS is wanting to tax because it goes way overboard? Folks in small churches paying tithes, many who don’t have any healthcare paying for your Healthcare. Yeah that sounds like something Jesus would approve of. Oh yeah Jesus didn’t have a caddy He walked everywhere He went.Isn’t that a basic teaching no collage degree needed to understand. While we are at it,does being retired release you from the IRS Statue on speaking about political candidates? Or is that only for the ones we don’t like ? I can’t help it, your still wearing the robe, either take it off or stand by the rules right! These are the bylaws of the UMC!


  16. tad confused…. did I hear any prayers being said here?? only how bad Donald is…. did not GOD use Moses (who killed a man) or Saul (AKA PAUL) ? how was SAUL’s spiritual life before? hhmmm..


    1. Christine A. Jensen on August 10, 2016 at 11:24 am said:
      tad confused…. did I hear any prayers being said here?? only how bad Donald is…. did not GOD use Moses (who killed a man) or Saul (AKA PAUL) ? how was SAUL’s spiritual life before? hhmmm..

      I also am a tad confused – by your remark. Are you saying God is using it like He did Moses and Paul? Are you saying it is comparable to Moses and Paul?

      We know how Saul was before he became Paul. We know how bad its spiritual life is, too. When we see it change, then we will know God has made it a human being and truly His instrument. Until then, get behind me.

      “An idiot will become intelligent when the foal of a wild donkey is born a man.” – Job 11:12


  17. Can’t decide if this letter was intended to expose the Donald’s failings – which should be apparent to anyone listening – or to discredit the claims of the man who prayed for him at the RNC. Discerning listeners would have heard the falsehoods. Seems a bit unkind to further flay the pastor’s errors in print this way. True Christians knew what they were hearing. Those who liked what they heard won’t be dissuaded by this letter.

    As an aside, the NPR interview was with Steve Inskeep, not Bob Inskeep.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jimmy May’s supper table is where I traveled in my heart. Thank you, Will, for defending the gospel–for risking the cross as opposed to merely talking about one. Grandpop and crew are mighty grateful~


  19. I wonder how well the Clintons pastor does,, We all know Obama”s loud mouth pastor , with his XXX damn America,, I do love Pastor Willimon, but nobody is right all the time


  20. As you eloquently point out Donald Trump has some huge character flaws. However you know I am one dimensional when it comes to politics. I would vote for the Devil himself if he was proposing to return the control of K-12 education to the local community.

    Over twenty five years ago you inspired a small group of people to set up charter schools in North Carolina based on your book “Downsizing the USA”. Today there are five amazing schools serving their communities:

    Your book covered the issue of secession which I believe will loom large in the next ten years. Can the federal government continue to suck up power to Washington without triggering a secession movement?

    On a personal note Ines & I will be relocating to Periera, Colombia regardless of who the next US president will be. We will never forget you.


  21. One question quickly comes to mind, sir: Did not Jesus Christ say, at John 17:16, in speaking of his followers, that “they will be no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world”?

    So, why, sir, are you being a “part of the world”? What portion of “no part of the world” did you not understand? Jesus refused kingship over the fleshly Jews in order to be obedient to his God’s commission to him.

    Surely you must have observed that God doesn’t hear ALL prayers. If He did, America would not be in the predicament it is in today, Pearl Harbor would never have happened, nor would World War One, World War II, and the Civil War for that matter. This is not a criticism of American domestic and foreign policy. My comments are always totally non-political. This same data applies to every country on the face of the earth.

    WHY?? Consider Isaiah 1:15 for the reason. “When you spread out your palms, I hide my eyes from you. Although you offer many prayers, I am not listening; Your hands are filled with blood.” Add to that 1 John 5:19, which reads, “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”

    Satan runs the world of today, including the United States of America, as he has almost back to the flood of Noah’s day.

    And, finally, 1 John 5:3: “For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”

    If we are to be lovers of God then we have to “observe,” and obey his commandments. Since Moses’ Law expired with the death of Jesus in 33 C.E., that means we must set about obeying God’s principles and commandments set out in the Greek scriptures (the New Testament), not just sighing and groaning because He doesn’t answer our prayers, when we’re doing absolutely nothing he has asked us to do.


    1. professoreugene on January 21, 2017 at 5:32 pm said:
      Surely you must have observed that God doesn’t hear ALL prayers.
      He absolutely hears all prayers!!!!!!!

      And I do not see this as Will “judging” D.J. Trump. It has revealed itself by it’s words and deeds, just as the “spiritual leader” of it’s church has done. Anyone that is a true believer should flee them both. All things are possible with God, so even the animal that it is and the carnal christian that preaches at it’s church can be made into human beings and I pray the Father Almighty does so if it is His will.

      Many things I will have to be sorry for when I am raised to place my face on the floor of belief before His throne, but after hearing what it said about the Holy Eucharist, I do not think that not voting for it will be held against me.

      And do not burp up your “what-about” isms about Hillary Clinton. That is such a tired cult-of-trump tactic, now. I am a Republican, and I did not vote for Ms. Clinton, nor did I vote for it, since it is not a Republican, but by it’s words and deeds is a Russian sympathizer, an organized-crime grifter, a misogynist, and a racist, among other low things.

      I agree, proessoreugene, that the violence in the ground and in men is worldwide, as in the days of Noah, but we can pray, and prayer is a powerful weapon in the real battle, the war against the spiritual forces of wickedness.

      And He hears ALL prayers!

      But it is right here at the time Christians celebrate the birth of the Messiah, so let us do so –
      Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King, let every heart, prepare Him room


  22. I’ll take will wllimon preacher comments on the president a step further ,paula white -cain gushing about how godly trump is. How do you not talk about the most famous line out of his mouth. “I grab them by the pussy “with billy bush giggling in the backround. Billy lost his job and trump became president. Please lady listening to you go on and on at c-span2 7/23 20 give me a break lady it sounds like you might have been one of those women trump was referring to. How do you explain that to your daughters. You’re all millioinares like him in jesus name. People are way more to the middle than you preach. What a jerkPaula white -cain.


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