John Gray, the pastor of Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina, issued a statement regarding his meeting with President Trump earlier this week. According to The State, “Gray was part of a group of black religious leaders from across the United States who met with the president for what the White House called Trump’s ‘Meeting with Inner City Pastors.'”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2018
Though Gray stated that attending the meeting with Trump was not an easy choice, he wrote on his Facebook page that even his wife disapproved.
“My wife told me ‘If you go, no one will hear what you say. They won’t understand why you’re there. And any good that could come out of it will get lost in translation. I had not one thing to gain by being there. Not. One.”
But Gray stated that he went to the meeting in the hopes of speaking with the Trump administration about prison reform. He said that people behind bars, which are a majority of African-Americans and Latinos, according to the NAACP, could benefit from the help of someone who “looks just like [him].”
Gray acknowledged the tension in the national discourse has increased. He said that he has disagreed with the administration on several policy decisions.
“I have everything to lose. Credibility. Reputation. Every natural inclination says stay home. Don’t get played,” Gray stated when recounting his thoughts about the meeting.
But the pastor attended the meeting anyway and sat directly next to President Trump. He led the opening prayer and conversed with Trump throughout the meeting. Gray reportedly thanked Trump for having the meeting, quoted the scripture, and mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Dr. King said we cannot influence a table that we are not seated at. And so we pray that this conversation will be fruitful and productive, and honoring of the best traditions of this nation,” Gray said.
Though he says he does not regret his decision to attend the meeting, he does understand people’s criticism. He acknowledged the pain of many who have been affected by the Trump administration’s policies and said that he was not posting to Facebook to disregard their experiences.
“I will honor what I believe was the mandate on my life to be there and available to God should He choose to give me voice,” Gray said.
Gray was not the only religious leader who was criticized for his attendance. Pastor Phillip Goudeaux of the Calvary Christian Center also attended the meeting, as did Pastor Darrell Scott.
At the end of his Facebook post, Gray clarified that it had been Scott, not himself, who stated that Trump is “the most pro-black president that we’ve had in our lifetime.”