President Donald Trump met with religious leaders at the White House Wednesday.
Those who sat, spoke and prayed with the president were black pastors from across the U.S., which the White House called Trump’s “Meeting with Inner City Pastors.”
Among those who had an audience with the president was a pastor from South Carolina — John Gray, the head of Relentless Church in Greenville.
Gray previously was a pastor at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Texas. He also is the star of a reality TV show on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network which wspa.com reports will resume shooting in Greenville.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The megachurch pastor sat in the seat next to Trump, to his right, in the Cabinet Room. After a few opening statements and greetings from the president, he asked Gray to start the conversation with a prayer.
“God, we thank you for an opportunity to speak about the hearts of those who sometimes cannot fight for themselves. Thank you for this moment to be able to share our hearts with the president and his administration,” Gray said, according to White House transcripts. “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.
“We further pray that you will continue to give wisdom and insight to our President and his leadership team to be what our nation needs, to build this country from the inside out, that we will continue to be a beacon of hope and light around this world.”
Trump seemed to enjoy the prayer, and Gray’s delivery. Before beginning the conversation with the rest of the guests in the Cabinet Room, the president thanked Gray, and White House transcripts show he joked, “I think he’s done that before. What do you think?”
Among the issues discussed between Trump and the religious leaders was the re-opening of steel mills, prison reform and opportunities for ex-convicts, urban issues, job growth for minorities the president’s leadership and, of course, faith.
As the conversation made its way around the table, the last person to speak was the man who delivered the opening prayer — Gray. And when given the opportunity to lead the discussion Gray wasted no time.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to be at this table at a time in our country where faith is becoming a bit of a dinosaur. In a time of moral relativism and secular humanism, it is refreshing to know that those of us who have committed our lives to fighting for people who cannot fight for themselves have a seat at the table to share our hearts,” Gray said, per White House transcripts.
Among those who Gray said he was fighting for are people battling issues many of them were born battling — poverty and mental illness. He also said he was fighting for those who are in need of another chance, specifically former prisoners.
“Criminal justice reform is an opportunity to give a second and third chance to those who want to become productive members of society,” Gray said, according to the transcripts. “Our nation cannot forget the broken. It is in the best tradition of our nation to fight for them.”
After thanking Trump again for giving him that platform, Gray closed by telling the president, “my prayer is that you will continue to have wisdom and insight to lead this nation.”
While his turn was over, Trump was not finished speaking with the Greenville pastor. The president thanked Gray for speaking and asked him about the size of his congregation.
When Gray told the president he has “about 5,500, 6,000” parishioners in nearly three months in South Carolina, Trump responded by saying “I heard it’s really incredible. Very quick.”
After his visit to the White House, a video was posted to the Relentless Church Facebook page of Gray delivering a sermon in Greenville. The message field accompanying the video said “I’m not a Democrat, nor a Republican, I am a Christian.”
Gray was not the only representative from the Greenville megachurch at the meeting. He was accompanied by Travis Hayes, Relentless Church’s CFO.
Hayes told Trump that he used to work in law enforcement, and he was “really excited to hear about these programs with regards to folks who are just being released from prison and getting them back in the workplace,” according to White House transcripts.
Gray arrived in Greenville in May. Prior to becoming Relentless Church, the megachurch was called Redemption Church and was led by Ron Carpenter Jr.
Carpenter moved out west when he took over Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose, Calif., but not before introducing Gray, The State reported in May.