Pastor John Gray responds to backlash after Trump meeting

Greenville pastor John Gray came home Wednesday after meeting with President Donald Trump, telling his congregation he had hesitated in going.

Gray, who has been outspoken in his opposition to the administration’s immigration and other policies, attended a presidential meeting of inner city pastors which focused on the administration’s prison reform efforts.

Sitting beside the president, Gray led the invocation and later praised the president’s willingness to meet with pastors about prison reform.

He also, twice in the president’s presence, invoked a Martin Luther King Jr. sentiment that “we cannot influence a table that we are not seated at.”

To his congregation Wednesday and in an Instagram post early Thursday morning, Gray went further.

He said he had not visited the president to show support, he opposes many of the administration’s policies as well as “the real hate that has bubbled to the surface of the national discourse.”

Gray, who got his start as a touring Christian comedian and singer, was until recently an associate pastor at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Gray left to lead Relentless Church, formerly called Redemption. He and his family are the focus of the reality TV series “The Book of John Gray” on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Gray said he agreed to go to meet Trump so he could push for the prison reforms. Discussion with the president and the pastors focused on efforts to employ people who are released from prison.

“I went as a man of God and I wanted to be heard, that if there’s anybody who thinks they’re above praying for people they don’t agree with, then you don’t have the heart of Christ,” Gray said to his congregation.

“As a kingdom church, we have people from every walk of life and political persuasion and while we may not agree on everything,” he said, pointing up, “we agree on the blood.”

Gray said, in his Instagram post, that he was worried about going, he had nothing to gain and could lose credibility and reputation.

“Every natural inclination says stay home. Don’t get played,” Gray wrote.

He said he understands the visceral reaction and personal pain people had when they learned he would be sitting next to and praying with the president.

“I did not go as a politician, nor did I go under partisan rhetoric,” Gray said. “I’m not a Democrat nor a Republican nor an independent, I’m a Christian.”