When presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump meets behind closed doors next week with conservative Christians from across the country, no one expects a coronation.
But neither will there be an inquisition, according to organizers.
Rather, the event is being billed as a conversation.
“It’s an opportunity for him to know more of this group better, for this group to know him better. It is conciliatory in tone,” said Johnnie Moore, national spokesperson for My Faith Votes, a nonpartisan movement encouraging Christians to vote.
About 900 conservative Christians, mostly evangelicals, have been invited to attend “A Conversation About America’s Future with Donald Trump and Ben Carson” on June 21 in New York City.
The event, hosted by My Faith Votes and United in Purpose, grew out of the idea “we as Christian leaders need to be dialoguing with whoever is going to be the next president of the United States,” according to United in Purpose CEO Bill Dallas. Organizers plan to extend the same invitation to Hillary Clinton now that she has become the presumptive Democratic nominee, he said.
Dallas said the guest list, which has not been released, includes TV and radio personalities, Christians with large social media and grass-roots reach, and pastors of different sized churches.
“We have some megachurch pastors that have churches of over 20,000 that are going to be in attendance, but we also have some churches that are smaller,” with 200-300 members, he said.
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd confirmed in an op-ed for Fox News published in late May that he plans to attend, even though Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has been outspokenly opposed to Trump.
“I believe it is incumbent upon me to learn all I can about each candidate and their platform,” Floyd said, adding that he does not plan to endorse a candidate.
Organizers have solicited questions for the candidate from 2 million conservative Christians across the county and received about 15,000, according to Johnnie Moore.
Dallas pointed to topics that polling shows Christians are most concerned about: jobs and the economy, strong defense, Supreme Court justices, religious liberty, and “life and the culture of life.”
In the 2012 presidential election, 149 million self-identified Christians voted, while another 42 million who were eligible to vote stayed home, according to the Barna Group.
Ben Carson, who personally had invited Trump to participate after facing off against him for the nomination, will moderate the discussion between the candidate and Christian leaders. Carson now is My Faith Votes national honorary chair; Johnnie Moore had been the “special faith adviser” to his presidential campaign.
On June 10, Trump spoke to 1,200 evangelicals at a gathering of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and the Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C.
Moore said he hoped the June 21 meeting would “shore up any trust issues that might exist between Trump and evangelicals.”