Every four or eight years, after the nation goes through the ritual of picking a president, some of Washington’s churches go through another ritual — getting a president to pick them.
When Bill and Hillary Clinton came to town in 1993, preachers from Baptist (his denomination) and Methodist (hers) churches across town picked up their phones and their pens to invite the new first couple to their pews. After hearing from at least half a dozen congregations, the Clintons picked Foundry United Methodist Church on 16th Street NW, where they became active members.
George W. Bush, like Ronald Reagan before him, opted for the convenience of St. John’s Episcopal Church, just across from the White House. Ministers from numerous denominations tried to woo the Obamas, but the first family never picked one church, instead visiting many churches over the course of their eight years in the White House.
And now it’s time to ask: Will President Trump go to church in Washington?
It may not be likely. Trump has previously been affiliated with Presbyterian churches, and he identifies as a mainline Protestant, but he is not a regular churchgoer.
Still, The Washington Post emailed or called all 16 churches in the District affiliated with Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest mainline Presbyterian denomination, to find out: Is the same sort of jockeying going on to get this president into the pews?
In short: No. One minister of one of the denomination’s churches closest to the White House responded to The Post’s inquiry, “Are you kidding?” When a reporter replied that in fact the question was quite earnest, the minister then said that, come to think of it, he would send Trump a letter of invitation.
Presbyterian Church (USA) is a liberal-leaning denomination that has embraced same-sex marriage. Several of these churches in the District are led by female clergy, and several have black clergy and predominantly black communities as well as members from other racial minorities. Some are located in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia where Washington’s politicians rarely venture. And of course, all of them are located in the District, where more than 92 percent of voters last week voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Trump.
The response from most of these churches was essentially: Trump will be very welcome, if he thinks a church like this is his cup of tea.
- Capitol Hill Presbyterian’s Rev. Scott Wilson: “Our doors are open to everyone to worship with us and listen to the words of Jesus on love and compassion. Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church is a welcoming and inclusive church, and our doors are always open to anyone who wishes to join us in our community exploring faith, joyfully sustained by the love of God, caring about each other, and the needs of a broken world.”
- Fifteenth Street Presbyterian’s Rev. Robert Bell: “I think Mr Trump would be welcome at any Presbyterian Church USA in the city. I know he, like everyone is, would be welcome at ours. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy that finds the gospel challenging and meaningful or likes to rub elbows with a diverse group, not all [of whom] are materially successful. But God works in mysterious ways.”
- Georgetown Presbyterian’s Rev. Camille Cook Murray: “We have not reached out to Donald Trump. Our congregation is a politically diverse church, unified by our common faith in Jesus Christ. … Our community is open and welcome to all so yes, if Donald felt called to join our church then he would be welcome.”
- National Presbyterian’s Rev. David Renwick: “National Presbyterian has a long legacy of serving presidents, appointed officials, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle, as well as those who serve our nation in both military and civilian capacities. This is clearly a tradition we want to honor and carry forward — and therefore we warmly welcome our president-elect to join with us in worship. … With regard to membership — membership is open to any person who knows their need of a savior, who places their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and who commits to be faithful in worshiping and serving God together.”
- New York Avenue Presbyterian’s Rev. Roger Gench: “We would, of course, invite the President-Elect to worship with us. Our logo declares that we are a ‘just-seeking and inclusive church,’ so we welcome people from varied points of view, race, and sexual orientation.”
- Sixth Presbyterian’s Rev. Edward Taylor: “I actually did think about sending the Trumps a letter of invitation to our church, but I’m not going to do it. For one thing, I have done it in the past, and I don’t think it gets the president to your church…. Of course, anytime you can have the president come to your church that would be wonderful. But, in this case, well, no.”
Bell and Gench said they would probably send Trump a letter to welcome him in writing.
This article has been updated.
Correction: An earlier version misspelled the name of the minister at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. He is Rev. Roger Gench.