Months after distancing himself from any political party, Franklin Graham has said Donald Trump is a better choice for America than Hillary Clinton and urged voters to overlook the presumptive Republican nominee's flaws.
Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, gave an opening prayer and remark to over 900 pastors and political leaders gathered in New York on Tuesday for a meeting with Trump.
The meeting, convened by former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and the nonpartisan My Faith Votes organization, included Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Tim Wildmon (American Family Association), Ronnie Floyd (Southern Baptist Convention), James Dobson (Focus on the Family), and David Jeremiah, among others.
Although the meeting with Trump was closed to the press, a video of the meeting was posted to Twitter by conservative Virginia pastor and founder of the S.T.A.N.D. conservative non-profit organization E.W. Jackson. The pastor also hosted a phone conference after the meeting to reveal what occurred, according to The Christian Post.
"Franklin Graham made this point and it is a powerful one - there will never be a perfect candidate as much as we would like one. There will never be a perfect candidate. In fact, he said, 'Look, I am a sinner, we all are sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God,'" Jackson recalled, according to CP. "He said that we don't get to choose between perfect evil and perfect good. We get to choose people that we believe are at least inclined to, open to, have the possibility of doing what is best for our country."
"[Graham] made quite clear that one candidate offers absolutely no hope - Hillary Clinton. And, another candidate offers a tremendous amount of hope - Donald Trump," Jackson continued. "I think he made clear where he stands. Nobody left that room wondering is he considering boycotting. Just the fact that he showed up tells you everything you need to know, really."
"It really gave me pause and I think it gave a few others pause too because what it says is that we Christians may be selling ourselves short by looking at Donald Trump and judging his Christianity when there are no perfect Christians," Jackson added. "Different Christians have different strengths, weaknesses and different places in their development and so forth."
In December, Graham, the son of prominent evangelist Billy Graham, announced his resignation from the Republican Party and declared himself an Independent.
"I have no hope in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or Tea Party to do what is best for America," he said at the time. "Unless more godly men and women get in this process and change this wicked system, our country is in for trouble. I want to challenge Christians, even pastors, across the country to pray about running for office where they can have an impact. We need mayors, county commissioners, city council members, school board members who will uphold biblical values."
During a Tuesday segment of "On the Record" with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, Graham explained that while Trump "addressed most of our concerns," during the gathering, he still didn't feel comfortable endorsing any candidate in this election.
Van Susteren asked him about Decision America Tour prayer rallies he's been hosting at state capitals. "They're enthusiastic about coming about to pray, but do you get the sense they're enthusiastic about the election? Are they going to come out to vote?"
Graham assured her that they're going to come out to vote, noting that his prayer rallies take place at noon on working days, "not a weekend when they can take a day off."
"They sense that the only hope for our nation is God," he reiterated. "I tell them I have no faith in the Republican Party, I have no faith in the Democratic Party - my only hope for this country is God."
On Tuesday evening, Graham reflected on the meeting in a post published on his Facebook wall.
"This year's election is critical for our nation-we're at a turning point," he wrote. "I'm not endorsing any candidates, but I am going to all 50 states holding prayer rallies with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association#DecisionAmericaTour. Thousands in every state have come out to their capitol to stand together in prayer for their state and for the nation. Our only hope is God."