DETROIT – When reality TV star Donald Trump is sworn in Jan. 20 as the nation’s 45th president, a high-profile Detroit minister will share the dais with him. Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, pastor of Great Faith Ministries International, a church that preaches prosperity gospel, has been tapped to give the benediction at the inauguration ceremony.
At first glance the selection is not surprising and is something of an obvious quid pro quo.
Jackson, who owns a television station called the Impact Network and lives in a sprawling 39,000 square-home in Palmer Woods — reportedly one of the largest mansions in Detroit — invited Trump to appear at his church in September of 2016 while Trump was campaigning in the state.
It was one of Trump’s first direct appeals to African-American voters and it possibly contributed to Trump’s shocking win in the state.
For his turn in the national spotlight, Jackson told WDIV-TV his benediction will be a message of “love, unity, togetherness and healing.”
“It is a mind blowing experience to be giving the benediction after everything is said and done,” Jackson said of his role in the inaugural proceedings. “I’m pretty much the last voice.”
Other faith leaders taking part in the ceremony include Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York; the Rev. Franklin Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Pastor Paula White of the New Destiny Christian Center.
“Since the first inaugural ceremony, our leaders have paid tribute to the blessings of liberty that have been bestowed upon our country and its people,” inaugural committee Chairman Tom Barrack said in a statement. “I am pleased to announce that a diverse set of faith leaders will offer readings and prayers at the swearing-in of President-elect Trump and honor the vital role religious faith plays in our multicultural, vibrant nation.”
Local Faith Leader Responds
Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow, senior minister and teacher of Metropolitan Community Church-Detroit, said he is disappointed by Jackson’s decision to be a part of the inauguration.
“In the larger scheme of things, I guess it’s really not that surprising that Bishop Jackson is speaking,” said Stringfellow. “Even within the civil rights movement there were so many other ministers who stood against the movement. They were more in favor of ‘let’s go along to get along.’ Clearly we are on a trajectory as a nation toward greater respect and inclusion for people. Bishop Jackson’s participation in the inauguration says that he supports the platform of Donald Trump, which has been anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant; just anti-, anti-, anti-.”
Though Jackson was careful in September to say he was not endorsing Trump, Stringfellow said his participation in the inauguration ceremony clearly shows his support for the president-elect.
“If Bishop Jackson feels that his participation doesn’t show agreement with Trump’s policies, I would beg to differ,” Stringfellow said. “It gives a sign of approval from a religious leader that this is something that religion approves of and I believe historical Christian teaching does not. The tactics that Donald Trump has used have definitely flown in the face of showing love and compassion to the stranger and the least of these.”
Trump, of course, has a long and complicated history with the African-American community dating back to the 1970s when he was sued for housing discrimination by the U.S. Department of Justice. More recently, while debating Hillary Clinton, Trump called for cities across the country to expand stop-and-frisk policies to combat crime. The stop-and-frisk policy has long come under fire for being a form of racial profiling unfairly targeting black and Latino men.