And he recognizes that many members of his congregation will support the president no matter what. When he spoke out from the pulpit against Mr. Trump’s denigrating comments about immigrants early this year, he said, a family left his church.
Franklin Graham’s crusade in Fresno
The evangelist Franklin Graham’s California rally last week in Fresno also exposed the underlying racial tension in the evangelical community, the three pastors said.
They recalled that when Mr. Graham, the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, announced his tour, the pastors of more affluent communities in Fresno tended to support his mission of mobilizing evangelical voters.
Local African-American evangelical leaders, however, opposed it; they recalled how Mr. Graham had not condemned Mr. Trump’s comments about immigrants and his equivocating response to Charlottesville last year.
Mr. Binion, who helped lead Billy Graham’s crusade to Fresno in 2001, called Franklin Graham “a pretender” and objected to his call for a travel ban against Muslims, issued before Mr. Trump’s, and to his hostility to L.G.B.T.Q. people.
While Mr. Loera had supported Mr. Graham’s trip to Fresno, pastors like Mr. Binion had been so opposed to it that a representative from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association flew out to meet with them this year in an attempt to address their concerns, the pastors said. After the meeting, Mr. Binion decided to make the information about the crusade available to his church but to not promote it from the pulpit. A spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said that meeting with local churches in advance was standard practice ahead of such tours.
Mr. Willis said that when he showed a promotional video for Mr. Graham’s visit to his congregation, which is largely white, several families walked out, and he worried that Mr. Graham’s trip could fracture the unity the local pastors had been working to build in recent years.
“Unity,” Mr. Willis said, “was more important than a Christian celebrity coming to town.”