'He didn't come to pray': Bishop 'disappointed' by Trump's visit to St. John's Church

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington added that President Trump did not enter St. John's Church to pray and had only been there once before.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington criticized President Donald Trump for his visit to St. John's Church on Monday and expressed her disappointment that he didn't enter the church to pray for the nation.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde spoke with Craig Melvin on TODAY after saying Monday night that she was "outraged" by Trump's visit to the church amid protests in the district and across the country over the death of George Floyd in police custody Minneapolis.

Trump stood in front of the church holding a Bible on Monday evening. Earlier, in an address from the White House Rose Garden, the president said he would use military force to stop the riots.

"Consider the context," Budde said. "After making a highly charged, emotional speech to the nation where he threatened military force, his officials cleared peaceful protests with tear gas and horses and walked on to the courtyard of St. John's Church and held up a Bible as if it were a prop or an extension of his military and authoritarian position, and stood in front of our building as if it were a backdrop for his agenda. That was the offense that I was speaking to."

The church, which was damaged by a fire in the basement during protests on Sunday night, has been attended by every president since James Madison.

Trump did not enter the church and had only been there once before during his presidency, on the day of his inauguration, according to Budde.

"I also was deeply disappointed that he didn't come to church to pray, he didn't come to church to offer condolences to those who were grieving, he didn't come to commit to healing our nation — all the things that we would expect and long for from the highest leader in the land," she said.

Budde was asked if she knew what Trump hoped to accomplish with Monday's visit to St. John's.

"I am not going to wager a guess, but I know what it did not accomplish,'' she said. "It did not serve the spiritual aspirations or the needed moral leadership that we need."

"I cannot speak to his motives because he did not consult us, he did not warn us that he was coming across the street to the church," she added.

Budde expressed her support for the black community during the ongoing protests and said the church is praying for peace and justice.

"We share in the grief and the outrage of life after life of African American and people of color in this country being subjected to violence and death, often at the hands of those who are meant to keep them safe,'' she said. "We would long to be part of the renewal and the healing of our country."