Their evangelical ties: Kenneth is an Oral Roberts University alumnus. The Copelands are viewed mostly critically within evangelicalism as “health and wealth” televangelists. They are grouped with other ministers who fell under the 2007 investigation: Paula White, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, and Creflo Dollar.
Their beliefs and politics: In February, the Copelands hosted Ted Cruz’s father, pastor Rafael Cruz, and said that Cruz was “called and anointed” to be the next president. Their involvement with Mike Huckabee, who appeared on their show and hosted a fundraiser on their campus in 2007, fueled the Senate investigation into their ministry’s tax-exempt status. Following the investigation, they created the site Believers Stand United, which shares political and social news from an evangelical viewpoint. The Copelands encourage viewers to “stand together in faith” and stream a live broadcast on election night.
Their Trump ties: Along with Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, as well as Paula White and other fellow televangelists, the Copelands prayed with Trump last September. Kenneth specifically asked that God give him “wisdom according to James 1 and God reveal himself to them.” A blog post on their ministry site indicated, “The Copelands’ attendance at this meeting does not mean that they are endorsing Trump. Brother Copeland is willing to pray with any candidate that asks for prayer, no matter what the party affiliation. This is according to 1 Timothy 2:1 and 2.”
Mark Burns, South Carolina pastor
Who he is: Burns pastors Harvest Praise and Worship Center in South Carolina. The church appears to be a relatively small congregation, with about a dozen worshipers in attendance each week. Burns’ one-year-old regional television network expands his reach. He also runs a prayer hotline.
His evangelical ties: Before stumping for Trump, Burns was not a well-known figure among most evangelicals, though he had ties to often-criticized names in the prosperity gospel world. He appeared at ministry events alongside Eddie Long, the Atlanta-area preacher who was sued over an alleged Ponzi scheme. He also is connected with Mike Murdock, a Texas televangelist known for “seed covenants,” where he encourages viewers to send donations and wait for the “harvest.”
His beliefs and politics: Burns, who identifies as pro-life and supports a “Christian America,” rallied for Trump starting in the primaries—defending in particular the candidate’s position among Christians and African Americans. He opposed Ted Cruz. In previous elections, the South Carolinian said he voted for Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
His Trump ties: Burns was among the pastors and televangelists invited to meet with Trump in September. He left New York compelled by Trump’s faith and commitment to protect Christian religious freedoms. Since then, Burns has regularly appeared on TV in support of Trump, whose appearances, positions, and affiliations fill his social media feeds.
James Robison, founder of LIFE Outreach International
Who he is: Robison spent much of his childhood living with his mother in extreme poverty; as an adult, he founded LIFE Outreach International, which provides for the homeless and needy. Robison is also an evangelist and co-hosts LIFE Today, a daily television program, with his wife Betty.
His evangelical ties: On his television show, Robison has hosted prominent evangelicals such as Beth Moore, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tony Evans, Robert Jeffress, Philip Yancey, Ravi Zacharias, and Max Lucado.
His beliefs and politics: In the 1980s, Robison was politically active, and his name is often connected with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. At one point, he organized a rally of 10,000 to fire up Christians to take back the nation. (Mike Huckabee, who was his communications director, said that was the start of the Moral Majority.) Robison withdrew from political life in the 1980s, but didn’t disappear completely. He organized the rally where Ronald Reagan told 2,500 pastors that “I know you can’t endorse me, but I want you to know that I endorse you.” In 1999, George W. Bush phoned Robison to let him know when he felt God calling him to run for president. In 2010, Robison called a meeting with Richard Land, Tony Perkins, and about 40 other conservative leaders to discuss how to replace Barack Obama. And over the past few years, Robison has written weekly commentaries on American culture and politics.
His Trump ties: Robison has not endorsed Trump. In March, he said that he hoped Christian leaders who are close to Trump would lead him to a “road to Damascus experience” so the world could see God change someone “who so obviously needs changing.” Robison also wrote that Trump should pick Ted Cruz as his vice president.
The Southern Baptists
Ronnie Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention
Who he is: Floyd has pastored the multisite Cross Church in northwest Arkansas for 30 years, and served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant denomination in the country, from 2014 to 2016. (The SBC elected a new president last week.)
His evangelical ties: Floyd was nominated for the SBC presidency by Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the most prominent voices in the denomination. The Duggars, of 19 Kids and Counting, once were regular attendees at Floyd’s Arkansas church. He also hosts a weekly summit for Christian business leaders; guest speakers have included Mike Huckabee, author and speaker John Maxwell, Tyson Food CEO John Tyson, and Chick-fil-A’s Truett Cathy.
His beliefs and politics: In the 1980s, Floyd was part of a conservative movement to curb liberal politics within the SBC in Arkansas, and Huckabee beat him in a race to lead the state convention, The New York Timesreported. Floyd endorsed Huckabee decades later, during his 2007 run for president. As SBC president over the past two years, Floyd continued denominational efforts toward racial reconciliation. He has called on the US government to do more to combat the ISIS genocide against Christians in the Middle East, and endorsed the evangelical statement affirming biblical marriage following last year’s Supreme Court decision.
His Trump ties: Last month, Floyd wrote for Fox News about his decision to meet with Trump, though at the time he said he had no intention of endorsing him—or any candidate—in this election. He raised concerns about the GOP candidate’s remarks on women, immigrants, and minorities, and went on to say that “there is too much at stake before us” to abstain from voting altogether.
Robert Jeffress, author and Texas megachurch pastor
Who he is: Jeffress is pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. He has made more than 2,000 guest appearances in the media, and he regularly appears alongside Sean Hannity and others as a contributor on Fox News. Under his outspoken leadership, First Baptist has grown to more than 11,000 members and expanded its downtown campus with a $130-million building project. Jeffress is the author of 23 books and the host of the Pathway to Victory show.
His evangelical ties: First Baptist is a historic congregation in Texas, founded nearly 150 years ago, and Jeffress follows former lead pastors George Truett and W. A. Criswell, both prominent Southern Baptists. He is an alum of Baylor University and an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.
His beliefs and politics: Jeffress has made strong statements against Islam and homosexuality (“represents a degradation of a person’s mind”), causing NFL quarterback Tim Tebow to cancel his appearance at Jeffress’ church. He endorsed former Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2011, prompting Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to ask the IRS for an investigation into the tax-exempt status of Jeffress’ church. Mike Huckabee wrote the foreword to Jeffress’ 2012 book Twilight’s Last Gleaming.
His Trump ties: Jeffress prayed with Trump during the gathering of Christian leaders at Trump Towers in September. He stopped just short of endorsing Trump in January, introducing him at several rallies and stating that “any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … is being motivated by pride rather than principle.”