Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said Monday evening that she is “outraged” after President Donald Trump visited her church without advance notice to share “a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.”
Her pointed comments came after the President walked from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church, a house of worship used by American presidents for more than a century. Peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets. It was all, apparently, so Trump could visit the church.
“I am outraged. The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s, nor as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now,” Budde told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”
“And in particular, that of the people of color in our nation, who wonder if anyone ever — anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred words. And who are rightfully demanding an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. And I just want the world to know, that we in the diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love … we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this President. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love.”
“We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others,” she continued. “And I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen.”
Trump was surrounded by aides in front of the church, including national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Attorney General Bill Barr, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief of staff Mark Meadows, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
He remained at the boarded-up building for a matter of minutes before returning inside the White House. The exterior of the church had been defaced during protests outside the White House Sunday, and there had been a small fire in the parish house basement but church leaders said in a statement that the structure was largely “untouched.”
“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump said outside the building.
Beyond using the church as a backdrop, Budde criticized Trump’s use of a Bible during the visit, which he held up as he posed for cameras.
“Let me be clear: The President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus,” she said.