Televangelist Paula White, a spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump, is stepping down from her role as senior pastor of an evangelical church in Florida ― and announcing big plans for the future.
White officially installed her son, Brad Knight, and his wife, Rachel Joy Knight, as senior pastors of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, during a service on Sunday. She told the congregation, recently renamed City of Destiny, that she would still be serving them as “oversight pastor.”
White, who has a massive following of over 3 million Facebook users, said the shift will allow her to focus on her other goals ― which include starting 3,000 churches, acting as a mentor to pastors, opening a university, and even creating a performing arts center. She said she’d gladly come back to preach whenever her son requests.
The preacher said the changes were divinely inspired.
“The Lord spoke to me very clearly and said, ‘If you miss this moment, you will delay things. Do not miss this moment,’” White said during the service.
White has been in charge of the 23-year-old congregation since 2012, when its founder, the Rev. Zachery Tims, died.
Although she doesn’t have a seminary degree, her Pentecostal-style preaching and substantial online ministry have turned her into a millionaire, the Guardian reports. She now lives in a nearly 6,000 square foot home, in a gated community of million-dollar houses near her Apopka church.
White is a popular proponent of prosperity gospel, a teaching that suggests God wants all Christians to be prosperous and that material wealth is a sign of God’s favor. She’s been a close friend and spiritual adviser to Trump since the early 2000s and is credited as the person who “personally led him to Christ.” She can often be spotted with Trump at meetings he has with his evangelical advisers. Like some of Trump’s other allies in the American evangelical community, White has used her influence to try to bolster Trump’s image and drum up support for his policies.
Last year, as some evangelical leaders expressed dismay over Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy that separated children from their parents at the U.S. border, White stepped in to defend it from a Biblical perspective.
But White’s close associations with the Trump White House have caused some consternation among members of her predominantly black Florida congregation. Bradley Knight told the Washington Post in 2017 that the church had lost 200 to 300 people because of Trump, and that donations dropped by $10,000 a week.
“Her relationship with the black community got really frayed because of President Trump,” Knight said. “She got messages from black leaders, saying, ‘You betrayed us.’”
HuffPost has reached out to White, Knight and to New Destiny for comment.
In an interview with the Guardian in March, White admitted that Trump doesn’t speak “Christian-ese.” Still, she insists that the president, a professed Presbyterian, has a sincere and deep faith.
“He genuinely cared about the [evangelical] community,” she said.