Televangelist Paula White-Cain, a longtime spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump, will join the White House staff advising an office that steers taxpayer funds to faith-based organizations, the New York Times reported Thursday.
The evangelical pastor, who teaches a version of so-called prosperity gospel that says God will grant wealth and health to those who donate to her ministry, will join the Office of Public Liaison as an adviser for the Trump administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, the Times reported, citing an unnamed White House official.
Trump created the initiative with an executive order last year to make sure faith-based organizations working in areas such as fighting poverty and improving health care, education and “strengthening marriage and family” have access to government funding. The initiative also seeks to ensure that these organizations can act according to their religious beliefs while receiving taxpayer funds ― even if those beliefs result in discrimination against queer Americans and others.
Neither White, who is best known as Paula White, nor the White House immediately replied to HuffPost’s inquiries.
On Tuesday, White was among conservative evangelical leaders who gathered at the White House to be briefed about the president’s “continuing, remarkable accomplishments.” The preacher, who was a member of Trump’s original evangelical advisory committee and delivered an invocation at his inauguration, often attends Trump’s meetings with evangelical leaders.
White has known Trump since 2002 and is credited with being the person who “personally led him to Christ.” She says her friendship with Trump began when he called her “out of the blue” after watching her televised sermons and told her she had the “it factor.”
White never graduated from seminary, but she’s managed to accumulate a massive following through her Pentecostal-style televised preaching and substantive online ministry. She’s a millionaire who lives in a nearly 6,000 square-foot home in a gated community of million-dollar houses near her Florida church, The Guardian reports.
The thrice-married preacher’s teachings have been labeled heretical, even by other evangelicals. White is often identified as a proponent of the “prosperity gospel,” a teaching that suggests God wants all Christians to be prosperous and that wealth and good health are signs of God’s favor.
“I do not believe in the ‘prosperity Gospel’ as I’ve been accused of believing it,” White said in a 2016 interview with Christian Post. “I do believe that all good things come from God, and I also believe that God teaches us so much through our suffering.”
White promises on her website that a donation to her ministry will help ensure blessings from God. She refers to scripture passages that instruct ancient Jewish people to offer the “first fruits” of their harvest to God.
Tithing is a common practice among Christians, but what distinguishes the prosperity gospel is the promise that health and wealth are absolutely guaranteed to those who are faithful in the right way.
White pledges on her site that “through your first fruits offering, [God] gives you the power to acquire wealth to establish His covenant.”
“The principle of ‘First Fruits’ is God’s plan for us to prosper and be in health all year long!” the website proclaims. “When you give the ‘first fruits of your increase,’ as the Word says, your ‘barns are destined to will be filled with plenty and your vats will to OVERFLOW.’”
White has also received flak from progressive Christians for some of her political pronouncements. Last year, White defended the Trump administration’s immigration policies by claiming that although Jesus was a refugee, he didn’t cross borders illegally.
In May, White stepped down as head of Apopka, Florida’s City of Destiny church (formerly New Destiny Christian Center). At the time, she said she was leaving the congregation to focus on other goals ― which she said included starting 3,000 churches, acting as a mentor to pastors, opening a university, and creating a performing arts center.