Conservative evangelical bishop E.W. Jackson says that his "attitude" about Donald Trump changed as a result of Tuesday's meeting between Trump and hundreds of America's top evangelical leaders in New York City.
Jackson, who is the founder of the conservative nonprofit S.T.A.N.D., said in a conference call during the meeting that he can now back the presumptive Republican nominee instead of just preferring him over presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"What I am hoping we will see is the evangelical community unify around Donald Trump because we just don't have any choice," Jackson said. "I hope that there will be a strong enough statement coming out of this … so that evangelicals around the country start to feel a bit of comfort."
As Trump responded to questions from a number of prominent evangelical leaders, he vowed to appoint only pro-life Supreme Court justices and protect the religious freedoms of social conservatives and religious groups. He also addressed questions on race, poverty and job growth.
"Look, I think my attitude has been changed by this meeting," Jackson added. "You all know that I have been sitting here expressing some skepticism. For me, it is 'I am against Hillary, therefore I am for Donald Trump.' I think coming out of this meeting there are going to be a lot of people saying 'I am not only against Hillary but I am for Donald Trump now and I feel like I got reasons to support him.'"
In talking with other pastors and attendees of the meeting, Jackson told The Christian Post that the consensus is that Trump has "moved the needle" when it comes to support from evangelicals.
"People who came and weren't sure they could vote for him walked out, I think, feeling like 'I can vote for Donald Trump in good conscience and I don't have to feel like I am betraying myself to vote for him,'" Jackson said. "He made some progress today."
Jackson told CP that he was especially thrilled to hear Donald Trump address question of poverty and violence, issues that are close to his heart.
While the meeting was billed as a "conversation with Donald Trump," Fox News' Todd Starnes, who was one of the few journalists to attend the rally, tweeted that the meeting was "basically a campaign rally."
However, Jackson and other attendees of the rally didn't feel that way.
"If it had been just a Donald Trump rally, then he would have given his speeches and moved on. It really was more of a conversation because when he came to the larger meeting for example, he made no comments and he just sat down," Jackson explained. "Mike Huckabee began to ask him questions. He spent time responding to those questions and then there were questions from the audience as well. They asked questions that Christians are interested in knowing so it's not like saying a normal stump speech."
Jackson didn't support Trump during the Republican nominating contests. In a December op-ed for The Christian Post, he wrote, "it is my considered opinion as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for 38 years, that no pastor should be endorsing Donald Trump, at least not at this stage."
Since Matthew 6:33 says, "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness," he added, "we should seek first the candidate who represents the kingdom of God and his righteousness."
Before speaking to the larger group of about 900 pastors, Trump met and conversed with at least 25 evangelical leaders who are serving on his evangelical executive advisory council. The members of the council laid out their concerns to the candidate.
Pastor Jack Graham, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a member of Trump's advisory council, also came out of the meeting feeling like he is ready to "champion" Trump.
"It was a very positive meeting. It didn't feel like a sales pitch," Graham told CP Tuesday afternoon. "It didn't feel like a political campaign [rally] as much as it did a conversation between friends."