Monday was a big day for President Trump and the State of Israel as the U.S. opened its embassy for the first time in Jerusalem, officially acknowledging the Holy City as Israel’s capital. But many of Trump’s critics took issue with his choice of pastor to give the opening prayer for the grand opening.
According to Fox News Insider, First Baptist Church of Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, who was a very vocal supporter of Trump during the presidential campaign, spoke during his prayer about how God has blessed Israel and how the whole world has been blessed by Israel and through Israel.
“Most of all, Israel has blessed this world by pointing us to You, the One True God through the message of her prophets, the Scriptures, and the Messiah,” Jeffress prayed aloud in front of the assembly, which included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner. “We come before You today thanking you for your providential and powerful protection of this nation from all who would seek to destroy her.”
Throughout his prayer, the pastor continued to praise the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and its prime minister. But before the speech, Jeffress was labeled as a “controversial figure” by the Washington Post and a “religious bigot” by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Romney wrote on Twitter, “Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”
But Jeffress fired back at Romney and other critics during an appearance on Fox News later, pointing out that there’s nothing strange about a Christian believing that everyone needs Christ in order to be saved.
“First of all, I’ve never said anything derogatory about the Jewish people. I talked about today the oneness that we share in worshipping the same God of the Scriptures,” Jeffress said. “I want to be clear. I’m not a bigot. I’m not an extremist.”
“But I do, without apology, embrace the most foundational belief of historic Christianity. And that is, that faith alone in Jesus Christ is the exclusive way to heaven,” he continued. “Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.’”
Jeffress also pointed out that his beliefs are common to “hundreds of millions of evangelical Christians around the world” and shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, adding that “this has been the teaching of the church for 2,000 years.”
The pastor also criticized Romney, who has been at odds with since refusing to endorse Romney during the 2012 presidential primaries race, according to Politico.
“I think it’s sad, really, that on such a historic day like today Mitt Romney would feel the need to steal the spotlight by launching a vicious and unfounded attack against me,” Jeffress said. “I’m not a bigot or an extremist. I don’t hate anybody. But I do want people to know Christ as Savior.”
Watch his full response in the brief interview below: