Donald Trump has invited pastor Paula White, a televangelist who leads the 10,000-member New Destiny Christian Center in Orlando, to deliver the benediction at Monday’s opening night festivities.
“I genuinely am humbled and honored,” White says. “It’s always been my passion and heart to break barriers for future generations.”
White is a longtime friend of Trump. She also has been active behind the scenes to gather groups of evangelicals and pentecostal pastors to meet him privately since 2011, when he was considering a run for the White House.
Last September, White gathered a group of preachers to meet with Trump at Trump Tower, including prominent pentecostal televangelists Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Jan Crouch, “Preachers of LA” reality star Clarence McClendon, and newcomers to the national scene like South Carolina pastor Mark Burns.
Lyndsay Keith, spokeswoman for the convention, told TIME that White was the first woman to pray at a Republican nominating convention. But Ruth Osborne, a commissioner of the Salvation Army, delivered an invocation in 1992.
White shared a copy of her prayer with TIME:
Correction: The initial version of this story did not note Ruth Osborne, commissioner of the Salvation Army, who led an invocation for the RNC in 1992.
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