Change is a process, not an event, he likes to say.

This election year has come with its own challenges. In June, when Donald J. Trump’s team invited a group of evangelicals to advise the candidate, Mr. Bernard was among them. Mr. Bernard has since stepped away from that role, he said, because he felt more like “window dressing,” as he put it, than a genuine adviser. The two had met years ago, weirdly, at Maya Angelou’s 80th birthday party, where Mr. Bernard was the keynote speaker; the setting was Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, which perhaps explains the unlikely pairing of that presidential hopeful with the poet and civil right activist.

“If I’m going to advise you,” Mr. Bernard said, “it’s because I’m going to really, genuinely advise you. O.K., politics is a weird game, I get it. But when I found out that no matter what we were saying, he continued the same path, I said: ‘You know what? I need to step back and remain neutral.’”

Ms. Bernard, with typical candor, said, “I never met Trump, but Trump just has issues, and it’s obvious he has issues.”

Two weeks ago, when Elena George, a celebrity makeup artist, was preparing Donna Brazile, the veteran political analyst now serving as interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, for her role on CNN’s round table after the first presidential debate, they phoned Mr. Bernard to join them in a prayer. “I told Donna, ‘We need reinforcement,’” Ms. George recalled.

“He quoted scripture,” Ms. Brazile said. “And it was helpful.”



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