My Letter to Gradye Parsons About His Letter to Donald Trump

This letter originally appeared on

Dear Gradye,


With the letter to Donald Trump that was sent out last week, the "Jesus was not political" faction of our dear Presbyterian Church (USA) must be flipping out! I can't imagine the messages and calls that you are being sent your way with accusations that you have overstepped your bounds, this action proves the liberal agenda has taken over the church, and it is because of actions like this that our church is dying.

On second thought, and sadly, you probably get these kinds of messages every day.

When I first read the headline, I thought to myself, "Daaaaang... Gradye just got on stage, dropped the mic, and walked it off!" I can't remember the last time a person at such a high level of our church has so directly called out an individual as much as you have called out Mr. Trump. Many in our church applaud the act, so let me add one more voice of support for what you have done.

Thank you, Gradye.

While it might have been more fun and generated more clicks had you dropped the mic with a BOOM! complete with some catchy GIF of Mr. Trump doing something inane, as is consistent with the person whom I know you to be, you carefully, compassionately, and comprehensively placed the mic on the floor and then humbly exited stage right. Make no mistake, some would have found great joy had you used stronger language, denied Mr. Trump his humanity, or disavowed any connection to him whatsoever -- instead, you courageously and deftly challenged all of us to account for how we live our lives as citizens, Christians, and yes, Presbyterians.

With each reading of your letter, I grow more and more grateful for your words of challenge. So often (too often?) we in leadership are overly careful about balancing the many "sides" to the many issues with which we grapple as a church. Yes, there are times when we must strive for neutrality in order to make sure that crucial voices are heard, but when it comes to issues such as immigration, sexism, gun violence, white supremacy, etc. we must be careful. For in our commitment to discernment and in our yearning be fair to everyone in the room, we must be careful that we do not ultimately end up reinforcing systems of oppression: theological, social, or institutional. Your letter reminds us that we need not always choose the path of least resistance, consensus, or harmony -- for it is often through the rough terrain, thorns, and wilderness that we most clearly meet Christ.

So, thank you, Gradye. If Mr. Trump is going to talk about being Presbyterian and leverage that relationship for his political or social gain, it is your right and obligation, as our Stated Clerk, to call him to account for his actions and words.  In fact, if I hear you correctly, this letter was not only written to Mr. Trump, presidential candidate, but also to any of us who claim to be a part of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Message received.

Thanks for all that you have done for this church that we both love dearly, thank you for your friendship and counsel over the years, and thank you for modeling a faith of abundance, compassion, and courage.

Peace my friend,
Bruce Reyes-Chow, Former Moderator
218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Here is the full text of the letter via

Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Mr. Trump,

I am the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the denomination of the congregation in Queens, New York, where you were baptized. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) develops its policies through councils of teaching elders and ruling elders. At the national level it does that through the General Assembly. I would like to share with you the Presbyterian policies on refugees and immigrants.

Presbyterians profess a faith in Christ, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt when he was an infant to save him from King Herod. Knowing our Lord was once a refugee, faithful Presbyterians have been writing church policy urging the welcome of refugees and demanding higher annual admissions into the United States since the refugee crisis of World War II. Presbyterians have a mission presence in many refugee-sending countries, including Syria and Lebanon, where we have been present since 1823. Our relationship with people of faith and communities in these countries gives us knowledge of the root causes of the flight of refugees and further cements a commitment to welcome.

Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders. We have challenged our government when it neglects to acknowledge the refugee status of those fleeing persecution. We have pushed for due process at the border and we continue to petition for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons.

As a Presbyterian I acknowledge my immigrant ancestors and my new immigrant sisters and brothers. I also respect that we came uninvited to a land already occupied by people. This creates a sense of humility about my citizenship that shapes my views on those who seek a place here. I hope you will find this helpful. I especially hope it will inform you on your policies going forward.

In Christ,

The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)