Presbyterian leader rebukes Trump on immigration

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Brian C. Frank)U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds his bible while speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, Sept.19, 2015. Trump is now under fire by the leader of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a denomination of which he claims to be a member, for his stance on immigration.

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Donald Trump may claim to be an active member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), but one of the denomination's highest ranking officials has hinted in a judiciously-worded open letter to the candidate that he may not be as familiar with the group's beliefs as he claims – at least on the subject of immigration.

Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), sent the letter to Trump Oct. 2, just after Trump said he would send Syrian refugees, fleeing ISIS and civil war, back to their country if he was elected president. Trump has also said he would take a hardline on immigrants from Mexico, forcing Mexico itself to build a wall to keep its citizens out of the United States.

"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," Parsons wrote.

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.
- Gradye Parsons, PC (USA)

At least one church Trump has claimed to attend has said he is not an active member, and several congregations have said they do not recall ever seeing him at church. Trump, however, contends that he goes to church "often" and for "important occasions." And although he's claimed the Bible is his favorite book, he has also had difficulty reciting a favorite Bible verse or putting well-known Presbyterian teachings, such as the concepts of forgiveness, redemption and communion, to words.

"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," Parsons also wrote.

The clerk said Presbyterians had been working among nations now afflicted by war (namely Syria and Lebanon) since 1823 and, knowing the people in the country the way Presbyterians do, it "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," Parsons wrote.

At the conclusion of the letter, Parsons said he was the progeny of immigrant ancestors. He also claimed that "we" – presumably European settlers – "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," Parsons wrote.

Trump has not yet responded to the open letter from Parsons, who announced earlier this year that he would soon step down as the stated clerk of the PC (USA) General Assembly.