An Open Letter to the Community of the Synod of the Northeast and Those We Serve

by Harold Delhagen

Dear Friends,  

As with many of you, I have become weary and sad at the constant flow of hateful speech and racist rhetoric from our president and his followers. The daily barrage of these words,  and devastating actions that follow them,  leaves me exhausted and wondering how to best use my public voice in ways that don’t simply add to the constant  flood of exchanges around them.  

This morning as I rise from morning prayer  there is a fire in my  bones that I cannot quench. It rises from the deepest part of my spirit and compels me to speak a word that makes it clear that there are regular episodes of our current president’s behavior  that  are undeniably immoral and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.     

I am compelled to specifically address the recent comments he has made regarding our sister countries of Haiti and countries in Africa.   

There are times when the intersection of public discourse and the Gospel so powerfully intersect that we cannot remain silent. The door into political discourse has been flung open to the community of believers by the hateful disrespect exhibited in that conversation. The many ways the president’s words are contrary to the Gospel are clear to us all.   

In light of this I would like to share how terribly wrong these words are from personal experience. I have had the privilege of sharing hospitality in the homes of beautiful people in numerous African countries. I will forever cherish the memories of hospitality and beauty living in the home of a widowed woman in Soweto who opened her home to me for many days. I remember the breakfasts of quince jelly on toast and lingering conversations over coffee in her lovely home. I cherish the memory of dinner in the home of a pastor named Samson in Eldoret, Kenya where I was embraced with loving welcome. The makeshift walls and thatched roof tenderly held within them abundant grace and love that still makes my heart explode.   

Neither of these, nor the countless other places where I have been welcomed could ever be described by the language used this week.  Certainly, they did not have gold plated toilet fixtures, or rooms to hold racks of designer clothing. Yet Trump Tower in all of its glory could not compare with any of these magnificent places and the people who dwell in them.  

Soon, by God’s grace our family will adopt a beautiful young woman from Liberia.  The orphanage she will come from has its own beauty that is created by the love of those who make that place a home for them. I only hope that our family and our community can live up to that standard.  

In the New Way Forward document  that expresses the values of our Synod Community, we make public confession that;   

 We are a regional community of presbyteries and congregations learning to respond to God’s call to become agents of divine justice, transforming the Presbyterian Church (USA) in the Northeast into a community of hospitality  and welcome for all. (

 There are beautiful parts of our Synod community that come from these African countries that our president has spoken of so disrespectfully. It is essential that we all express that these latest words are unequivocally unacceptable.  The president’s hubris will probably prevent him from apology.  Quite honestly that would not be enough.  The way to truly address this is for him and those who would defend him to repent of the deeper racism and selfish xenophobia that shape so many recent governmental decisions.  We need to make this the tipping point that opens toward deep change  in our approach on many issues,  including immigration and healthcare.   

Our Synod Community celebrates the gift of our diversity and is committed to seeing that diversity grow. We cherish the beauty that our African congregations bring into our midst. I encourage the members of our community to find courageous voices and to make this latest event the tipping  point  we need to claim and cherish the gift of diversity and the heritage of hospitality that has always been a keystone of our society and a core value of the beloved community we aspire to become.    

With love and grace,

Harold M. Delhagen
Synod Leader
The Synod of the Northeast