Letter 21

Katharine R. Henderson

President, Auburn Seminary

February 9, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

I am president of Auburn Seminary, a 200-year-old institution founded by Presbyterians in upstate New York to train leaders “hardy” enough for the frontier. Leadership is my business, and, as you know, what makes for success in one time may not work in the next. Becoming president marks a new time for your leadership, and America needs you to be the best president you can be.

The winning formula for leadership (or life, for that matter) in our tradition comes from a passage in the book of Ephesians that talks about putting on the “whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17). You might think that this means being strong, powerful, wealthy, and secure in the usual sense. But, here is what “suiting up” in this context actually means: put on the “belt of truth,” which means be truthful based on the best facts and evidence available. Then, put on the “breastplate of righteousness,” which means lead a life that pursues justice and therefore is pleasing to God. For your shoes, put on whatever inspires you to walk in the way of peace and love, not war and violence. Finally, “take the shield of faith” and “the helmet of salvation” and pray for all the people, as Scripture says: “Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith” (6:23).

President Trump, I pray that you will heed these words at this new moment of leadership.  The values you invoked at the end of your inauguration speech—power, security, pride, and wealth—are not God’s values; and they will not make America great. Instead, put on the whole armor of God: seek truth, do justice, walk humbly, offer hope. Open your heart and mind to many voices, especially those who disagree with you. Use your power well so that you might do great things for all God’s creatures—including women, Muslims, and immigrants—all those made in God’s image who yearn for an equal place at America’s table.

Pray sincerely for all the people, and know I will be praying for you,

Katharine R. Henderson

The Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson
President, Auburn Seminary
New York City


About the author

Katharine R. Henderson, President of Auburn Seminary, is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and author of God’s Troublemakers: How Women of Faith are Changing the World (Continuum, 2006). She is an internationally known speaker and has been featured in The Washington PostThe New York Times, MSNBCNPR, and more. She was named co-recipient of the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize for her lifelong passion to create spaces for authentic interfaith engagement, including spearheading the creation of “MountainTop,” a national gathering of 80 faith leaders to catalyze a multifaith movement for justice.