At my ordination to the priesthood, I had to make several promises. I declared before God, my bishop, and God’s people, that I felt called to a ministry that, among other things, requires me to “love and serve the people among whom I work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor.” I vowed to “undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom I am called to serve, laboring together with them and with my fellow ministers to build up the family of God” I try, to the best of my abilities and with God’s help, to help make the “reconciling love of Christ be known and received” in the world (1). I take this work very seriously as I pastor a community that is very diverse theologically and politically. It is my duty as a minister of the Gospel to offer the kind of care, compassion, and love to the members of my congregation who are stringent supporters of the President and his loudest critics. It is my sincere hope that anyone you might ask here at Christ Church, Bowling Green or back at St. Paul’s in Foley, AL would tell you that I treated them with respect and compassion.
Of course, I have my own opinions on things, but I work hard to keep them to myself. My political inclinations are based on both my own life experiences and my reading of the Scriptures, especially the words of Jesus who summed up the law in two commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. I don’t dare tell others how to vote, knowing that their life experiences and religious convictions will never be the same as mine. I do, however, think that I am obliged as a minister of the Gospel to speak up anytime that the inherent dignity of any human being or group of people is being denied them. I’ve done it before, at the death of Osama Bin Laden, after the Pulse nightclub shooting, and about certain draconian immigration reform policies. I feel compelled to do it again as there seems to be a distinct uptick in the racist rhetoric of xenophobia, islamaphobia, and white supremacy spreading throughout our nation, beginning in Washington, DC.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, who believes that all are made in the image of God, and is called to be a faithful pastor to all I serve, it would be a violation of my ordination vows to be silent in the wake of language that denigrates whole communities of people from Somalia to Baltimore as being less than. In line with the clergy at the Washington National Cathedral, I affirm that the language being used by our President and several of his supporters has no place in a country that likes to consider itself Christian. God loves us just as we are, but God loves us too much to leave us there. Instead, as disciples of Jesus, we are called to a higher calling, lifting up those in need, caring for the marginalized, and allowing the love which we have experienced in Christ Jesus flow out into the world.
In his letter to the Colossians that is appointed for this Sunday, Paul implores the community to follow the example of Christ by giving up their old ways of “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language.” As the inheritors of that Christian tradition, all who claim to follow Jesus should endeavor to do the same. So you, dear reader, whether a preacher, a dedicated lay person, or someone just dabbing into the waters of the Christian faith, I invite you to join in modeling for and expecting from our elected leaders a basic respect for all of our siblings in the human family. We do not need to agree on everything to still love one another as Christ loves us. Rather, in the renewal of our hearts and minds through the cleansing waters of baptism, all of us whether Republican or Democrat, recent refugee or Daughters of the American Revolution, Episcopalians, Baptists, and Roman Catholics are called to lives our lives following the example of Jesus Christ, who is all and in all, in the world that desperately needs the restoration and redemption that comes from God’s saving love.
(1) BCP, 531-2, emphasis mine.