Episcopal bishops issue A Word to the Church

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church, meeting in retreat, unanimously approved the following Word To The Church.

A Word to the Church
Holy Week 2016

“We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others.”

On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and the blameless to protect their own status and power. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead, revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.

In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.

In this moment, we resemble God’s children wandering in the wilderness. We, like they, are struggling to find our way. They turned from following God and worshiped a golden calf constructed from their own wealth. The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege. We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.

We call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and we will not betray our true selves.

The Episcopal Church House of Bishops met in retreat March 11 – 15 at Camp Allen Conference Center in Navasota, TX.

Comments

  1. Marybeth Wright says:

    WOW! What a powerful message! I agree with it 100%!!!

  2. Paul Ambos says:

    Was this by any chance cc’d to Abp. Justin Welby?

  3. Ann Schumann-Ousley says:

    So beautifully written and profoundly powerful… I am immensely grateful for the leadership provided by our House of Bishops at this time.

  4. Sam Kincade says:

    Great message!

  5. Jim Himes says:

    What a very polite and lengthy way to say Nothing. This must have been written by a Politician.

  6. Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson says:

    Many thanks to the House of Bishops. I see so many parallels to Germany in the 1930s, in which out-of-control political rhetoric and mob violence made it possible for Adolph Hitler to seize control not by coup but election. With anti-Semitism rising against Jews and Muslims both abroad and at home, we have much to keep in check. Slovenia, for example, has recently elected a fascist leader who has vowed to make life miserable for the Romas. So, yes, the spirit of reconciliation should be the prayer for our country – but also vigilance and the calling out of the fascists of our own day, who, like Amalek of old, would seize the most vulnerable of our day.

    • Sandra K Llewellyn says:

      Agree, it’s very frightening. I don’t know who the fascists are but I can plead to God to tell us and not leave us blind.

    • Hugh Hansen PhD says:

      Honorable Bishop Johnson, interesting how you are picking up the secular mood of leftist politics and bringing up Nazi Germany. I hope you don’t think that that has a spiritual import for us today. Where is our message of hope “this is my fathers world.” Where is our faith in the God who will allow us “to pass safely through the tribulations of ou age?”

      • Studying history does not constitute a “picking up of the secular mood”. Have you considered the fact that the predominant faith in Germany during the 1930s was Christian, both Lutheran and Roman Catholic?

  7. What, specifically, are you pointing to in this statement. Are we to read into it our own particular biases? Moral relativism seems the order of the day. Elevating evil doers as characterizing the country (“shadow of the lynching tree”) while excusing the manner in which ** the margins of society are turning on US ** just adds to the polarization that is fomented by radical Left and reactionary Right. Political correctness is the gateway to the moral relativism because it punishes the free expression of ideas that must be considered where obvious problems exist.

    • Daar Fisher that is a righteous statement !!

      • Righteous? In a biblical sense? It is disingenuous to twist the text of the statement to read “the margins of society are turning on US”. Who, pray tell, is US? The bishops cannot be accused of adding to a “polarization” when there words are misconstrued.

    • You should study theology and Christian ethics, rather than advocating the politically incorrect and demonizing the left.

    • Steve Catanich says:

      The “margins of society” are indeed turning on those who have systematically abused them. It’s called “survival instinct.” You might find it helpful to avoid name calling, and read the statement by our Bishops along with the words of Christ as taught in the Gospels.

  8. Joan Head says:

    Well said. Definitely praying. Hoping more messages like this get into the public eye to counteract the public rhetoric we hear so loudly on the other side.

  9. Michael Craig Patterson, Reno, Nevada says:

    The Bishops’ statement comes from the heart of the Gospel. It reminds us that, in the heat and passion of public debate and differing views, we run the risk of overlooking what we hold from our faith as being dear and pre-eminent. That reminder applies to all of us, whether we tend to stand at the right, the center or the left in the political/social spectrum.

  10. Ben Johnson says:

    Hollow words. The Episcopal Church like every other supports agenda of the right wing fanatics. Without that support we probably wouldn’t be in the position we’re in. They call for “prayer,” and we all k of how much good that goes. I’m glad it allows all you self righteous hypocrites to deny the responsibility for your voting record .

    • Wow, that is a really sweeping accusation. Would you be able to identify several aspects of the right-wing agenda that the Episcopal Church, as an institution and through its own stated words, actively or implicitly supports?

  11. Wilmot T. Merchant, II says:

    When the messengers of God sent “A Word to the Church” the Body of Christ, God’s people said: Amen!! Amen!!

  12. Interesting that even a message of reconciliation and hope can be met with division and fear. I applaud our Bishops today.

  13. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    As a Biblical historian: “the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man” actually “the ruling religious forces of the day caused the torture and execution of an innocent man at the hands of the Romans.”

    Let’s not try to make what happened 2000 years ago about the Presidential Election of 2016.

  14. Gregory Willmore says:

    I applaud the message that our bishops have sent. The church must stand up against the hate and bigotry that is poisoning the hearts of many of our citizens in this election year by certain political candidates and condemn it as contrary to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel of love and mercy. Hate and bigotry is not only unchristian but it is contrary to our American values. I believe our presiding bishop should declare a day of prayer and fasting prior to the general election and should publicly condemn this cycle of hate and violence that the Evil One has imposed upon our beloved nation. Enough is enough. The church must pray, fast and then do something about it.

  15. David Johnson says:

    Hmmmm…no mention of the “lynching tree” called abortion on demand, support by TEC.

    • Perhaps you would be the one to extend the actual history whereby African Americans were lynched, and create a metaphor for another form of killing. Then people can react to your argument, rather than listen to your fault-finding with someone else’s argument that is not intended to address abortion.

  16. The Revd Sarah V. Lewis says:

    Where can one find a copy of the Bishops’ statement in Spanish?

  17. Willam A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    As a Biblical historian: “the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man” actually “the ruling religious forces of the day caused the torture and execution of an innocent man at the hands of the Romans.”

    Let’s not try to make what happened 2000 years ago about the Presidential Election of 2016. Let’s keep the Scripture true to the message, please.

    • Aaron J. Angel says:

      Where the Roman leaders not gods? They only suffered the Jews to maintain the illusion of their power. The ruling religious forces were the ruling political forces of the day. The distinction between the two is a modern one that ought not be read into ancient writings.

  18. Monte Robinson says:

    Sorry –but at some point the Episcopal Church is going to have to take a stand like others for what is right and quit trying to appeal to all. It is not sacrificing the hopes of others by not embracing every weird thing that comes along. We will not betray ourselves if we follow Gods word. Not sure this is happening. Also, do not think it is the faithful that may be on the wrong path but the leadership.

  19. This is a powerful message and statement from the House of Bishops and it causes me to hold my head high as an Episcopalian. This “season’s political rhetoric” does NOT cause me to hold my head high! Thank you for speaking the Truth so eloquently!

  20. Steve Schneider says:

    Is this directed at the Bernie Sanders supporters and BLM activists who started the violence at the Trump rally in Chicago?

    • How did the supporters of Bernie Sanders and the activists of Black Lives Matter “start” the violence at the Trump rally in Chicago? Do you mean that they first assaulted people at the rally? Or do you mean that there form of protest constitutes an initiation of violence?

  21. Vicki Gray says:

    This is good, but the time has come to be more explicit, more forceful. We are on the edge of an abyss.

  22. Richard Bidwell says:

    Thank you for the BOLD leadership of our bishops.

  23. Constance Jennings says:

    This reads like an effort to be on the record as opposing right wing politics while doing nothing to speak directly though belatedly to underlying issues and instead magically leapfrogging to reconciliation. If the church wants to make a difference here and now it is time to shout the message publicly on a daily basis–to shout it from the rooftops in the press, to ring the church bells daily in a call to goodness, to take public risks rather than give retreat summations delivered anonymously.

  24. Trevor David says:

    Bishops’ did a great job of “Taking A Stand.” Every election cycle there will be candidates that sell the dream of becoming a Utopia under their reign. I never see candidates visiting skid rows or prisons, or championing causes for the most disenfranchised. Why, they don’t vote, it doesn’t make for good press, and Voters would find helping those untouchables as not important. Most People elect politicians that have their similar concerns, their best interests, in mind. As Christians, Our Baptismal Covenant requires sometimes the opposite of politics. By acting on the Five Marks of Mission, we see that nonvoters and the environment are clearly within our realm of caring. No matter what our direction (Left, Right, or Center), our Savior, through Divine FÍat, was elected two thousand years ago. If His Kingdom is to Come on Earth, which candidate, if any, speaks to that?

  25. As a practicing Baptist, I agree fully with the Bishops, and I agree with the others..all churches who love the Lord must take a United Stand against evils and contradictions threatening our nation..”evil triumphs when good men do nothing”.

  26. I agree with the Bishops in the thrust of their letter. But the Golden Calf was made from what they plundered leaving Egypt and they made it because they thought/feared Moses and God had abandoned them. Today’s “golden calf” has been forged by the same sense of fear and a deeper resentment of a perceived abandonment. Until we deal with that, we can only expect more.

  27. Steve Lindsay says:

    Come Loving God, most mysterious one, and touch our land with your healing love. Grant us ears to hear your call to love and serve each other and the stranger in our midst. Amen

  28. phyllis kramer says:

    I think it is a thoughtful response to the times we live in. Frankly, I am surprised at all the negative comments.

  29. Cecyl Dolgner says:

    “No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.”
    “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” The “common good” will be revealed by God, not man, and take care of its self.

  30. Tyler Bowen says:

    As one who has had G-d and religion used as a weapon used against me for my entire life, I find the “we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.” to be the most powerful, affirming, and Christ like message I have heard in over 40 years. What a refreshing change. Thank you Bishops

  31. Hugh Hansen PhD says:

    “We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.”

    This is indeed a powerful statement. Thanks to the Bishops of the Church.

  32. Fr Bob Edwards says:

    Agree and disagree. Of course we can all agree “for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail”, it’s vanilla enough for none to disagree.

    What I find most disagreeable – especially ironic at the start of Holy Week – is the language that characterizes Christ as “weak” and “victimized” by political and religious forces beyond his control. The scriptures are lucid that Christ chose this path, out of obedience to the Father, and that it was Gods will for him to be crushed for our sins (cf IS 55:5-7). This is a far cry from many marginalized who havent chosen their lot with this intentionality. Yes Jesus loves the poor and outcast uniquely and calls us to serve them, but it is only in the power of the cross and the resurrection that bonds of sin and suffering can be broken. So I have to say bad form (and theology) for cheaply using Jesus’ crucifixion as a metaphor in such an inappropriate manner.

  33. Steve Lanman says:

    We need to always live in Gods will.
    Living selflessly, loving others, seeking his will daily, turning from all other idols.
    Not only does God hate blasphemy. But he also hates all idols, before him!

  34. Louis Stanley Schoen says:

    Before I joined the Episcopal Church, I recall that it was widely known as “the Republican Party at prayer.” From the responses to the Bishops’ statement, I guess it could now be called “the sometimes prayerful but often highly argumentative party that’s everywhere politically.” Well, maybe that’s where a church is supposed to be, culturally – whatever we might conclude socially or theologically.

  35. Rich Rolls says:

    “We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others.”
    What rotten timing–obviously, this welcoming spirit didn’t work too well for the people of Brussels. By what righteous authority do you desire to expose your fellow citizens to harm? Guess you can’t fashion a golden omelet without breaking a few eggs.

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