Our church—the Episcopal Church, which is the American expression of the Anglicanism forged in the Church of England—has always been engaged with the workings of the commonweal. After all, Henry the VIII rendered the Church a branch of the government, which caused more than a few problems for the church, to be sure, but also allowed the church to remain attuned to the needs, the concerns, and, indeed, the dangers that faced the nation and its people.
In the United States, that tradition of engagement by Episcopalians with the civic life of the nation has remained strong. There have been more Episcopalian presidents than from any other denomination, as one singular example. From the halls of power to the power of the voting booth, Episcopalians listen, pay attention, form opinions, hold convictions, and then—most of all—act.
All of that is good, and especially so when we arrive at a day like today and a national election. Our nation desperately needs Episcopalians to participate in the commonweal in ways that usher in the kingdom of God. That’s not theocracy in the making. Rather, it leavens the world with grace.
But somewhere along the way, Americans have come to mistake fellow Americans with whom they disagree as enemies. We impute to them the worst motives and turn their views into caricatures, and we harden our own views until they lack all nuance and fall prey to the sin of self-righteous certainty. And the result is the opposite of the Gospel of Jesus. Instead of fostering reconciliation, we fracture relationship.
My good friend, the Rev. Daryl Hay, said this past Sunday, “Christians don’t have enemies, only neighbors.” Anyone who reads the Gospel with care knows Daryl is correct. So, on this election day, on which so much of such import is admittedly at stake, how are Christians, and particularly Episcopalians, to respond? I hope we will vote, and I hope our votes will be cast through the lens of the Gospel. Beyond that, however, I hope we will model for the rest of the world what it means to love our neighbors.
The Very Rev. Anne Maxwell, Dean of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Jackson, Mississippi, shared with me a pledge that the members of at least one parish have committed to take this election season. It is steeped in the Gospel. I will take this pledge, and I encourage you to consider taking it too:
A Pledge for the Presidential Election
As a person of faith committed to the life and teachings of Jesus, I make this pledge to all people
regardless of their political beliefs, whether we are in agreement or disagreement, and regardless
of who wins the election.
With respect to my words and actions, whether in person or through social media, I pledge and
commit myself, both before and after the election –
To love others as Jesus has loved me (John 13:34);
To treat others as I would want them to treat me (Luke 6:31);
To love my enemies, do good to those who hate me, bless those who curse me, and pray
for those who abuse me (Luke 6:27-28);
To “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” (Book of Common
Prayer, 305); and
To “strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every
human being” (Book of Common Prayer, 305).
This I pledge in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.