Presiding Bishop reflects on Charlottesville and its aftermath

Where do we go from here: chaos or community?

Posted Aug 17, 2017

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] In his message for those gathering to worship this Sunday, occasioned by recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the readings of Scripture Episcopalians will hear this weekend, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry asks, “Where do we go from here: chaos or community?”

Noting that “the stain of bigotry has once again covered our land” and that “hope, frankly, sometimes seems far away,” Curry says the way of Jesus of Nazareth shows the way through the chaos to the Beloved Community of God. Commitment to that way, he says, “is our only hope.”

  • The text of the presiding bishop’s message is presented below.
  • A video of the presiding bishop’s message is available here.
  • Resources are available here and here.
  • Reactions from throughout the Episcopal Church are available here.

A Message to the Church from the Presiding Bishop

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

In this moment – when the stain of bigotry has once again covered our land, and when hope, frankly, sometimes seems far away, when we must now remember new martyrs of the way of love like young Heather Heyer – it may help to remember the deep wisdom of the martyrs who have gone before.

The year was 1967. It was a time not unlike this one in America. Then there were riots in our streets, poverty and unbridled racism in our midst, and a war far away tearing us apart at home. In that moment, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a book, his last one, with a message that rings poignant today. It was titled, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”

One of his insights then was that a moment of crisis is always a moment of decision. It was true then and is true now. Where do we go from here? Chaos? Indifference? Avoidance? Business as usual? Or Beloved Community?

I’m a follower of Jesus of Nazareth because I believe the teachings, the Spirit, the Person, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus have shown us the way through the chaos to true community as God has intended from the beginning.

Through the way of love, he has shown us the way to be right and reconciled with the God and Creator of us all. Through his way of love, he has shown us the way to be right and reconciled with each other as children of God, and as brothers and sisters. In so doing, Jesus has shown us the way to become the Beloved Community of God. St. Paul said it this way: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” and now he has entrusted us with “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

I know too well that talk of Beloved Community, which Jesus was describing when he spoke of the kingdom of God in our midst, can be dismissed as nice but naive, idealistic yet unrealistic. I know that.

But I also know this. The way of Beloved Community is our only hope. In this most recent unveiling of hatred, bigotry, and cruelty, as Neo-Nazis marched and chanted, “The Jews will not replace us,” we have seen the alternative to God’s Beloved Community. And that alternative is simply unthinkable. It is nothing short of the nightmare of human self-destruction and the destruction of God’s creation. And that is unthinkable, too.

We who follow Jesus have made a choice to walk a different way: the way of disciplined, intentional, passionate, compassionate, mobilized, organized love intent on creating God’s Beloved Community on earth.

Maybe it is not an accident that the Bible readings for the Holy Eucharist this Sunday (Genesis 45:1-15; Isaiah 56:1,6-8; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; and Matthew 15:21-28) all point toward and bear a message of God’s passionate desire and dream to create the Beloved Community in the human family and all of the creation.

This Sunday and in the days and weeks to come, as we gather in community to worship God and then move about in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, social circles and more, we will be faced with a choice. I ask and invite us as congregations and individuals who are together the Episcopal Church of the Jesus Movement to intentionally, purposely, and liturgically rededicate ourselves to the way of Jesus, the work of racial reconciliation, the work of healing and dismantling everything that wounds and divides us, the work of becoming God’s Beloved Community. Resources that can assist us in doing this work are included with this message, including an adapted version of the Becoming Beloved Community vision that our church’s key leaders shared this spring. I urge you to spend time reflecting with them individually and in your churches.

Where do we go from here? Maybe the venerable slave songs from our American past can help us. In the midst of their suffering, they used to sing …

Walk together children
And don’t you get weary.
Cause there’s a great camp meeting
In the promised land.

We will walk there … together. We will make this soil on which we live more and more like God’s own Promised Land. So God love you. God bless you. And let’s all keep the faith!

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church


Comments (25)

  1. Pjcabbiness says:

    I do not believe God’s “promised land” is the revisionist, leftist, mythological, socialist utopia that our PB is so fond of. This progressive vision is void of atoning, sacramental theology, scriptural integrity, tradition or reason. I will not follow a “movement” that speaks in platitudes and seeks to impair free speech, open dialogue and historical integrity. This “movement” is not Christ centered or even spiritual in nature. It is a socialist political action “movement” that continues to disguise itself in religion. I am and always will be an Episcopalian. I believe in the dignity and value of every human being regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation including the unborn. I do not support a PB who has undertaken an effort to convert our denomination into a Marxist social “justice” organization.

    1. Shayna Watson says:

      Pjcabbiness you should probably consider leaving re:” I will not follow a “movement” …”

      Thank you PB Curry for your reflections and for challenging the us to be and do better!

    2. John C. Ratliff says:


      As a former PJ who did fight for our freedom, I would like to challenge your perception of our PB advocating God’s promised land as being a “revisionist, leftist, mythological, socialist utopia.” These are not “platitudes” which seek to impair free speech. As one who has challenged some of my right-wing service friends on Facebook, I find that when they are thoroughly challenged with the words of people like Robert E. Lee, and confronted with the national sins of slavery, and asked about their actual thoughts on Christ’s love for all, that they have pulled their threads rather than continue a discussion they cannot win. What our Presiding Bishop, Michael Currey, is advocating is that we walk in Christ’s footsteps, that we advocate love rather than hate, that we confront hate with our love, and that we use our scriptural integrity to show a better way to live. There is nothing “socialist” in that calling. Rather, we are trying to show a better way of living, one which does not involve violence and hate based upon a racial concept which has no basis in biology (there is no artificial “race” of humans, no “white,” no “black,” no “Asian” in the human race; rather, we are all human together). In our church sermon today, we heard that it is very possible that we will again, and quite soon, see book-burning, and churches set on fire. Does this make white supremacists feel better? I remember the Birmingham bombings in the 1950s, and pray we don’t as a nation have to live through that again, but this is where we are headed if we don’t push back on the white supremacists now.

      1. Priscilla Johnstone says:

        Thank you, you said this so much more clearly than I could have. I am inspired by Bishop Curry’s words and his total commitment to the teachings of Jesus. This walk was not easy in the times of Jesus, nor is it easy now, but it is worth the effort, the discomfort, the community of others of like mind.
        Again, thank you for your response.

  2. At the risk of seeming cranky, it would have been nice to have this even yesterday so that it would not have been a last-minute rushed addition to the Sunday bulletin.

    I’m not sure what “movement” the person above is referring to, but it isn’t the Jesus Movement that the Presiding Bishop is referring to, nor do I suspect is it the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King, Jr. led. Our Baptismal Covenant, basic to who we are as Episcopal Christians, asks “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” I think it is that basic. Love God. Love your neighbor. No one is saying that people can’t say what they want to say. But “free speech” does NOT include giving fully armed, camouflage-wearing, torch-bearing mobs a free pass to express their bigotry and threaten peaceful counter-protesters.

    It would be good for the person above to describe what s/he believes IS God’s “promised land.”

    1. Bill Louis says:

      Tom, I missed the video of the fully armed, camo wearing torch bearing mobs attacking counterprotesters. The ABC newscaster says, “White Nationalist and counterprotesters fought each other with fists and clubs” If you saw that in another video I’d like to see it. What went on in Charlottesville was a travesty and should never happen again anywhere. Hate speech and actions should be eradicated. False facts only help to fuel the fire.

      1. Lori Ramsey says:

        False facts? Perhaps Bill Louis you might like to view the following:

  3. Father Mike Waverly-Shank says:

    Praise God for the PB’s words!

  4. Margaret A Fletcher says:

    While I too, am not among the PB’s “Jesus movement- egalitarian- stuff’ admirer’s, it seems to me that Jesus spoke about a kingdom which has one authority figure and it was not us.
    He also said something about those who wished to be great should be the servants of all.
    Servants are not greater than their masters but these models of leadership are never popular but happen all the time in the prayer and the gentle outpourings of community and care that form around disasters.

    1. John C. Ratliff says:

      Margaret, please read Henry Drummond’s essay, “The Greatest Thing in the World.” It explains the writing of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians XIII, and was written in 1880, so he was not talking of today’s situations at all, but how to evaluate the Love Christ emphasized.


      1. Margaret A Fletcher says:

        i prefer the Maunday Thursday command:”Love one another” which always posses two questions what is love and who is my other? Margo

  5. Mark Kirchen says:

    “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” If we do not work to establish His kingdom on earth, we can forget about heaven. What is his kingdom like? What did Jesus do? He healed those in pain, he ate with outcasts and those considered “sinners”, he taught particular care for the poor. “When Lord did we see you hungry ….?” There are a lot of spiritualities in the scriptures,(e.g. behaved from your sins by faith and go to heaven), but this one of establishing the kingdom of justice and love on earth is beyond debate, and is perhaps the most difficult and most avoided. If you are noticing a lot more enemies lately, what are you supposed to do? Try love. Try justice. It works. You can see it if you have faith, hope, and love.

  6. Linda Martin says:

    Thank you for your inspired message, Bishop Curry. I prayed for you a long time this morning, and I’m not going to stop praying for you.

  7. Susan Zimmerman says:

    …the tribal thing has been going on for centuries…re-read slowly Genesis 49 and have a good laugh. This is ‘Jacobs blessing’ on the various tribes. Certainly, a lot of political theology and Jacobs’ words would not sit well nowadays but you will laugh, enjoy, pray, and think!

    Jewish teaching says, “…for the most part ‘we’ have lost all concept of the term blessing…” Ya think? The only tine we get blessed now is when we sneeze…Ha! Kinda like Jacob? Would have loved to be sitting around and hearing all the laughs while ‘this blessing’ was given to these people. The blessings of ‘Moses’ in Deuteronomy 33 on the tribes is similar…more fun but honest!

    Wish President Trump, maybe PB Curry also, would give us all some good laughs with their blessings on some of the whites, blacks, Chinese, and the other 9 +post-modern tribes. Are Patriarchal fathers did, with no political correctness! Maybe this could occur during our fierce conversations, with people submitting their takes on what they see? Enjoy and laugh!

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

    A Prayer For Our Nation: “Eternal FATHER, who reigns from heaven and dwells in our midst, we pray for our Nation, The United States of America. Our national history speaks to the commitment our country has to the maintenance of a proper relationship with You, O LORD. We proclaim You as we pledge alliance to our National Flag in saying ‘one nation under God’ and in the coinage of our currency by declaring ‘in God we trust’. The bells, in the steeples of our churches, ring with hymns of joy proclaiming Your salvation to all peoples of the nation and the world, calling us to love one another. Help us to remember that love calls us to sacrifice our wills to Yours. To remember there is only one road that leads us to salvation and that all of us have fallen short of Your Glory. We are all sinners in Your Presence. To embrace the Cross of Your Christ and seek Your forgiveness in His Name. To reverence our common history and cherish the lessons You have taught us in it. To remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for our nation, in order that we might be free. To forgive those who disagree with us and mock the faith that You have bestowed upon our hearts. Forgive them, Holy LORD, for they know not what they do.
    “Holy FATHER, we also pray for the President of The United States of America, as he endeavors to govern us. Let us ever be mindful that he serves at Your Good Pleasure and that no government stands without Your Consent. You are the Judge of the Nations of the World. LORD Christ, You are the KING of kings and LORD of lords, You are the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sins of the World. Your Love for us is revealed in Your Cross. While we were sinners separated from the FATHER, You reconciled us to Him and washed us in Your Precious Blood to make us blameless in His Presence. Restore a clean heart in us, O LORD, and make us whole again as a Nation and as a United People. O LORD defend the principles on which this Nation was build. The Freedoms contained in our Bill of Rights, in our Constitution, are a reflection of our Founding Fathers belief in the Rights bestowed upon every human soul by Your Creative Hand. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
    We pray that Your Will be done on earth as it is in Your Heaven. Keep us safe by day and night for You never slumber or sleep. We pray Your Blessings up us and our Nation, in the NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPRINT. Peace! Amen. Amen.”

  9. Chunky Dunlap says:

    Where do we go from here ? I am afraid with Mr. Trump in charge the answer unfortunately is chaos. I too am praying for community. Amen

  10. John Miller says:

    Bishop Michael, thank you for your leadership in these changing times, fraught with hope and despair. The Church is being called to be a reconciler and a follower of Jesus’s example of humility, critical thinking, and a blessing to an angry world.

  11. Bruce Walker says:

    As a priest presently serving God in the wilderness, I sometimes find I have lost my way. After hearing Bishop Curry’s message, my heart is strengthened and hope renewed. These are indeed tumultuous times and I am thankful we have such a loving and compassionate person to lead us through this darkness and into the light!

  12. Hugh Hansen, Ph.D. says:

    I wonder if the EC USA believes the part of Jesus teaching that says, “love your enemies, do good to those who spitefully use you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my namesake.” I am amazed at the denounciations of the “hate” groups in Charlotte and not one word of love is spoken toward them by this church. Jesus said, “if you love those who love you what thanks of you?” The EC USA has been a central figure in one of the worst efforts to stir up racial hatred in my long lifetime. I am ashamed of our priests and bishops who stained their vestments with the blood of the innocent in Charlotte.

  13. James M. Evans says:

    Dear Presiding Bishop Curry,

    Thank you for your loving commentary on our current crisis facing a new level of hatefulness and bigotry. But sir, your well intentioned remarks are not enough. They reflect a lack of courage on your part to provide leadership and clarity as to what we as Christians should we be doing, and how we should living out the gospel of Jesus. Living out the Great Commandments of loving God, and loving our neighbors as we should love God has no meaning unless love can be converted into action.

    God not only extends his love and grace to us through the sacraments he gives us, he expects us to hold up our end of the New Covenant. A covenant, a contract with God, has two parties and mutual promises and commitments. I suggest that God requires us to love him and our neighbor through sacrifice.

    This sacrifice, giving back some our ourselves what we hold dearly to God, requires commiting ourselves to taking risk, putting our principles, our reputations, and our values, as well as our material possessions as risk to follow the calling of Jesus. This means taken even political stands, and public stands on morality and decency; i.e.; actualizing God’s love through the lessons of the Gospel.

    Jesus certainly understood this. He faced political power, repression, and self-destructive practice. He upset those in power, defended the powerless, and ultimately was killed for it. He knew his destiny, and faced his journey to the Cross. If he had not had the courage to face what his Father had intended for him, there would be no Gospels, no apostles, no Church, no resurrection, no hope.
    He made the unique and ultimate full, perfect and suffient sacrifice so that all persons, past, present, and future would have salvation; joining back and in God.

    All of the Saints and martyrs knew and know this. They put all that they possessed and loved on the line to follow Jesus’ calling to us.

    People of God like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, sacrificed his life in the last century to oppose Hitler and Nazism in his own country. He converted God’s love into action.

    During the Civil Rights movement, of which you are intimately aware, Presiding Bishop, Dr. Martin Luther showed us how to love our neighbor through our neighbor through personal sacrifice.

    These modern day saints should remind you, Presiding Bishop, of what you, me, and all of us need to do to carry out the Great Commandments. Come out our your office and into the streets. Lead us through your own personal risk, guide us through our own fearfulness to publicly show those sick with hate on how to walk with Jesus. Words are not enough for Jesus or us.

  14. Frank OBrien says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if our elected leaders said exactly what we want them to say, and lead in a path where we are totally comfortable. I am personally willing to follow where the path is close enough to my ideal. Criticizing our leaders is not particularly beneficial to the passersby either.

  15. Mark Elliston says:

    “We who follow Jesus have made a choice to walk a different way: the way of disciplined, intentional, passionate, compassionate, mobilized, organized love intent on creating God’s Beloved Community on earth.” I don’t see any endorsement of counter-protestors that resorted to violence, or a call to stroll off to a Marxist utopian paradise, or a call to impair free speech, open dialogue and historical integrity in the word of the Presiding Bishop. I am sorry that some people read it that way. I plan on joining in that walk, wherever it takes me. It sometimes carries me into institutions where it is my privilege to be allowed to share the redemptive message of the Grace of God with people that, like me, did not deserve it. It challenges me when I look down and see swastikas and 88s tattooed on their arms. But that’s what grace is all about, and I manage to do it, but not through any power that comes of myself. And that’s the power that enables us to walk that walk towards the Promised Land, towards the Beloved Kingdom, to help make that kingdom present, here and now.

  16. Susan Salisbury says:

    Amazing grace how sweet the sound …. that saved a wretch like me. Those words were written en by the former captain of a slave ship, John Newton. Through the love of Jesus he became a true Christian , an Anglican priest and a leader in the movement to abolish slavery. That’s what love and reconciliation can do. I do not agree with the PB on many issues but on this one he was s right.

  17. Deborah Matherne says:

    Where in our Bible did Jesus ever tell us to organize and oppose any political idea or force? We are called by our Lord to reach out and touch one another. One individual to another. How many homeless have YOU taken into YOUR home in the last year?

  18. Sarah Kulas says:

    As I understand it this was a call for community, not chaos . Why are we still arguing who is right and who is wrong? Why is there fighting amongst the posts?

    I took comfort in the words spoken and wonder how we still have people that are willing to promote raicial or any other hatred in this country. Probably a question that would draw a response that I do not want.

    I am simple and I believe that Jesus was about love not hate. He often accepted and received those perceived at the time to be unwanted and still showed his love.

Comments are closed.