Presiding Bishop, others begin campaign to ‘reclaim Jesus’ in US culture

By Episcopal News Service staff
Posted Mar 22, 2018

[Episcopal News Service] A group of Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders, including Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, have begun what they call a campaign to “reclaim Jesus” from those who they believe are using Christian theology for political gain.

“We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches,” say the 23 signers of the statement. “We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.”

The group says the church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ, while the government should serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior while restraining bad behavior. “When that role is undermined by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out,” the signers say, citing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who said the church is the conscience of the state, not its master or its servant.

“Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis” offers six “affirmations” of what the group, currently 23 strong, believes, “and the resulting rejections of practices and policies by political leaders which dangerously corrode the soul of the nation and deeply threaten the public integrity of our faith.

“We pray that we, as followers of Jesus, will find the depth of faith to match the danger of our political crisis.”

In summary, the signers, in their the affirmations and rejections, said they believe:

  • Each human being is made in God’s image and likeness, and therefore, “we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership.”
  • We are one body and, therefore, “we reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.”
  • “How we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself,” and, therefore, “we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God.”
  • “Truth is morally central to our personal and public lives,” and, therefore, “we reject the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.”
  • Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination, and, therefore, “we reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. … They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority.”
  • Jesus “tells us to go into all nations making disciples,” and, therefore, “we reject ‘America first’ as a theological heresy for followers of Christ.”

The statement says in its conclusion that “our urgent need, in a time of moral and political crisis, is to recover the power of confessing our faith. Lament, repent, and then repair.”

The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, and Curry began talking earlier this year about the need for such a statement. The signers agreed to the wording of the statement at an Ash Wednesday retreat that Curry hosted at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

“I joined with other Christian church leaders on this confession of what faith in times like these require,” Curry said March 22 in a statement to Episcopal News Service. “When faced with social issues, our Church has not been silent and we will continue to strive for justice and peace. Our role is one of moral leadership for our nation, for our church, for ourselves.”

The “Reclaiming Jesus” message, Wallis said in a March 22 commentary on the Sojourners website, needed to be “something that would be much more than just another statement to sign and then file away.

“Rather, with a shared humble spirit, we felt called to act as elders for a time such as this and to commend our message to the churches for a process of prayer, study, reflection, and action.”

Wallis called his commentary “Reclaiming Jesus: How Confessing Faith Can Respond to a Moral and Constitutional Crisis.”

The signers have set up a website, Reclaiming Jesus, where the statement and a one-page summary can be downloaded. There is also due to be a collection of resources in addition to a five-week “civil discourse curriculum” that already has been released.

The signers currently include:

  • Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks
  • Rev. Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church in North America
  • Dr. Amos Brown, Chair, Social Justice Commission, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
  • Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Tony Campolo, Co-Founder, Red Letter Christians
  • Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
  • The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Dr. James Forbes, President and Founder, Healing the Nations Foundation and Preaching Professor at Union Theological Seminary
  • Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
  • Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA
  • Rev. Dr. Richard Hamm, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Faith Community Organizer and Chairman, Community Resource Network
  • Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church
  • Bishop Vashti McKenzie, 117th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, AME Church
  • Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Co-Convener National African American Clergy Network
  • Dr. John Perkins, Chair Emeritus and Founding Member, Christian Community Development Association
  • Bishop Lawrence Reddick, CEO, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation
  • Dr. Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action
  • Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
  • Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director, NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative
  • Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network; President, Skinner Leadership Institute
  • Bishop Will Willimon, Bishop, The United Methodist Church, retired, Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School


Comments (172)

  1. mike geibel says:

    Dear Ted Gemberling:

    I read the entire statement (click on “the 23 signers of the statement”). I found no “Good News” anywhere in its content—just partisan political posturing. The tone is negative, not positive, and each “WE BELIEVE” is followed by a “WE REJECT” that spews out a a one-sided, often inaccurate or exaggerated and apocalyptic view of Trump and his political positions, which obviously comes from their own partisan views. In each “WE BELIEVE,” the authors use words to convey abstract ideology and Bible references but the true and only purpose of the following “WE REJECT” is to to denounce President Trump—it is not a proclamation of faith. Each “WE REJECT” is a thinly veiled reference to: Trump is a racist, Trump is a sexist, Trump is a demagogue, Trump hates illegal aliens, Obamacare is ordained by God, and evangelical churches are evil. This manifesto cannot not be read in isolation from the well-documented history of leftist political activism by leadership of the Episcopal Church since the November 2016 elections.

    You say Mr. Poland is “confused.” No he is not. He exposed his heart-wrenching frustration with the Church of his birth which has become devoted to political activism rather than ministering to its members. As I read through the list of signers, I perceive many self-proclaimed shepherds who have no flocks, and who surround their names with titles (Rev., Bishop, Dr., Rev. Dr. etc.) followed by the labels of their political action committees, not their church, in order to give a prideful, self-righteous importance to their political opinions. I find this is inconsistent with a humble follower of Christ. I believe that people who attach titles and labels to their names somehow believe their opinions have a special provenance that makes them more worthy than the opinions of those who may disagree, and that the presume that their politics are God’s politics.

    Go back and read the “timing” between the comments. I note that the posting of the article was immediately followed by a dozen or more short comments praising the authors, with each comment posted about 2-3 minutes apart. It reads like a group of bobble-head supporters sitting around a table, with each hitting “post” for a pre-prepared comment extolling their support for the Bishops. There does not seem to be enough time between the posts for the authors to have read all of the comments that proceeded their own. These are only my suspicions, but if accurate, then this practice is a contrived political auctioneering designed to front-load the comment section with positive “hallelujahs” before any negative comments that surely the authors and ENS know are coming.

    As to your reference to gender identity and questioning the meaning of my statement that I am fiscally conservative/law and order, but socially liberal, I did not leave the TEC when same sex marriage was approved, I try not to judge people by their gender identity, I support a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body, and in my profession, I hire people based upon merit and not their color, race or political persuasion. I find the term “white privilege” to be inherently racist, demeaning and deeply offensive to those of all colors, ethnicity and persuasion who have reached success through hard work and merit, and who do not need to blame society or America for their own failures.

    As for Ms. Lynn Hade, I choose to ignore your personal attacks on my Christian faith by not responding in kind with name-calling or judgmental criticisms, as required by the Comment Rules: “Treat everyone with reverence and respect their dignity whether you agree with their opinion or not.” Ms. Hade, you do not know me at all and are in no position to judge me.

  2. Karen Sandness says:

    If you think Jesus would be against any of these statements, then you need to reread your New Testament. He broke his society’s rules about who was “socially acceptable.” He did not act as if his own people were superior to everyone else. He reserved special condemnation for selfish rich people and for those who showed off their piety in public. What’s not to like about this statement? If you think this is “a Democratic Party screed” (I only wish the Democrats had that much moral clarity instead of trying to attract money from major donors), then you need to learn what Jesus actually taught (as opposed to what the theologically untrained megachurch preachers obsess about) and what the Democratic Party actually does (as opposed to what the AM radio propagandists say it does).

  3. Charles Pierce says:

    What I hear when I read is the adoption of the Old Roman Catholic Revolutionary Theology that is designed to turn the church into an arm of the state by defeating the state. Not good. We need to return to the values of Jesus and the Early Church or the Church will parish.

  4. Rev. Fabio Sotelo says:

    Thank you bishop Curry for being part of these brave christian prophets. We need more of them today

  5. Terry Francis says:

    When I read that Bishop Curry and other religious “leaders” wanted to reclaim Jesus from those who use Christian theology for political gain I almost fell off my chair! Really? Talk about calling the kettle black! TEC is one of the most politically active denominations on the planet! Progressive Episcopalians are in no position to lecture to anyone about using Christianity for political gain. Blatant hypocrisy at its worse. While I myself am not an evangelical I know people who are. Good decent people. And for Gordon Fuglie to label them as people who embrace white privelege Trumpism and pseudo-christian nationalism is vile, judgmental, and hate-filled. Every time I see left wing rhetoric like this I always think how ironic it is that progressives are always accusing conservatives of being divisive, that conservatives are the ones who are polarizing the country. Funny how they never take one of their own like Mr Fuglie to task when they make these kind of comments. Finally, Susan A. Williams finds the list of progressive theologians and church leaders “admirable”.What saddens me is that people like Ms Williams apparently believe that conservative and traditionalist church leaders no longer have a place, or indeed deserve a place in the discussion of various issues of the day. Having a number of those kind of leaders on the list along with the progressives, now that would have been admirable. Bravo? Hardly.

  6. Rev Meredith says:

    I affirm the statement..unfortunately my experience in the church validated by many of the comments posted here is that most American Christians are not interested in the real Jesus. Most of the Church has become a political and social organization ..where the way we do things and who we allow to sit in our pews/ seats is more important than the real gospel. Most “do” some good works in the name of Jesus
    but unfortunately: we feed the poor but don’t want them in our church, some reach out to those in their neighbors who are refugees, documented or non documented. However this ministry is shackled by the idea that to really belong they need to speak our language, worship as we do and live by our rules. Underlying this invitation to join us is a subtle racism and white arrogance as shared by one Bishop at a huge Mexican Las Posada celebration…”You do realize that while this is a great celebration these people will never be able financially help the church!!!”
    The unspoken fear that taking a stand on any controversial issue such as gun control will result in folks taking away their money/pledges suffocates justice and the gospel.
    Several years ago I asked for some help …policies, directives in our Diocese to help guide our church as we discussed a suggestion we allow concealed carry in our church. A few folks were concerned that local homeless people might enter the church during worship or other activities and become violent. The Diocese had no help and leadership acted as if we had struck them with a hot poker. Much backing away from any suggestion we might even have a conversation at convention or in the Diocesan newsletter. Why…we are a hunting state and the conservative church’s might withdraw their financial support if such an issue were openly discussed.
    So like I said this statement is noble and needed …. I will interested to see hat impact it has on local priests and pastors and their leadership.

  7. Samuel Gray says:

    I’m trying to understand how some people are dismissing this as a political statement. It’s not clear to me what is political (or “leftist”) about standing for servanthood, discipleship, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty (serving Jesus), prayer, reflection and study of Scripture, and opposing racism, violence, white nationalism and oppression.

  8. Karen Birr says:

    I agree totally with Andrew Poland. I, as a conservative with the same feelings as he has, feel very shunned by The Episcopal Church. When I was confirmed over 35 years ago, it was an entire different church. I really felt ‘welcomed’, even though I was not raised the Episcopal faith. I became very active in my home parish and since, became active with the ECW. I no longer feel ‘welcomed’ as many Episcopal Churches states on their outdoor sign and other posted signs. For 8 years, I kept my mouth shut to not hurt anyone’s feelings as to how I felt. However, many around me don’t care if they hurt MY feelings when they talk about the current day of ‘politics’. I feel The Episcopal Church has become a ‘social justice’ church and does not care for the ‘souls’ of the people. If there were more Christ-like people in the world, it would be a much better world. I feel we need to reach out more and really ‘evangelize’ to others and bring them to Christ. I feel this is one reason The Episcopal Church is downsizing in membership. They are pushing out the ‘conservative’ Christians because they no longer feel welcomed. Please think about these people and not just ignore them. Think before speaking. Pray before speaking. Be more open to those around you.

  9. Dan says:

    Commendable. Even more commendable would be to build relationships with that ‘other’ stream of the church who so distort the connections between faith and politics.

  10. mike geibel says:

    Is it not interesting, if not predictable, that the Proclamation produced such a firestorm of divisive comments, some of which degenerated into personal attacks on the Christian faith of fellow parishioners, past and present. Although I may find the joinder by Bishop Currie to be divisive and counterproductive, I do not question that he is faithful follower of Christ.

    In April 2016, the TEC was one of 99 faith groups that sent a letter to congressional leaders opposing Trump’s campaign promise to weaken the prohibition against churches endorsing political candidates. In the TEC’s own words:

    “People of faith do not want partisan political fights infiltrating their houses of worship. . . . Houses of worship are spaces for members of religious communities to come together, not be divided along political lines; faith ought to be a source of connection and community, not division and discord.”

    It almost seems as if the TEC does not remember its own admonition on the dangers of political partisanship by the Clergy.

    As the new Bishop of Tennessee recently said: “When we encounter where the Church has been arrogant and ignorant, we need to seek repentance from each other. When we encounter arrogance and ignorance in our society, our response is not to shout louder or to respond in kind. It is to be humble and smart. Voices that call for common ground are drowned out by louder cries to divide and to demonize and to degrade. So all the more important is our witness to be a place for connection and communion where division and differences can be reconciled in Christ.”

    The WE BELIEVE statements in the Proclamation certainly are not objectionable, but the WE REJECT comments are partisan political attacks, and cloaking them with citations to the New Testament will not change the fact that the intent is an uncompromising denouncement of the President. I missed the Chapter where Jesus launched into denunciations of Caesar as a racist, owner of concubines, slave owner, or an unjust and bullying demagogue, either publicly or in private.

    Even though I may agree with some of the criticisms, others I find exaggerated and misguided. But when one dares to post an objection or criticism, he or she is branded as un-Christian followed by lectures about the Baptismal Covenant. Missing from the Proclamation is a statement of unity and reconciliation that is so essential to restoring the “integrity of our faith.”

  11. Ted Gemberling says:

    Lynn, I agree. I think Andrew wants church to be a place where he can be comfortable and not have to deal with any of the messy problems of the world. He’s convinced that the ideas of Ayn Rand or some other libertarian theorist could solve all those problems, so they’re not a matter for religion. But I’ve always liked the statement that the job of Christianity is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This statement does that.

    I wouldn’t deny that libertarianism can be an inspiring philosophy in some ways. It emphasizes freedom and self-determination, and I believe we should celebrate individual achievement. Whenever people can overcome tough circumstances and find their way in the world, that’s a great thing. But we are social beings. Individual achievement is impossible unless society provides infrastructure supporting it. Andrew seems to think the church could do all of it alone, but it doesn’t have the resources to help very much.

    A number of people have complained that the statement doesn’t say anything about LGBT issues, but I think the writers realized how hard that would be to tackle. They needed to bring as many Christian groups as possible together. And the basic point of the statement is we need to be a compassionate society. In a compassionate society LGBT people will be treated better, whether or not the church accepts their lifestyle completely.

  12. Matthew Simpson says:

    I am very curious as to what precisely Conservative Christians, grounded in the biblical tradition find offensive? Are any of these principles in error?

    Persons who are of a more conservative-spectrum are absolutely needed to ensure that these principles are applied to ALL leadership.

  13. I’ve always found it interesting that those who champion “inclusion” insist on listening to the experiences of the marginalized and then accept their statements and feelings at face value and without question. If the person says, “I don’t feel welcome or comfortable…”, then the person’s perception is accepted as valid. I get that. I don’t necessarily disagree. Yet, when a more conservative person (or even a moderate) says, “I no longer feel welcome or comfortable in this Church,” they are dismissed or ridiculed. (As an example, “I think Andrew wants church to be a place where he can be comfortable and not have to deal with any of the messy problems of the world.”) Folks, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say accept the perceptions of this group that feels marginalized at face value and then dismiss the perceptions of another group that feels marginalized out of hand. One’s ideological slip is showing.

    Look, this “love” thing is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t mussy sentimentalism. To take Jesus’ commands seriously, we have to love not only our neighbors, but even our enemies – liberals, conservatives. libertarians, socialists, communists, trickle-down capitalists, and the list goes on and on. Period. No exceptions. Pray for your enemies, and once we start praying for them – for God to being them to their better selves – it isn’t long before we begin to have compassion for them (even as we still disagree with them). That is the very hard, self-denying, cross-bearing work we are called to as followers of Jesus Christ.

    1. The Rev and Dr. Suzi Robertson says:

      I do agree with much of what you have said, here, and this is how I read this document. My church has people in a variety of places in their lives, and it is growing, everyone tries their best to see what we have in common, and then act on it; and it seems to be working. However, church is messy, because it is made up of human beings. And, lest I forget, the road to the cross was not pretty. It was riddled with politics, division, hate, love, compassion, desertion, denial, betrayal, blood, sweat and tears. If the first generation of Christians couldn’t do any better than that; even while Christ was still present, do we really think we are going to get any better.

  14. Doug Desper says:

    ….“we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts”.

    How about admitting that there are racists in every culture and background who are active and undermining national life? Really, chasing after the low-hanging fruit is lazy and part of the problem. Has anyone heard the filth that spews from Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam each day? Why is it that only “whites” can be racist? Has anyone heard the racism that comes out of the Muslim Brotherhood? Why are they not scrutinized? (Both of these groups had uncriticized access to Mr. Obama’s White House and inner circle for 8 full years). ENS and many other media outlets gave that a pass for the entirety of that liberal Democrat administration. Not. A. Peep. There are many other examples of racist hatred that can be affixed to black nationalist groups such as Black Lives Matter, and others. And, yes, there are ill-bred whites that deserve scrutiny for their racial injustices as well. At WHAT General Convention did any resolution occur that put the whites under the microscope while giving a mute pass to so many other egregious racists? It’s very revealing that the “training” that is in vogue these days to oppose racism is so very skewed and silent on that.

    A better statement of principle would have been: ….“we reject the resurgence of racial division and elitism in our nation on many fronts…and in all of its forms”.

    This Episcopal leadership obsession with hunting down racists (so long as they are white), applying white guilt, and being ever-so-blind and selective in moral outrage has led me to wonder who needs intense therapy to move past some horrible occurrence in their lives. I’m not kidding.

  15. Charles Pierce says:

    What I read is a cross between Roman Catholic Revolutionary Theology and the Theology of Bishop Spong. This is an attempt to be everything to everyone by changing basic doctrine that is what makes the Church the Church. As my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. That is the task that was left to us but to change doctrine, is not fulfilling those commands.

  16. Ted Gemberling says:

    I wanted to respond a little more to Mike Geibel and Terry Francis. Mike quoted these words from the bishop of Tennessee: “When we encounter arrogance and ignorance in our society, our response is not to shout louder or to respond in kind. It is to be humble and smart. Voices that call for common ground are drowned out by louder cries to divide and to demonize and to degrade.”

    I agree with that. If you doubt that I have credibility on this, let me say I raised questions about this article which was removed from Forbes magazine:

    You can see my comments there. It’s wrong to think there are any simple formulas or slogans that will right the Christian church. Finding peace and reconciliation is hard work, as Fr. Bob Griffith said.

    But having said that, let me say as a person who’s lived in Birmingham, Alabama for 13 years, that I put more credence in the Christianity of African Americans than the Christianity of whites like myself. So yes, Rev. Griffith, I do take the perceptions of poor people over those who are of comfortable means. Jesus said the gospel was for the poor, and that the rich would be dispossessed This is not something we can take out of Christianity. Blacks recognize the need for personal initiative and responsibility as much as anybody else, but they also recognize the need for social justice. (I should amend that to: they’re *more likely* to recognize the need. We’re all human, and we all have potential to fall into error and then repent of it.)

  17. Paula Wicker Hamby says:

    I support this statement, and as an Episcopalian, I don’t have to be “against” people…we are called to love…and that is a life time journey. May the Holy Spirit lead and guide all Christians to extend the mission of the risen Lord to all!

  18. Paula Wicker Hamby says:

    As part of the Episcopal branch of the “Jesus Movement,” I am proud that I do not have to be “against” people. I am called to love others as Jesus did…and that is a lifetime journey, only possible with the power of the Holy Spirit…we all know we are able to do this perfectly. So we go forward, fall down, repent and always begin again! God bless all our Christian brothers and sisters! America needs all of us!

  19. Bill Louis says:

    Ted Gemberling; Andrew’s theory about the church’s ability to take care of the needy without the government could become a reality if we cleaned out the Dioceses. The governing bodies of the EC have become bloated and top heavy. The EDUSA alone is proposing salaries and benefits to be in excess of $67 million (includes 3% raises in salaries and 9% raise for benefits) over a three year period (2019-2021) for 160 employees. Then there is the millions proposed to be spent on various ministries many of which are liberal/progressive in nature. The EDUSA has become a lobbying organization supported by the churches it governs. The money it spends for salaries and programs could be better spent to help the needy in the communities that the local churches serve. That could go a long way into bringing people back into the church.

  20. Ted Gemberling says:

    Bill, I was wrong to say Andrew “just wants to be comfortable.” He would not have made that long post if this didn’t touch on something really important to him. He needs to be listen to, but not necessarily agreed with.

    The Episcopal Church I attend helps provide meals to needy people. The church can step in to fill gaps. But why would you want the church to take over all social welfare work? I imagine there is some bloating or inefficiency in the church’s structure, but it seems highly doubtful the church would have the resources to do everything.

    1. Gordon Fuglie says:

      RE: the group statement. In my view, we are at one of those “pivot points” in church history. And the greater “social imaginary” (world view) of Americans for some time has been infused with some form of secularism – whether you are theologically liberal or conservative or in between. I do think liberal Christians, however, have been the most compromised by this phenomenon.

      ME? I am largely orthodox in my theology, and also think the ECUSA needs to learn an evangelism suited to the 21st century, i.e. a renewed mission. And that is what Bishop Curry’s “Jesus Movement” is about.

      Social justice: the Gospel cannot help but to have social implications, mainly because we live in a broken/wounded society, and our Lord desires us to be reconciled. BUT as some “conservatives” have rightly pointed out, the church is NOT a social service agency per se, though this does not mean we can’t have certain social programs like soup kitchens, food distribution for the poor, etc.

      That being said, the reason the ECUSA exists is to make disciples within (via congregational formation programs) and without the church (evangelism).

      Finally, the betrayal of Christianity by right wing evangelicals (Trump-promoting, anti-abortion legislation, anti-gay stances, and other moralistic bandwagons, etc.) does amount to heresy. This gives the ECUSA the opportunity to rise up and proclaim a biblically-based, historic and sacramental church. AMEN.

  21. Bill Louis says:

    Gordon, your remarks regarding Right wing conservatives are extremely offensive and typical of liberal thinking. So, those of us that don’t think like you are heretics, un-Christian and every other name you can think of. I suppose the 2016-2017 abortions of 321, 384 children by Planned Parenthood OK and are viewed as Christian in your opinion. Please read up on how those abortions are accomplished. I consider myself a conservative an couldn’t care less who you sleep with. I was raised with values and morals so I don’t see how that’s objectionable in the eyes of the church. You and your thinking are the reason Episcopalians are leaving the church in droves.

    1. Gordon Fuglie says:

      In response to Bill, abortion is not mentioned in either the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament. Anti-abortion activism and choice restriction via right wing state legislatures is a relatively new phenomenon in American society, commencing in the 1980s and proceeding in an ongoing incremental and calculated program to eliminate the option altogether. Further, being pro-choice is NOT the same as being pro-abortion as many on the religious right try to claim.

      I am all for those who want to counsel women who may be on the fence about having an abortion. Some may decided to proceed with the pregnancy – God bless them, while others have with considerable prayer and rumination decided to terminate the pregnancy – God bless them.

      Those leaving mainline churches are not all conservatives seeking a “true faith,” but may be flagging in commitment to the challenges of doing the Gospel in our time. Again, the real issue is bringing a Jesus-challenge against secularism, consumerism and nationalist idols. AMDG.

  22. John Miller says:

    Oh, my, Andrew Poland, after your long post, first, at a personal level, I absolutely MUST offer you heartsick corroboration of your testimony concerning isolation, denial, indifference, anonymity, and the inadequacy of pastoral response. This has hit me too, not just once, but over and over again. Yet I’m a lifelong Episcopalian, descended from an Elizabethan Archbishop of York, and over the course of 60 years, I’ve been a lay reader, a multi-term Vestryman, Junior Warden, Senior Warden, choir director… scoutmaster, Rotarian, chamber of commerce president… and I was glad to do it. But none of that earned me any special notice or privileges. I have been through five separate periods of medical emergency and family crisis that aroused not even the tiniest gesture of pastoral concern or compassionate intervention. I’m not whining about it, it is just a hard fact that many parishes need to face up to. To give just one example from 20 years ago, my wife and I fell seriously ill at the same time. We were so weak that we couldn’t even get out of bed; for days, we were barely conscious. After a while we managed to crawl on our hands and knees to the bathroom. It was really bad. Our 10-year old daughter brought water and crackers that kept us alive, and for six weeks(!) she was cooking whatever we had in the cupboards. (Good thing we had just been to the grocery store!) She and her two younger brothers were able to walk to school. Nobody noticed, no help came to us, not even a phone call, when we failed to show up week after week for our parish duties. For all anybody cared, we might have been lying dead. This in an affluent, 600-family parish in a comfortable, politically conservative, universally Christian, middle-class neighborhood where everyone’s kids played together every day. I could cite four other examples just as disturbing. So talk about our lovely “community of faith” rings a little hollow in my ears. I do know all too well what it feels like to be abandoned, to be ignored in a time of desperate need – so as a result, I do everything I can to HELP other people, in person, with my own hands, whenever I can. I try to make a difference. I don’t buy this Ayn Rand baloney that seems to be so trendy. As for my politics, I grew up Republican, in a military family, my mother was a cop, I went to an Ivy League university, I campaigned for Goldwater, and adored William F. Buckley. But “compassionate conservatism,” reasoned, responsible political conservatism, is now as dead as the dinosaurs. We are now dealing with virulent, anti-rational tribalism that has hijacked Christian theology by means of cable TV and the relentless repetition of manufactured falsehoods. “Fake news” peddled by Russian troll farms has its parallel in ostentatious fake Christianity peddled by self-aggrandizing demagogues. (I’m thinking Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen; Swaggart and the Bakkers.) This is all disturbingly familiar – far too close to how the Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco appointed himself the “protector” of traditional religion – not in order to feed the hungry but in order to create a fascist state. “Thoughts and prayers” are NOT an adequate Christian response to social violence and injustice. The “Traditional Christianity” I grew up with was an active faith. If we saw suffering, we responded directly with personal kindness in our communities, and we looked across the oceans, too. We were anxious to rescue the starving refugees in France and Belgium and yes, even Germany. We knew that people were living in heart-breaking misery: bone-chilling cold, disease, on a ration of 1,200 calories a day, in a “war-torn Europe” shattered by Nazi brutality (and Allied bombing raids). As patriotic Republicans, we rejected the John Birch Society as little better than Hitler’s brown shirt thugs, and for our returning servicemen, the “America First” crowd were disgraced Nazi sympathizers. Remember that? For a generation that remembers WW II, racial hatred, sexual oppression, self-righteous xenophobia, and oligarchy are NOT the gospel of “the true Christ as presented eternally in Scripture.” For us, the message of Christ was a message of freedom, equality, and compassion. It wasn’t pie-in-the-sky, it was deadly serious. We had just been forced to defend human decency with our blood. Christian faith didn’t mean you could feel safe and smug and entitled, it meant feeling scared to death, but determined to do the right thing anyway. It meant standing up to defend the weak. We didn’t WANT to, but we knew we might end up sacrificing ourselves to save freedom for ALL nations, for ALL faiths, for ALL races. Because freedom means respecting and protecting honest disagreement. We learned that when Jesus showed Samaritans in a good light, those were political enemies he was talking about. As for ethnic customs and national differences, we learned from Peter and Cornelius that “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” We didn’t see Christianity as hostile to scientific facts, we saw science as a blessing, and a constantly surprising source of new truths. For people who fought a war to protect objective truth from brazen lies and Nazi propaganda, denying archaeological evidence and modern scholarship NOW, is not okay. God reveals himself to us in the laws of nature, and science denial is an obstacle to Christian understanding, not a valid act of faith (as PhD scientist Pope Francis has made pretty clear!). So yes, I agree with others in this thread who feel that this is a “Niemoeller Moment,” and a Niebuhr moment too, and this is getting dangerously close to being a Bonhoeffer moment. This effort to reclaim Christianity from loud-mouthed heretical right-wing extremists is long overdue: I just hope it is not too late! I hear a lot of bitter complaints on this thread about how the church has been taken over by liberals. Golly! Where? Not where I live! I hope there is still a place for genuine conservatives in our church, because I AM a conservative. But I’m a conservative from a very different time, when faith and reason, social reform and economic justice, progress and environmental responsibility all went hand in hand. I’d feel right at home with one of our great Republican presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, who grew up Dutch Reformed, but had the good sense to marry an Episcopalian, put limits on predatory monopoly capitalism, and set aside a bunch of national parks.

  23. mike geibel says:

    According to the Proclamation, it seems the new devils are the conservative evangelical churches populated by stereotypical Southern rascists and whose support for Trump got him elected. Well, at least these deplorables believe in God. The anointed one by the Episcopal Church–Hillary Clinton—was supported by atheists and social Marxists who champion taking Christ out of Christmas and believe the New Testament is a fairy tale. The Episcopal Church is the loser in the membership drive between liberal theology and conservative evangelicals. And the Church is not just losing—it is losing badly.

    It must be discouraging to those who believe your politics are faithful to the Word when you are preaching sermons to empty pews instead of engaged, wide-open eyes. Surely ministers and church leaders know that unlike most conservative evangelical churches, those in its pews presented a politically diverse audience. When clergy or Bishops brand its own members as hate-mongers and Trump supporters as racist, they should not expect to see them in Church on the next Sunday.

    Some commentators here have questioned how conservatives can see anything objectionable in the Proclamation. There is not enough time or space, but here are a few. It is not un-Christian to support enforcement of our immigration laws or to advocate for health care that is fiscally sustainable. The “silent majority” still exists, which includes those in the middle who may find Trump to be personally repulsive, but who also find social Marxism and open borders to be an unacceptable alternative. Putting priorities on identity politics and immigrant rights over the rights of American citizens, and then expecting someone else to pay the financial costs of your compassion, is a recipe for empty pews. Polls indicate that more than 80% of Americans want enforcement and fixing our immigration laws, and most (even Trump) favor a path to citizenship for DACA immigrants. In the Executive Council’s proclamation AN307 on immigration, the Church condemned all Americans who support enforcement of our immigration laws as “reprehensible racists.”

    The biblical command to love the sojourner does not by itself establish how many refugees or immigrants a country should let in, who should be let in, or from where. We all lock our doors at night because we have the right to choose who comes in our homes. It is not “racist” to oppose open borders, sanctuary proclamations, and the harboring of violent criminals from federal law enforcement officers. It is not “reprehensible” to expect former and present Presidents to enforce our federal laws. Each one of them put their hand on the Bible and took an oath under God to do so—not to selectively enforce only those laws they liked and to ignore those they found disagreeable. If immigration laws are unjust, then change the laws.

    The Proclamation states: “We confess our growing national sin of putting the rich over the poor. We reject the immoral logic of cutting services and programs for the poor while cutting taxes for the rich. Budgets are moral documents.” So the signers believe that Christ said “tax the rich—take it from those who make it” and the recent tax reform is biblically immoral. I am from the secular world, not the world where I rely upon government largesse or voluntary tithing for my income. If I don’t work, I don’t eat. Through hard work and blessed with talents by God, I am able to support my family with money left over for my Pastor and those less fortunate—although I probably give less than I should.

    Was the legislation a tax break for the corporations and the rich? Yes—and one that is overdue. The intent of the tax revision is to spur job growth. The theory is quite simple: We don’t need more taxes—we need more taxpayers. All boats rise on a rising tide. If people have more money to spend, then they will have more money to give.

    I was taught that in Jesus’s time, the conquest by the Roman Empire destroyed the community-based economy and imposed exorbitant taxes on the ordinary people. Jesus announced a new Jubilee but his teachings are not the basis for compulsory income redistribution either by the church or by political power because Jesus did not oppose wealth in the abstract, but opposed “unrighteous” wealth. He taught that God’s objective is equality, but his solution is unique as it does not require force or taxes or coercion. God instructs people with plenty to give generously to those who are hard pressed, and for people who have prospered to demonstrate compassion for those in need. It is compassion and sharing that achieves equality, not government forced re-distribution of wealth. A socialist government uses brute force, to steal property from some people to give it to others.

    Jesus was not a socialist, and I am quite certain that Bishop Currie would deny that the Proclamation is a Marxist manifesto. In Matthew 25:15-18, Jesus used the allegory of where one was given five talents, another two talents, and another, one talents, each according to his ability. The one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. The man who invested his capital and earned profits is praised.

    America has demonstrated that when capitalism is wisely regulated, it generates significant economic prosperity and economic freedom for its people. The option of socialism leads to oppression, poverty and loss of personal freedom. It is true that some people use the capitalist system to satisfy their greed, but God’s solution lies not in changing the economic system but in changing hearts through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    When the Church leadership joined in the chorus of detractors who hate Trump more than they love America, my local Episcopal Church was no longer a place I wanted to spend my Sundays. My new church is not conservative, liberal, political or mainline. We hold services in an open air tent, with folding chairs, a volunteer worship band, and an inspiring Pastor who dresses in street clothes and who tries to teach us how Christ wants us to live our lives, and not who or what we should vote for.

    1. Gordon Fuglie says:

      I hope folks who get through this exhausting screed will be clear that it is more about right wing nationalism than about the Gospel. In other words, conservative ideology comes first, and he will add a touch of Jesus before signing off.

  24. mike geibel says:

    Dear Mr. Fuglie:

    Ad hominem attacks used in an argument is defined as “logical fallacy.” Such personal attacks are common in partisan politics, where politicians attempt to dismiss out of hand claims from opponents or opposing parties based on the person or party presenting the argument rather than addressing the argument itself.

    I make no apologies for my love of America. America is the most generous of the mega-Nations the world has ever seen. It was the brave, freedom-loving democracies and their industrialization and their hardworking citizens who buried Hitler and kept Stalin from taking over Europe. It is technology, encouraged by entrepreneurism, which has opened our eyes to break down stereotypes and racism, and which has shown that, as the commercial says, the diverse peoples and cultures of the world are “more alike, than unalike.” God is in control of the world—not Trump and not Putin and not the Episcopal church.

    Not that you have any interest, but I am of those odd-ball Republicans who did not vote for Mr. Trump–he is not a moral man. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton either–she is corrupt and hates white men. When the choice is between two evils, we will get evil. Who I did vote for is private.

    I am am a prideful, sinful and deeply flawed man, and if my exhausting screed was offensive, I apologize. I’ve tried to keep this one shorter.

    1. Gordon Fuglie says:

      Jesus: that is the first word I offer you in my response. Not claims about argumentative tactics, declarations of America love, or a false characterization of Hillary Clinton.*

      As people, you and I are subject to temptations to pride and other sins; and when we are honest with ourselves and God, we cast our flaws onto our Savior and submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we change our direction in life, i.e. repentance. In our repentance, the one thing that will ultimately count in God’s eyes, is a life lived in agape-love.

      And, yes, God oversees our world, and when the Episcopal Church is at its best, it becomes the servant of God through discipleship under Jesus, going out into our broken world. THAT has been Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s charge to the ECUSA for at least the last two years. I am on board with Bishop Curry’s “Jesus Movement,” as he calls it.

      *(One sin we are to reject is giving false witness against another person. You claimed Hillary Clinton “is corrupt and hates white men.” This is a falsehood and slanderous. There have been constant attacks on the Clintons for some 20 years, many of them baseless and some are complete fabrications. No small amount of attacks on Mrs. Clinton come from white men driven by their misogyny and resentment of her accomplishments and “unfeminine” toughness. If you don’t believe me, see Susan Bordo’s book, “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton.” And while Bordo is a Clinton supporter, she nevertheless proves her case by a careful reviewing of the record. Lastly, I have been a Libertarian, Republican Conservative and am now settled into a kind of Democratic centrism. But first and foremost, for me it is all about Jesus.)

  25. The Rev, Dr. Christian Brocato says:

    I applaud this statement while also recognizing that many of us believe that the Gospel is spiritual as well political. We need to speak up and speak out for the dignity of every human person, and the Gospel calls us to do that. When a nation is in the chaos in which we find ourselves, faith leaders can call us to a deeper reality of what Jesus would have us say and do. Though the statement isn’t perfect nor is it perhaps comprehensive, it is meaningful and needed, and I’m grateful to those who drafted it and who signed it. Thank You!

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