Election statement: Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe

Posted Nov 11, 2016

[Episcopal Diocese of Iowa]

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This morning one of our clergy woke up to find a homophobic hate note on his car referencing the election of Donald Trump. It raises the concern that this is the kind of personal permission to act out one’s bigotry that his election would provoke. It has to be said that the tone set in this campaign will be difficult to live down or to hold back the dark side it unleashes. Nor did it help that Secretary Clinton decided to focus on personality and character in her efforts to turn people to her direction. The result was the same; giving permission in some people’s eyes to act out their baser natures.

What does that mean for the Church? How do we respond as one entity in the days to come after the election? I note that Secretary Clinton told her supporters to “keep an open mind, and give him room to lead.” It is clear from the Iowa outcome that our church members were on both sides of the voting divide. We need to give each other grace margins in our differences, even as we also have to build on that which is our core unity in Jesus Christ. And that will involve addressing together as one, the occurrences of the kind of actions that met our clergy colleague this morning.

We have a major spiritual job at hand, preserving our own unity in Christ, and summoning a great need for courageous vigilance, as we move forward. Whatever our vote, we need to stand together as one in realizing the priority of God’s values in love and reconciliation in our common life.

I am hearing from clergy who are receiving pastoral calls from frightened and re-traumatized parishioners. I wonder about women reliving their own experiences of sexual abuse, or refugees like the Syrian family so wonderfully documented in Time recently, or our gay and lesbian colleagues in Christ who are thrown into uncertainty and fear. I want to say that I am proud of our gay and lesbian leadership, clergy and non-ordained leaders. This is a Church in which God sets the boundaries, and continues to broaden the circle of fellowship. What does it mean to stand firm and stand together?

Of course, it is precisely the responsibility of keeping all of us safe that now rests upon the new President-elect, and it is a good part of the Church’s responsibility to expect that he does this. It is also the responsibility of those who voted for the President-elect to show the way.

As I was preparing this statement, my son Elliott posted this on social media:

“To all my friends who voted for Trump, the minority community now needs you to take responsibility. A culture of hate has grown and been vindicated by this election. We cannot allow it to take root.  I expect you to be the first line of defense against those who voted for Trump for the wrong reasons. If you feel too scared to stop someone from being abused, then imagine how much worse it is for the one being abused. Even something as simple as standing next to them and telling them it is alright will be enough. Just let them know that they are not alone. Especially now when we feel most abandoned and vulnerable.”

It will require our vigilance and our courage whatever our vote. Above all I invite you to resolve that, first and foremost, we are called to God’s mission of reconciliation and love. As Christians I would hope that we all know where the lines of God’s love are drawn, and especially what it means to be followers of the “Man for Others”.

“Who is Christ for us today? The experience that a transformation of all human life is given in the fact that “Jesus is there only for others.” His “being there for others” is the experience of transcendence. It is only this “being there for others,” maintained till death, that is the ground of his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Faith is participation in this being of Jesus (incarnation, cross, resurrection).”

(Bonhoeffer, Letters from Prison 62, part 6)

In the peace and love of Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa +Alan