'We need to be good citizens'

Western Massachusetts bishop issues statement on 2016 elections

Posted Jun 23, 2016
The Rev. Dr. Douglas John Fisher

The Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher

[Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts] The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, bishop of Western Massachusetts, issued a statement this morning to clergy and congregations regarding the presidential election campaign. Fisher grounds his instruction in the belief that we are to work toward God’s kingdom “on earth, as it is in heaven.”

The statement includes helpful criteria for the conversation between faith and politics that originated in a speech given by then-Senator Barack Obama in the days of his first presidential bid. Fisher encourages the faithful “to read and study” the Election Engagement Toolkit made available by the Episcopal Church and commends additional resources that may help us to  speak about issues – not particular politicians – from our pulpits in the months ahead. The full text of Fisher’s statement follows below.

We Need to be Good Citizens: Bishop Fisher’s Statement on Election 2016

“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

Gospel of John

“Your Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.”

The Lord’s Prayer

“We are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement that is out to change the world from the nightmare it is for so many into the dream that God has for it.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Christianity is not an abstract faith. It is not a “world-escaping” faith, but just the opposite. We are a world-engaging faith. We believe in the Incarnation. God is here, among us. We believe God’s Reign is coming here. We believe Jesus has given us a Spirit to transform the world.

If we are to engage the world, then we need to be good citizens and be informed about the issues of our time. And we need to speak to those issues – even when those issues are complex and they always are.

In my engagement with politics, I often go back to criteria that then-Senator Barack Obama put forth in a series of speeches during the presidential campaign of 2008. He invited churches to “enter the public square” and to “inject morality into public discourse.”* He offered these guidelines:

  1. Know what you are talking about. Study issues in depth. We can’t just proclaim “God says…”
  2. Your stance on an issue needs to cut across denominational lines. Your position needs to make sense to people of other religious traditions and to people of no religious tradition.
  3. For the sake of progress in political action, you must be willing to compromise. Too often, in Senator Obama’s opinion, churches take an “all or nothing” approach to legislation.

In this election year, I encourage our church leaders to urge people to vote, to be informed and to bring Gospel values into their discernment. But there are things we cannot do. We cannot endorse any candidate publicly. Nor should we speak against a candidate by name from the pulpit or in church publications. I invite you to read and study the very helpful THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH ELECTION TOOLKIT. In it you’ll find the “pledge to vote” button and “Policy for Action” – an easy-access guide to all the issues from the perspective of General Convention resolutions.

Another very helpful resource is this “Open Letter to Maine Clergy About Political Advocacy” by Stephen Lane, the Bishop of Maine.  He has all the facts we need to know and he explores some gray areas. Read what he has to say about “church publications” and wonders if the personal Facebook pages of clergy could be considered a “church publication” if that is where people go to get news about their church.

And I recommend “A Word to the Church” issued in Holy Week by the House of Bishops. In it we call for civil political discourse and point to the danger of political rhetoric that turns neighbor against neighbor and threatens those on society’s margins. Although issued in Holy Week, this statement is a useful reminder throughout this election year.

As we vote, as we choose our leaders, as we engage the issues of our day, let’s do so as a people who follow Jesus in his mission of mercy, compassion and hope.


The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher

IX Bishop of Western Massachusetts