A Pastoral Statement on our National Division

canstockphoto429215During the past year, we have seen our nation struggle over competing visions for our future, personified in the presidential election of 2016. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each offered contrasting views of the state of our country and how to address the challenges we face. Last week’s election saw a majority of the states choose one approach, while a majority of the voting population chose another, revealing again the deep divisions we face as a nation.

We believe that both sides are sincerely seeking the best for our nation. However, in the course of the battle, voices arose representing the worst of our society. These voices were empowered to offer harsh judgments against others. The most extreme spoke negatively against women, immigrants, people of color, and LGBT persons, often in very degrading terms. With the election of Donald Trump, persons in those communities are now experiencing great fear about their future in our country, and disillusionment with the myth of the “melting pot” which has been a part of our national narrative for many years.

As Christians in the United Methodist tradition, we are called to speak to these fears in our calling to offer Christ’s love to the world. Jesus was clear that people who claim his name and identity are to love God completely and to love our neighbors in the same way that we want to be loved. Jesus spoke forcefully against those who would allow the secular and religious law to overwhelm the law of love, which he believed was at the core of all God’s teachings. Love is at the core of all we do and are as followers of Jesus, and at no time is hatred ever justified in the Kingdom of God.

The United Methodist Church reflects this in our constitution, which represents the principles around which our communion is founded. “The United Methodist Church acknowledges…” the constitution says, “…that all persons are of sacred worth.” It goes on to say that all persons “…without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition…” have a place in United Methodist congregations. Our denomination likewise affirms the role of immigrants and speaks forcefully against racism and sexism. While we are still divided on the place of LGBT persons in church leadership, we continue to affirm their worth as children of God and are called to offer God’s love and grace fully.

City Road Chapel is a United Methodist Church. From our earliest days, we have been part of the Methodist tradition, and we continue that tradition today. As such, we as the appointed leaders of this congregation wish to affirm our commitment to City Road Chapel being a safe space for ALL God’s children. Expressions of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other language and actions that demean others different from us are simply not acceptable. We are committed to being a place that offers God’s love unconditionally, just as God’s love was offered to us.

During the past several days we have seen acts of intimidation and violence increase against women, people of color, immigrants, LGBT persons, and even churches by people who think that the election justifies their behavior. It is important that we stand together as people who claim the name of Jesus to offer love and support to the victims of these attacks, and to proclaim that violence and hatred are incompatible with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

Likewise, we are called to be agents of God’s peace, facilitating conversation between the competing visions of our world in an attempt at carrying out the ministry of reconciliation. We recognize that this is hard and difficult work, maybe even impossible. But as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said when asked about the hopelessness of apartheid, “We are people of the resurrection and so we are prisoners of hope.”

Please know that we are committed to praying for unity and peace in our nation, regardless of who is in leadership. We continue to hold on to the promise of a land dedicated to liberty and justice for all.

May the grace of God spring forth in the midst of the darkness of our division to bring forth a new light of love.

In Christ,

Jay Voorhees and Emily Reeves Grammer

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