To the people of the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee:
As we look into the new world of post-election America, I am reminded of the words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple. During World War II, the Archbishop sought to promote the values of Christians exercising their civic duties saying, “The primary principle of Christian Ethics and Christian Politics must be respect for every person simply as a person.” Respect is the posture I hold out to us as the people of God and followers of Jesus.
With his typical insightfulness, our Presiding Bishop has given a message to the Church about what to remember and how to behave toward one another as we begin to live into the post-election nation we will become (click here to view Bp. Curry’s video). As is often the case, simple words describing complex matters are neither as simplistic as a cursory reading might suggest nor as easy to put into action as we might desire. However, the challenge is to do just that now that we are called to come together again as a nation. The Presiding Bishop’s words remind us that women and men, people with different ethnic or religious backgrounds, economic means, sexual orientations, racial affiliations and differently abled are all part of our nation and part of our responsibility to support and care about in practical ways. Respect: To this post-election reality we are now called to attend.
I will not repeat the Presiding Bishop’s words, but I would add a few more of my own. First a word of thanks to those clergy and lay leaders around the Diocese who have come together in formal and informal ways to listen to one another, pray, discuss and plan ways of moving forward as one nation. These prayers have taken place before and immediately following this week’s historic election. Prayer is defined in our Catechism as ‘responding to God’ and it is to this responsive and faithful living that we now turn. As the Church, we also are aware that to be one nation ‘under God’ is a particular agenda that we must take seriously and with a sense of the hope it suggests. But we must also be mindful that the God we worship and seek to obey is both a God of justice and mercy who works among us in the guise of compassion. If this God be for us, then there is nothing that can separate us from the love that is offered and the love that we are called to offer in God’s name.
Finally, I am drawn again to the writings of St. Benedict. In his Rule, a chapter is dedicated to the election of an abbot or prioress as the selected leader of that monastic community. I think we can learn from his thoughts and more specifically at this time from the commentary on this chapter of the Rule provided by Joan Chittister, a nun and author who has served as prioress in a Benedictine community and who speaks with the wisdom of having ‘walked in those shoes.’
Chittister said of the election of a religious leader, “Benedictine spirituality tells us to choose for ideals at every turn, even at those times when management seems more important than vision.” We will not be able to manage ourselves into being one nation under God. However, with this ideal as our agenda going forward we have every reason to believe that God will be with all of us as we make the real life choices that will call us to be the Body of Christ for the sake of the world. To this ideal I ask us to set our sights, bend our backs and step forward together. Blessings, Don
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We
commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided
by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant
to the President of the United States, the Governor of this
State, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will.
Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful
of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
-BCP p. 820