Greetings beloved St. Georgians
This Sunday, we will hear these words from Jesus to his disciples: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5:14) In other words, “Following me is not going to be a private thing. It means going public.” In our Baptismal Covenant we promise to, with God’s help, “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” I hope some of us will join the Rev. Bob Miller the next few Sundays to explore these baptismal promises. A big question for us is about discernment: “How do we go public?”
No matter what part of the political spectrum we are on, I think many of us can agree that we are living in times of significant change. Some of us are excited about these times. Some of us are deeply concerned. Some of us are not sure how we feel or would rather not think about it. As the pastor of this wonderfully diverse congregation, I am the pastor for everyone, regardless of their views or mine. I am also called to proclaim the Gospel. In my view, Jesus’ call to ‘go public’ means not only that we share the Good News of salvation with the world, but that we connect that Good News with what is going on in the world. This has also been the witness of The Episcopal Church in general. In these times of change, in all times really, we need to pray about how God is calling us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
At the recent Diocesan Convention, our Bishops shared with boldness about how they are planning to shine. I encourage you to read Bishop Shannon’s pastoral address (or even just the first paragraph in which he describes his prayerful decision to become more of a “public activist.” As a person who tends to be more private, this is a significant change for him. http://www.thediocese.net/news/222nd-annual-convention-pastoral-address-by-bishop-shannon-s-johnston/). Last week, I shared in this newsletter the Presiding Bishop’s letter to President Trump asking that our ministry with refugees and migrants be allowed to continue. After the executive order banning some refugees went into effect, The Episcopal News Service shared these responses of bishops and dioceses from all over the country: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/tag/refugee-ban/ Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark noted that this is not just a political issue but a moral one to which we are called, as Christians, to respond.
I realize that some of us are uncomfortable with the church speaking out in this way. Is this what Jesus meant by letting our light shine? It is a fair question. What will this look like at St. George’s? To be honest, your clergy and leaders are praying mightily about it. Personally, I agree that there are political issues that are also moral issues, like how we respond to refugees. We have some light to shine on these situations, and we stand with those who have no one to stand with them (remembering Matthew 25:31-46). By the way, The Episcopal Church has been vocal about these concerns for a long time. Here are some actions of our General Conventions over the years. http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_topic_search.pl?topic=Refugees St. George’s still has a bold welcome statement. All are welcome here, regardless of nationality or tradition (as well as race, sexuality, or gender expression), and this parish has opened arms over the years to many immigrant and refugee persons. I encourage people to respond according to their conscience and faith, guided by prayer and God’s Word. Let us keep in mind, though, that none of us is perfect, and these are complicated issues. We need to be informed and do our homework. This article is insufficient to cover all the bases. Forgive me. Not all Episcopalians agree with what bishops and other leaders have said. When we speak to our civic leaders and to people who see things differently, we need to do so with humility and care. Only God knows all.
As we face the moral issues of our day together, we are still all God’s people. We are called, above all, to give glory to God in heaven. As we navigate these changing times, let me say again that your clergy are pastors for all our members, regardless of their views. We, as clergy and leaders, will strive to be sensitive to how we pray and preach in our services, so that we can worship together and be renewed and not lose sight of God’s love and grace. We need to remember to have some fun together and not let headlines overwhelm us! We will continue St. George’s long-standing tradition of welcome to all and our tradition of being leaders in the wider community. We will also follow the tradition and witness of The Episcopal Church as part of the “Jesus movement” with a non-partisan voice on moral issues and a wide middle way with diverse views (have you heard that President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder, CO?). My hope is that we will lead by example not only in what we do but in how we do it. We will strive to be as transparent as possible about how we make decisions regarding our public witness. We will create room for everyone to speak from the heart. We will listen to each other and be open to transformation. We will admit that we are not perfect, we do not all agree, and that we all need God’s grace and assistance! God have mercy upon us.
Pray with me as we listen to the Gospel of Jesus together and discern how God is calling us to shine in the world. If you have concerns or feel that your voice is not being heard, please reach out. Meanwhile, I am reaching out to the diverse members of our parish to listen. I love all of you.
Your rector and brother in Christ,