Presiding Bishop joins leaders seeking to overcome polarization

Posted May 17, 2013

[Religion News Service – Washington, D.C.] Twenty-five top Christian leaders gathered in the U.S. city with perhaps the worst reputation for civil discourse May 15 and committed themselves to elevating the level of public conversation.

Meeting in a row house three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, the group spanned the Christian spectrum, and included officials from liberal churches and the most conservative of interest groups.

“The ground of our spiritual understanding is in treating other people as the image of God, treating people with respect,” said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

“Faith leaders have a remarkable opportunity to shift the conversation, but it’s very challenging, particularly in a larger society that wants to understand everything as a battle, as engaging the enemy, rather than with someone who might have something to teach us,” she said.

Among the others who joined Jefferts Schori at the two-day meeting sponsored by the nonprofit Faith & Politics Institute were Kenda Bartlett, the executive director of Concerned Women for America; the Rev. Jeffery Cooper, general secretary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and Sister Marge Clark of NETWORK, a Roman Catholic social justice advocacy group.

The “Faith, Politics and Our Better Angels: A Christian Dialogue to Promote Civility” forum convened for the first time last year.

As religious leaders, they agreed, they are called to move politicians, congregants and Americans in general to understand that mean-spirited debate makes it all the harder to solve the nation’s problems.

Sometimes, they said, that may mean calling out people — including themselves — who debate disrespectfully through name-calling or by questioning the motives of their political opponents.

“Everyone says they’re in favor of civil discourse, but the lack of civility seems to win elections,” said Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development at LifeWay Christian Resources.

“You need some voice to say, ‘OK, we get that it can win elections, but maybe that’s not the best course of action.’ Typically, we think of religious leaders as voices of conscience, calling people to a better way. So therein is the hope,” Stetzer said.

One idea the group is considering, Cooper said, is a national day of civil discourse — perhaps in January, as people are making New Year’s resolutions — when preachers across the country will ask their congregants to make respectful conversation a priority in their lives.


Comments (7)

  1. Benjamin Guyer says:

    I wonder if the Presiding Bishop intends to apply these standards to herself?

    1. The Rev. Mark R. Collins says:

      ++KJS may not say what you want to hear, necessarily. But she has never belittled those with opposing views; she’s never said that those with differing opinions were ‘not Christian’. She’s stood firm in some cases, but has always called for understanding for those whom have been on the opposite side of her firm stand. She has never called anyone else an ‘abomination’. As she had led our church forward, she’s always spoken with loving care about those who are not ready to move forward, and those who think the way forward we chart is in error. Our Presiding Bishop is an example of a person of forthright faith *and* a tender heart. Those with an equally forthright faith that may guide them in other directions don’t always recognize that. But those with equally tender hearts do.

      1. The Presiding Bishop clearly doesn’t think that traditionalist Anglicans are Christians. That would, of course, be the reason why she ordered the Diocese of Virginia to pull out of a civilized, Christian separation agreement it had worked out in favor of spending untold millions of dollars in church resources suing Christians out of their meeting houses. And I guess that would also be the reason why one of TEC’s dioceses, Central New York, sold the buildings and grounds of a departing conservative parish to a Muslim group for LESS than the original parishioners were willing to pay for it.

      2. James Mikolajczyk says:

        What are you kidding? Her Curacao sermon about the slave-girl that was exorcised by Paul was nothing more than a rant about how conservatives silence other religious expressions because they feel threatened. She merely uses Paul as a metaphor for any religious conservative.

  2. Sanford Z. K. Hampton says:

    In the Spirit of Pentecost it is time to end the whole “Us vs Them” way of speaking whether between nations, political parties and Faith Communities.

  3. Bob Ricker says:

    The problem with all this is that to many, ending the whole “Us vs Them” means “see things our way”.

  4. The Rev. Harry L. Knisely says:

    Good luck with Washington, they won’t get it because no money is involved for them.
    Harry L. Knisely+

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