Episcopal bishops issue A Word to the Church

Posted Mar 16, 2016

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church, meeting in retreat, unanimously approved the following Word To The Church.

A Word to the Church
Holy Week 2016

“We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others.”

On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and the blameless to protect their own status and power. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead, revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.

In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.

In this moment, we resemble God’s children wandering in the wilderness. We, like they, are struggling to find our way. They turned from following God and worshiped a golden calf constructed from their own wealth. The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege. We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.

We call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and we will not betray our true selves.

The Episcopal Church House of Bishops met in retreat March 11 – 15 at Camp Allen Conference Center in Navasota, TX.


Comments (51)

  1. Marybeth Wright says:

    WOW! What a powerful message! I agree with it 100%!!!

  2. Paul Ambos says:

    Was this by any chance cc’d to Abp. Justin Welby?

  3. Ann Schumann-Ousley says:

    So beautifully written and profoundly powerful… I am immensely grateful for the leadership provided by our House of Bishops at this time.

  4. Sam Kincade says:

    Great message!

  5. Jim Himes says:

    What a very polite and lengthy way to say Nothing. This must have been written by a Politician.

    1. Daar Fisher says:

      This church has lost itself.

    2. Max Hill says:

      Jim Himes I couldn’t agree more with what you have posted. If any church has lost its way, it would be the Episcopal Church. I will continue to pray for all denominations asking God to bring to light the error of their ways and return to the gospel preached by the Apostle Paul.

    3. Ryan MacConnell says:

      Darr, You are right the statement says nothing!

    4. Robert Wilson says:

      So sad when supposedly educated Bishops cannot draft something meaningful instead of something vague and meaningless. If you have something to say, say it!

  6. Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson says:

    Many thanks to the House of Bishops. I see so many parallels to Germany in the 1930s, in which out-of-control political rhetoric and mob violence made it possible for Adolph Hitler to seize control not by coup but election. With anti-Semitism rising against Jews and Muslims both abroad and at home, we have much to keep in check. Slovenia, for example, has recently elected a fascist leader who has vowed to make life miserable for the Romas. So, yes, the spirit of reconciliation should be the prayer for our country – but also vigilance and the calling out of the fascists of our own day, who, like Amalek of old, would seize the most vulnerable of our day.

    1. Sandra K Llewellyn says:

      Agree, it’s very frightening. I don’t know who the fascists are but I can plead to God to tell us and not leave us blind.

    2. Hugh Hansen PhD says:

      Honorable Bishop Johnson, interesting how you are picking up the secular mood of leftist politics and bringing up Nazi Germany. I hope you don’t think that that has a spiritual import for us today. Where is our message of hope “this is my fathers world.” Where is our faith in the God who will allow us “to pass safely through the tribulations of ou age?”

  7. Daar Fisher says:

    What, specifically, are you pointing to in this statement. Are we to read into it our own particular biases? Moral relativism seems the order of the day. Elevating evil doers as characterizing the country (“shadow of the lynching tree”) while excusing the manner in which ** the margins of society are turning on US ** just adds to the polarization that is fomented by radical Left and reactionary Right. Political correctness is the gateway to the moral relativism because it punishes the free expression of ideas that must be considered where obvious problems exist.

    1. Max Hill says:

      Daar Fisher that is a righteous statement !!

    2. Steve Catanich says:

      The “margins of society” are indeed turning on those who have systematically abused them. It’s called “survival instinct.” You might find it helpful to avoid name calling, and read the statement by our Bishops along with the words of Christ as taught in the Gospels.

  8. Joan Head says:

    Well said. Definitely praying. Hoping more messages like this get into the public eye to counteract the public rhetoric we hear so loudly on the other side.

  9. Michael Craig Patterson, Reno, Nevada says:

    The Bishops’ statement comes from the heart of the Gospel. It reminds us that, in the heat and passion of public debate and differing views, we run the risk of overlooking what we hold from our faith as being dear and pre-eminent. That reminder applies to all of us, whether we tend to stand at the right, the center or the left in the political/social spectrum.

    1. Cathy Kinkade says:

      Well written and the best comment I have read so far.

  10. Ben Johnson says:

    Hollow words. The Episcopal Church like every other supports agenda of the right wing fanatics. Without that support we probably wouldn’t be in the position we’re in. They call for “prayer,” and we all k of how much good that goes. I’m glad it allows all you self righteous hypocrites to deny the responsibility for your voting record .

  11. Wilmot T. Merchant, II says:

    When the messengers of God sent “A Word to the Church” the Body of Christ, God’s people said: Amen!! Amen!!

  12. Paul Rider says:

    Interesting that even a message of reconciliation and hope can be met with division and fear. I applaud our Bishops today.

    1. Carrie Heiman says:

      Amen Paul. Me too.

  13. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    As a Biblical historian: “the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man” actually “the ruling religious forces of the day caused the torture and execution of an innocent man at the hands of the Romans.”

    Let’s not try to make what happened 2000 years ago about the Presidential Election of 2016.

  14. Gregory Willmore says:

    I applaud the message that our bishops have sent. The church must stand up against the hate and bigotry that is poisoning the hearts of many of our citizens in this election year by certain political candidates and condemn it as contrary to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel of love and mercy. Hate and bigotry is not only unchristian but it is contrary to our American values. I believe our presiding bishop should declare a day of prayer and fasting prior to the general election and should publicly condemn this cycle of hate and violence that the Evil One has imposed upon our beloved nation. Enough is enough. The church must pray, fast and then do something about it.

  15. David Johnson says:

    Hmmmm…no mention of the “lynching tree” called abortion on demand, support by TEC.

  16. The Revd Sarah V. Lewis says:

    Where can one find a copy of the Bishops’ statement in Spanish?

      1. Dan Tabizon says:

        You are correct. Same letter placed in Spanish.

  17. Willam A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    As a Biblical historian: “the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man” actually “the ruling religious forces of the day caused the torture and execution of an innocent man at the hands of the Romans.”

    Let’s not try to make what happened 2000 years ago about the Presidential Election of 2016. Let’s keep the Scripture true to the message, please.

    1. Aaron J. Angel says:

      Where the Roman leaders not gods? They only suffered the Jews to maintain the illusion of their power. The ruling religious forces were the ruling political forces of the day. The distinction between the two is a modern one that ought not be read into ancient writings.

  18. Monte Robinson says:

    Sorry –but at some point the Episcopal Church is going to have to take a stand like others for what is right and quit trying to appeal to all. It is not sacrificing the hopes of others by not embracing every weird thing that comes along. We will not betray ourselves if we follow Gods word. Not sure this is happening. Also, do not think it is the faithful that may be on the wrong path but the leadership.

    1. Natalie Bishop says:

      Christ is our Hope.

  19. Steve Schneider says:

    Is this directed at the Bernie Sanders supporters and BLM activists who started the violence at the Trump rally in Chicago?

  20. Vicki Gray says:

    This is good, but the time has come to be more explicit, more forceful. We are on the edge of an abyss.

  21. Richard Bidwell says:

    Thank you for the BOLD leadership of our bishops.

  22. Constance Jennings says:

    This reads like an effort to be on the record as opposing right wing politics while doing nothing to speak directly though belatedly to underlying issues and instead magically leapfrogging to reconciliation. If the church wants to make a difference here and now it is time to shout the message publicly on a daily basis–to shout it from the rooftops in the press, to ring the church bells daily in a call to goodness, to take public risks rather than give retreat summations delivered anonymously.

    1. Steve Catanich says:

      You made the association to “right wing politics,” the Bishops didn’t. 🙂

  23. Trevor David says:

    Bishops’ did a great job of “Taking A Stand.” Every election cycle there will be candidates that sell the dream of becoming a Utopia under their reign. I never see candidates visiting skid rows or prisons, or championing causes for the most disenfranchised. Why, they don’t vote, it doesn’t make for good press, and Voters would find helping those untouchables as not important. Most People elect politicians that have their similar concerns, their best interests, in mind. As Christians, Our Baptismal Covenant requires sometimes the opposite of politics. By acting on the Five Marks of Mission, we see that nonvoters and the environment are clearly within our realm of caring. No matter what our direction (Left, Right, or Center), our Savior, through Divine FÍat, was elected two thousand years ago. If His Kingdom is to Come on Earth, which candidate, if any, speaks to that?

  24. Michael Russell says:

    I agree with the Bishops in the thrust of their letter. But the Golden Calf was made from what they plundered leaving Egypt and they made it because they thought/feared Moses and God had abandoned them. Today’s “golden calf” has been forged by the same sense of fear and a deeper resentment of a perceived abandonment. Until we deal with that, we can only expect more.

  25. Steve Lindsay says:

    Come Loving God, most mysterious one, and touch our land with your healing love. Grant us ears to hear your call to love and serve each other and the stranger in our midst. Amen

    1. Hugh Hansen PhD says:

      Steve Lindsey, that is so beautiful and so infused with divine energy! Thank you so much.

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