Diocesan clergy respond to Charlottesville

Diocesan clergy respond to Charlottesville

Several clergy in the diocese reflect on the events in Charlottesville in a sermon and in statements:

The Rev. Carlye Hughes, Trinity, Fort Worth

Hughes, rector of Trinity, Fort Worth, in her powerful sermon on Sunday continued the journey through Genesis with the story of Joseph. Trinity has been exploring the stories of Genesis as “the first story of who we are.” In the story of Joseph, who was his father’s favorite and a tattletale, and who acted “in the ignorance of being beloved,” she tells of how he managed to alienate his brothers to the point of being willing to kill him.

And when the suggestion is made to kill him, “no one said a word – the silence of the other brothers made this OK.” But why is God silent too? Why isn’t God speaking up?

“We can ask the same question about this weekend in Charlottesville… God expects us to step up and not stay silent… We gotta speak up.” Hughes acknowledges people not wanting to talk about it, “but people’s lives are now at stake. This is not politics.”

She describes the powerful witness of Episcopalians in Charlottesville, linking arms and singing, “This Little Light of Mine,” and praying.

She returns to the story of Joseph and says that while we don’t hear God say a word, we do see God take what was meant for evil and turn that into good.

“We have got to get ourselves to a place where we are not afraid of speaking up… we have got to talk to people about what we believe.”

She reminds us of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying that it is “the appalling silence of good people” that gets us into trouble. Feeling guilty, upset or afraid will get us nowhere.

She reminds them of the Collect: “Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

She asks them to reflect on this portion of the Collect: “We who cannot live without you” and to find their voice.

She concludes by saying, “This is our story, this is our part of the story.”

Listen to the complete sermon in this podcast.

The Rev. Kevin Johnson, St. Alban’s, Theatre Arlington

Johnson posted a statement on St. Alban’s Facebook page:

Today in the front yard of the author of the Declaration of Independence a group of White Supremacists and White Nationalists gathered to protest the perceived loss of their unearned white, male societal privileges. In response to this gathering a group of counter-protesters gathered. Violence ensued, eventually culminating in a car plowing into a group of counter-protesters, killing at least one and injuring many others.

Let us make no mistake about it, the notion that a certain segment of society “deserves” more privilege because of their gender and/or race is unambiguously antithetical to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. If there is any question about this, Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15.21-28) makes it unequivocally clear that the blessings of God – listed by Thomas Jefferson as “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” – are for all of God’s children.

As a white, privileged American male I fully understand (and to be completely transparent somewhat grieve) the loss of my monopoly of unearned societal benefits. Greater, however, is the sure and certain knowledge that the righteous, long march towards justice for all must continue, as it should. While evil may push back against expanding the circle of inclusiveness (as it always does), we know that God is greater than bigotry, greed, and ignorance.

People of good heart and will must continue to cooperate with the work of God to expand the circle of blessings. We must persist by our words and our actions to condemn those who would marginalize any person of God and to make room at the table for all. Let our grief be not for our own loss of privileges but for those who have lost their lives and those injured standing up against evil. Kevin+

The Rev. Scot McComas, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Keller

McComas’ statement is posted on St. Martin’s website.

This past Saturday, over 50 interfaith religious leaders and pastors marched arm-in-arm in silence to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia and knelt on the ground in silent prayer. They then sang, “This Little Light of Mine,” and each pastor offered a prayer, one after the other.

Leading the march was Dr. Cornel West, a philosopher, theologian and political activist. I remember seeing him around the halls of Harvard Divinity School in the late 1990s and was in awe. In his prayer, he said, “Let us never be afraid of facing hate and let us bear witness to love, knowing that justice is what love looks like in public.”

Love was the common theme and prayers were offered for the victims who were hurt in the act of domestic terrorism; for the Neo-Nazi, KKK, and the white supremacists; and for our own sins, whether active or passive.

In our confession, we mention “things done (our active sins) and left undone (our passive sins)” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 360). What we might want to consider praying about is asking God to show us what additional work we might need to do in ourselves with regard to our active or passive sins in order to love God fully and our neighbor fully, as Jesus taught. Most of us are not racist, and yet no one is without sin. Prejudice and hate are taught. Newborn babies are born with neither. It is up to us to live like newborns. After all, we are born anew in our Baptism.

Our nation is still aching from the Civil War and many have mixed feelings about removing statues of Confederate leaders. The rally was protesting the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee. Many people, including me, have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War. My maternal great-great grandfather was a colonel in the Confederate Army in Mississippi while my paternal great-great uncle was an Aide-de-Camp in the Union Army. All of us have our history to deal with, or sometimes we choose not to do so.

But what we cannot and should not have mixed feelings about are racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and the list goes on. All of it is wrong—no equivocation or prevarication.

Our Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 304-305) reminds us, as Christians, to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” What happened in Charlottesville was evil—pure and simple. There is nothing God-like or life-giving about the KKK, Neo-Nazis or white supremacists.

We cannot dress up what happened this weekend and claim, “Those white men were trying to reclaim an America they have lost through their jobs going to Mexico or China.” We cannot dress it up and claim, “Those white men are being oppressed because of reverse racism.” We cannot dress it up and claim anything to justify their abhorrent and repugnant views turned into hateful actions.

Also, Christians do not condone violence of any kind. It should be noted that the anti-protesters contributed to violence in the streets and that was wrong. But the act of the person who plowed his car into others was calculated and intent on killing and injuring people. The environment of hate and anger was ripe for a tragedy. Three people lost their lives. Dozens of others are recovering from their wounds.

The man in the car and the other white supremacists live in a world of fear, intimidation and destruction. And yes, we are to pray for him and all who espouse hate. As we “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves,” can we ask God for help in turning our own swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks? Our country is at a crossroads. Where are you on the continuum of issues of race? Where am I? Where is St. Martin’s?

The final part of the Baptismal Covenant asks the question, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” The link between love and justice is unbreakable in the world of Jesus and, thus, in our world. Jesus taught us to love not hate. Jesus taught us to stand up for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. Jesus also taught us to speak up and speak out against injustice and hate. Cornel West connects love and justice. So does our Baptismal Covenant.

God is always near us, and we must remember Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the church, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

May we continue to pray for our nation.

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p. 820)

A prayer for the diversity of races and cultures:

O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p. 840)

Read a statement from Bishop Scott Mayer.

“We are baptized for such moments as this.”

The image “Vigil in Support of Charlottesville” by Garen Meguerian is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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