November 10, 2016

A Pastoral Letter



To be honest, I didn’t sleep much on Tuesday night. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a political junkie, paying close attention to election results whenever they occur, taking note of the trends and patterns, the numbers and the polls. But it became increasingly clear as the night and morning and following day wore on that this is altogether different from any other election I’ve been a part of. I’ve had many conversations and I’ve read countless summaries and tweets and posts from friends and strangers, folks who are on many different points of the political spectrum, and it’s becoming clear that we are a deeply divided nation, church, and people.

We are divided not just by having different opinions and strategies on how to strengthen our society, we have fundamentally differing views on who we are as a people, how we want to live, and how we want to engage with those who differ from us. These differences are displayed in the variety of responses to this election. While many in this country and in the congregations of this synod may be feeling glad and hopeful, and others are confused and disengaged, we need to acknowledge that many in our communities are feeling sadness, fear, anger, and resignation.

I recognize that, as a white male with some measure of status in this world, the life that I and my family enjoy would have been largely unaffected no matter how the election turned out. But that’s not the case for countless folks whom I love and have been called to serve. Many people with whom I have spoken, folks whose skin color, language, citizenship status, sexual orientation, religion and gender differ from mine, have deep and painful fears for their safety.

So here’s what I would invite us to consider in the weeks, months, and years to come, regardless of how you voted and how you are dealing with the results:

  • As Christians, our allegiance is not to any political party, leader, or set of policies. Our allegiance is to the God of justice, mercy, and reconciliation; the God whose primary demand is for us to love our neighbor.
  • This love of neighbor means that we need to learn how to listen to each other. By this, I do not mean the patient, passive approach in which we simply keep silent while the other takes their turn speaking, but the active, engaged listening that presses the other to more clearly articulate their stories, their passions, their fears, and their hopes.
  • This active listening then needs to drive us to clarity and to action as we combat the forces that dehumanize, disempower, and diminish our neighbor.

I am hopeful, not because of what is happening in our political systems or even in our church, but because we belong to a God who has claimed us in our baptism for times such as these. As your bishop, I intend to fulfill my vows to listen, to love, and to lead as we seek to be faithful to our call to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

In Christ’s love,
Bishop Paul Erickson