Thursday, October 29th, 2020
My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you. Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart….Proverbs 3:1-35
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 1 John 3:17-18
On November 3, both as individuals and as a country, we will make fundamental decisions about our values and morals. As Christians, we do not have the luxury of separating the two. We are called to vote our faith, conscience, and hearts as they have been formed by Jesus Christ. We have the gift to live in this country and the freedom to express our values. However, we cannot forget that our faith must inform every decision we make - including voting. I am reminded of a two-line poem: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last."
Through our democracy, we are choosing the compass point that will guide our moral journey into the future. As citizens and as Christians, we must express our constitutional right. The faithful and loving people of our diocese span the political spectrum. I am asking that when you vote that you endorse, not a party or a candidate, but your faith; pray and discern how your vote will reflect the words, life, and heart of Jesus Christ. How will your vote create a society that follows the greatest of all commandments: Love God and love your neighbor?
Few can deny that our country is currently a house divided, and a house divided cannot stand. We are also suffering through a worldwide pandemic. People are agonizing if they will have a job or be able to feed themselves and their families. Racial violence and hate are normalized. The evils of violence and white supremacy have come out of the shadows and now brazenly display disregard for human dignity and life. We must also remember the lives lost to gun violence, suicide, and the widening economic and educational disparity in our communities that lead to the marginalization of many in our human family. In order to heal these wounds and overcome these evils, we must be personally and spiritually courageous. As followers of Christ, we can make a difference.
In order to do so, we must stop acting like the Gospels are simply a recommendation - they are the actual Declaration of Independence from this world's broken and selfish ways. As Christians we have a monumental task; to vote in a way that expresses the heart and love of Jesus Christ. Following Christ is not for those with a faint spirit. Our faith calls us to live and act based solely on the truth of the Gospel.
I am asking you to reflect, discern, pray, and look into your heart as to what being a Christian means to you in your daily life and not just on Sunday. We must hold his words, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Lk. 11:23), in mind. If Jesus Christ informs and moves each moment of your day, we must follow him and his teachings at this crucial moment.
Which will come first - political party or Jesus Christ? As you discern and pray over your vote, compare the policies of the various candidates. Then ask yourself which candidate(s):
• Align with our Baptismal Covenant and value the dignity of every human being.
• Will lift up all people without distinction as to race, color, ethnicity, economic status, sexuality or place of origin (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 2:14, Deuteronomy 10:17-35, Leviticus 19:33-34, John 13:34, Luke 14:13-14, Colossians 3:10-11, 1 Samuel 16:7, James 2:1-4, Galatians 3:26-29, Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 7:9-10 )
• Promote peace (Matthew 5:9, Matthew 5:38-42, Ephesians 4:3, John 16:33, Ephesians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 14:33, Colossians 3:13, John 14:27)
• Will unite and not divide (Romans 16:17, Colossians 3:12, Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Peter 3:9-4:14, Romans 12:10, Luke 11:17, Matthew 18:15-18)
• Will not separate, demean, destroy or tear down any of the Holy One’s children Ephesians 4:29-32, Proverbs 11:17, Romans 12:10, Romans 12:15-18, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Hebrews 12:14-15, Proverbs 11:17)
• Care for the poor, lost, hungry, lonely, and the suffering. (James 1:27, Luke 14:12-14, Jeremiah 22:3, Jeremiah 22:16, Proverbs 17:5, Luke 6:20-21, Matthew 25:40, Zechariah 7:10)
• Promote healing for all people (Isaiah 38:16-17, Matthew 4:23-24, Matthew 10:1-8, Luke 5:17-24, Luke 13:11-13, Luke 14:1-6, Luke 10:30-37)
• Value the sanctity of all life. (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 9:6, Exodus 20:13, Psalm 139:13, Job 31:15, Luke 12:6-7)
• Respect God’s wondrous creation (Genesis 2:2-3, Number 35:33-4, Job 12:7-10, Psalm 95:5, Psalm 104:25-30, Isaiah 11:6-9, Isaiah 24:4-6, Isaiah 43:20-21, Colossians 1:16-7)
• Does not promote or empower any individual or system that advocates racism, violence, hatred or the division among the children of the Holy One (Proverbs 24:23, Exodus 22:21, Acts 10:34, John 17:21-23, Jude 1:19, 1 John 4:20, Romans 10:12, James 2:8-9, James 2:4, John 14:15, John 7:24
• Will sacrifice self for good of all people and society rather than our individual wants and needs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, John 15:13-17:15, Proverbs 22:16, Ephesians 4:2)
• Builds up systems of justice rather than tearing them down. Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 10:1-2, Isaiah 40:29, Proverbs 31:9, Micah 6:8, Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 28:27, Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 25:40, Luke 11:39-42, Mark 11:15-17
I pray that as the family of the Holy One, we also seek peace after the election. No matter the outcome, many in our country will be angry and will believe the only way to express that anger is through social unrest. I ask that we seek and demonstrate the peace of Christ. Christ’s church must be a sacred, calming and healing place. No matter the results, we are all siblings in Christ. It is essential that we remain in dialogue so that our bonds of love and faith remain strong despite differences in perspective. We must show the world a better way through our words, actions and lives. In order to remind us of this holy peace, I would like each of our churches to incorporate the Prayer of St. Francis into their worship on November 1 and November 8.
Some may take this pastoral letter as a political statement. If you choose to view it as such, I ask for your prayers. I have no allegiance to any candidate or party. I do not view the world through a political lens. My heart and my only allegiance is to Jesus Christ. I cannot preach the Gospel unless I am willing to live it. I cannot claim the name of Christ as a Christian unless His words inform every decision. If I do not do so, I know that when my time on earth is at an end, I will have to stand before the Lord and answer for it.
Paul repeatedly reminds us that we must be covered with Christ, think with the mind of Christ and always have Christ within us. As you cast your vote, remember the heart of Christ; the heart that beats for everyone, without distinction, in this world. With Christ, all things will be made new. Until we can be together again, I leave you to pray and discern. I leave you in the loving, hopeful, merciful and compassionate hands of our Creator.
I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 11:19.
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania