Dear Friends in Christ, June 2, 2020
It is with troubled hearts that we write this letter to you. Our beloved nation is in pain and turmoil, and an end is not in sight. We cannot keep silent.
As you know, last night our president used federal officers to clear peaceful demonstrators away from the front of the White House. The reason? So that he could walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo of him standing in front of the church, holding a bible. By this action, our president used an Episcopal church for partisan political purposes. He did not pray while he was there. He did not read from the bible. He did not speak with the rector of the parish. He did not offer any words of consolation to the masses of hurting people who are demanding an end to centuries of white supremacy. He simply stood and posed for photos in what was a clear abuse of sacred symbols.
As your clergy, we understand that there is a wide diversity of opinion in our parish. We have tried to honor everyone in our preaching and, per the Vestry’s request, to keep politics out of our sermons.
But last night’s action by our president crossed a line. If we are to be faithful to our baptismal vows to “strive for justice and peace among all people,” and to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” we must speak up.
We join our voices with our Presiding Bishop, the Bishops of the Northeast, including our Diocesan Bishops, and with Episcopal and Roman Catholic bishops around the country in denouncing our president’s forceful actions to use the church as a political prop. His behavior is contrary to what we believe in our church.
As Bishop Mariann Budde, the Bishop of D.C. said last night, “The Bible is not an American document. It’s not an expression of our country. It’s an expression of the human struggle to serve and love and know God.”
To embrace this expression of holy scripture, we must acknowledge the real issue confronting us. And that issue is countless years of pervasive structures of racism that have denied our black and brown sisters and brothers the freedom to live as God’s beloved without fear of oppression, discrimination, violence, or death. And it’s about the brutality perpetrated in the name of justice that continues at an alarming rate to kill black Americans like George Floyd and so many others.
We know that together, this church community has loved and served all of God’s people for over a hundred years. Right now, we don’t have all the answers to address the deep fissures of racial injustice, but we must not let our despair immobilize us. This is the moment our faith has prepared us for. We are being called to be what we believe. May the Spirit empower us to face these days with hope and courage.
Mary Mary Anne
The Rev. Mary Barnett The Rev. Mary Anne Osborn