My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We find ourselves in a unique and challenging juncture in our lives as a country, as the American church, as residents of both the Kingdom of God, and of the United States. There have been some very good, steadied responses to the specific Executive Orders issued issued over the last week (particularly from our Brothers in Christ and my friends Dr. Ed Stetzer and Bishop Todd Hunter), and if your social media and inbox look anything like mine, you have seen many of these responses already.
As some of you are aware, I use this phrase fairly often, so forgive me if you have heard it before, but I have felt strongly over the years that I am "neither a Republican, nor a Democrat, but a monarchist"-- that is, I serve a King and His Kingdom is where my eyes are focused. The rest are just details. Because of this, I try to avoid partisan issues and attempt to keep my focus on His Kingdom come, and I believe that we are entering into a season of renewed focus on His Kingdom. I write to you today as your Bishop, and as your Brother in Christ, journeying alongside you in this eternal Kingdom work.
When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we ask "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". When we pray that His Kingdom would come, what we are also asking is that He use us to be a part of that work in bringing the Kingdom of God into our lives, our spheres, our world-- "on earth, as it is in heaven". We are submitting ourselves to His will, and not our own, to say yes to His call, to be light and love in a world that can feel like its getting darker by the moment.
Fear flashes before us on our television and computer screens and social media feed. The desire for safety has become preeminent in our country. But our faith believes and knows that our Lord Jesus says "Do not be anxious" (Matthew 6). In the Kingdom of God, as John tells us, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." The way that we are to take part in the breaking-in of the Kingdom of God is through our trust in our God and living out His love which He has placed within us. We believe that safety and love do not need to be separate, as Romans 8 tells us, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." It is important and prudent for government to continually assess and ensure the safety of its citizens, make no mistake on my feelings about that. But ultimately, our safety does not come from anything constructed by man, but through our assurance in God's love for us which He has shown through our Lord Jesus. We can not only rest in God's perfect love, but live in that perfect love through our actions. A mark of followers of Jesus is love (John 13:34-35) , and what the Church is being awoken to is a renewed understanding of what it looks like to show the love of God in Christ to the world.
The Lord is giving us a unique opportunity to live out what it means to be the body of Christ, each of us serving as a part of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:27), loving those whom we are called to love-- those close to God's heart. We do not require public policies to tell us who to love. Scripture is clear that the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the stranger are close to the heart of God. Regardless of policy, let us, as a family known as diocese, not only pray "thy Kingdom come", but heed the call embedded in the Kingdom coming: to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to play a part in the ushering in of His Kingdom.
It is my responsibility and I join Archbishop Foley and all my brother bishops to call us all to pray as individuals, families, and congregations about what it might look like to reexamine our understanding of our place in ushering in the Kingdom through His love, remembering that we love lavishly because of the love that was first shown to us. We, too, were strangers, poor in spirit and far from God, and in His mercy saved through the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. As John tells us in 1 John 3:18, "let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."
If you are looking for examples of what those actions of love might look like, below you will find some links to helpful resources.
In His peace and His love,
The Anglican Relief and Development has recommended that we give to programs that bring hope and transformation to refugees around the world.
Support and serve resettling immigrants through the Anglican Immigrant Initiative.
Make a decision as a church to embrace refugees/immigrants, welcome them, and get them started here in the United States.