We are sending this letter out to you while still trying to process the meaning of the presidential election ourselves. There is obviously risk of any letter speaking to the world of politics being read as partisan, particularly in this polarized political climate. We hope you trust our intent is pastoral, not partisan. We have asked ourselves if we would have sent out a pastoral letter had the outcome been different. Given all of the divisiveness and rhetorical warfare launched throughout this campaign, many of us answered yes. It is our responsibility to speak to the pain, fear, division, and uncertainty that have been expressed in the last few days.
We know that throughout our country there are millions of people today who are uncertain, who are scared, and who are hurting--and we also know there are millions of people who would have been feeling those exact same things if the outcome of the election had been different. Sadly, this election was never going to bring an end to the deep divisions that have been sown in our country and in our world.
Instead, we as people of faith believe that much of that responsibility rests with us moving forward. Ultimately, our faith does not belong to the Democratic Party, to the Republican Party, or, frankly, to any government or government party. It is built upon the rock that is Christ's love and justice, and that is what guides us as Christ's disciples.
Our identity as Christians is founded most clearly in the waters of Baptism and around the Communion Table. In Baptism, we hear the affirmation that each of us is a child of God. Around the Table, we hold fast to the promise that all people are welcome to find nourishment for faith and hope.
These sacraments remind us that "barriers of race, gender, status, and age are to be transcended" and "barriers of nationality, history, and practice are to be overcome" (Book of Order, PCUSA). As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to participate in God's breaking down of these barriers and to stand firmly against any rhetoric or actions that reinforce them.
Our church's mission and purpose remain and are perhaps needed even more critically. Fourth Church will continue to be a light in the city, doing our best to reflect God's light and love with all those both inside and outside our congregation who feel forgotten, diminished, and marginalized.
When our elected officials and policies work to uphold the health, worth, dignity, and prosperity of all people regardless of race, religion, gender, class, citizenship, ableness, and sexual orientation, we will gladly work with and alongside them. When our elected officials and policies fall short of these great aims, we will be advocates and witnesses for social justice--not in order to blame or to demonize, but rather to follow God's command to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God."
The work we have done and will continue to do is vital to these next chapters in our public and personal lives. Together, we seek a better and fairer world not just for ourselves, but for any people who feel overlooked, dismissed, or, worse, hated because of who they are.
The poet and activist Alice Walker asked in the wake of the election, "Do we turn on others, or towards others?" We believe turning towards one another is the calling of our faith.
That does not mean that we rush to "fix" anything, make agreements that go against our convictions, or proclaim a shallow and false unity. It does mean that we resist all pressure to turn away from or to turn against any of God's beloved children. As the prophet Amos proclaimed, our call is to "hate evil, love good, and establish justice at the city gate."
Our work as those who follow God in the way of Jesus continues. We trust in God's grace to strengthen us for our witness and proclaim that our labors will not be in vain.
In grace, love, and peace,
Your Pastoral Staff: