November 8, 2022
A Reflection from the Bishop on Resolution #2
Na ke aloha o ke Akua ma loko o Iesu Kristo, e aloha iā ʻoukou ā pau!

During the Annual Meeting of our Diocesan Convention (at ʻIolani School on Saturday, October 22nd), we adopted the following resolution:
BE IT RESOLVED, that this 54th annual meeting of the Convention of the Diocese of Hawai‘i urges the leaders of all congregations of this Diocese to initiate programs of voter education for parishioners to cultivate a better understanding of civic engagement as an expression of Christian faith, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this 54th annual meeting of the Convention of the Diocese of Hawai‘i affirms that as citizens, each individual Episcopalian has a responsibility to bear witness in the public square by exercising the right to vote and engaging in civic affairs for the common good.
During debate, I, as Bishop and “president” of Convention, was asked if resources were to be provided to fulfill the intent of the resolution. Because the resolution did not provide direction on such resources, I noted that there were no immediate recommendations. I did suggest that the Episcopal Church did provide help in this area. The following website will be of help:
The Episcopal Church’s Office of Governmental Relations (OGR) “represents the policy priorities of The Episcopal Church to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. and helps to shape the discussion of political issues throughout the Church. OGR aims to influence policy and legislation on critical issues, highlighting the voices and experiences of Episcopalians and Anglicans globally. All policy positions are based on General Convention and Executive Council resolutions, the legislative and governing bodies of the Church.”
In addition, I would like to share some thoughts on faith, politics and voting. As a denomination, the Episcopal Church, like most Christian denominations in the United States, takes positions on moral and societal issues. That means being involved in political matters. You will see from the OGR website that the Episcopal Church takes positions and makes statements on public policy. This is not new. We were sometimes on the wrong side of history (see The Episcopal Church and Slavery: A Historical Narrative Developed by the Subcommittee on Reparations Racial Justice Commission Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts). We continue to try to discern God’s will as God’s People in changing times. The Episcopal Church (as a denomination [through General Convention, Executive Council and the House of Bishops], Diocese [through Convention, Diocesan Council, Standing Committee and the Bishop], and local churches [through vestries and clergy]) can and should speak up on issues of government policy, justice and peace in our communities, the state, the nation and the world.  

We need to keep two things in mind: (1) The positions taken by the General Convention and the Executive Council (or of Diocesan Convention) are not “binding” on individual Episcopalians. The individual still must make their own moral judgments and engage political life as a faithful engaged citizen of a democratic republic. The same holds true for teachings that come from the House of Bishops. (2) The denomination, the diocese, the local congregation, and clergy when

functioning on behalf of the Church (but not when exercising their voice as individual citizens) should be non-partisan with regard to political parties and those running for election when commenting on policies, justice and morality. This may, however, include commenting on the personal morality and statements of individual public figures holding them to account for statements, actions, or policies.

I do suggest that it is appropriate to have conversations in Church (at the General Convention, Executive, House of Bishops, Diocesan Convention, Diocesan Council, Standing Committee and even in congregations) about governmental policy, civic responsibility, and human dignity. Such conversations are by definition political, though not necessarily partisan. These conversations are about public morality and justice. They are at the core of our faith and our faith should shape our response as citizens in a democratic republic. How our Christian faith informs our decisions about voting may vary, but we are called, I believe, to measure all our actions – including how we vote and engage the public square – by our faith.

As Christians, I think the key to our moral judgements – including voting – are based on character, virtues and the common good. When we enter in such conversations, I think we need to keep the Letter of James (3:13-18) in mind:
Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.
And as Paul reminds is in Galatians (5:22-26): “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other.”

As Episcopalians, our moral and political judgments might best be shaped by the promises we make in the Baptismal Covenant and the principles found in the Five Marks of Mission. I would invite all Episcopalians to read the position papers of political candidates and the platforms of political parties with the promises of the Baptismal Covenant and the Five Marks of Mission in mind. We also need to consider the character and personal morality of leaders.

I also pray we can have healthy and generous conversations with one another about our responsibility as faithful Christian (Episcopal) citizens of a democratic republic about voting and the political, policy, and social realities of our time. Bishop Mark Beckwith, the retired Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, has recommended the resources of Braver Angels. This is a secular organization seeking to bridge the partisan divide in the United States and encourage healthy conversations. I share the link because I respect Bishop Beckwith and I hope respectful conversations are still possible.

Lastly, please pray:
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquility your dominion may increase until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Aloha ma o Iesu Kristo, ko mākou Haku,

The Right Reverend Robert L. Fitzpatrick

Bishop Diocesan
The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i

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