Church leaders call for unity, action post-election

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While many United Methodist leaders offered prayers and messages of unity after the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, others called on Christians to hold leaders accountable and take action against hate.

“In his acceptance speech, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump promised to unify the country, despite his clearly divisive campaign rhetoric on issues of race, gender, ability and nationality. And it is the job of citizens of the United States — particularly those who call ourselves Christians — to hold him to this promise,” said a statement by the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.

Patricia L. Miller, a Republican state senator in Indiana, agreed that it is time for the nation to come together.

“It is our responsibility to pray for all our elected officials, including President-elect Trump. We owe him our respect, support, and willingness to pray that he be a thoughtful and successful president. The future of the United States of America depends greatly on his leadership,” she said, speaking as an individual, not on behalf of The Confessing Movement, the unofficial evangelical advocacy group she leads.

She said the country and The United Methodist Church are in similar situations. 

“The United Methodist Church is divided and experiencing open conflict. 2 Chronicles 7:14 reads: ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ This call to prayer and repentance is equally important for our country as it is our church.”

And there is much healing to do.

Since Trump’s stunning upset last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center website reports more than 200 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country, with reports involving immigrants, African Americans, women and the LGBTQ community — many of the groups alienated by Trump over the course of his campaign.

In a statement issued Nov. 14, the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said her agency has received, directly and indirectly, reports of incidents of violence and abuse over the past week.

“Violence towards young women at gas stations, acts of hate against churches, schoolchildren terrorized and bullied in school cafeterias and bathrooms, Muslim brothers and sisters terrified for their own safety, anxiety of deportation, and the well-being of young people working here on Capitol Hill. The rhetoric that produced and allowed fear, racism, sexism, regionalism and classism to fester must be addressed. The fears are real and the wounds are deep. …

“For United Methodists, we are called to not only hear the fears and see the wounds, but to take action against fear and hate. Acts of hatred and violence that are being perpetrated are unacceptable and must be rejected in any and every form,” she said.

During his first interview as president-elect, which aired Nov. 13 on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Trump responded to reports of his supporters harassing minorities.

“I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it — if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.”

Hope, hurt remain

For some United Methodists, there was a mix of hurt and hope.

Western Jurisdiction Bishop Karen P. Oliveto, The United Methodist Church’s first openly gay bishop, reached out to those she leads in the Mountain Sky area with a message of love.

“I believe in the power of love. And whether today we are lamenting or celebrating the election, here is what I know to be true: The love we as Christians are called to live out cannot be legislated. It is not controlled by politics. It is to be lived out, not talked about or debated. This love is realized when we stand with the poor and marginalized. It is embodied when we seek justice for the oppressed,” she said.

Harriett Jane Olson, United Methodist Women top executive, urged members to reach out to each other and listen to those with different ideas.

“Let us lead with kindness in these days. May this be an opportunity to become even more committed to knowing God and to following God’s call, to loving God and to reflecting God’s love for each other and the world,” she said Nov. 11, during the organization’s Leadership Development Days in St. Louis, Missouri.

In a letter to the church, Council of Bishops and church agencies, The Youth Council of MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans) said it is hurt and disappointed in the church and its leaders for remaining silent in the wake of recent violence and vandalism.

The group urged the church to take a clear and open stand against the deportations promised by the president-elect. During his campaign, Trump said he would build a wall along the Mexican border, and in his “60 Minutes interview, he vowed to deport as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants.

“We expect church leaders to do this not only in speech but in concrete actions,” the letter said.

In a congratulatory letter sent to Trump on behalf of the Council of Bishops last week, Bishop Bruce R. Ough said the council “pledges to contribute to all efforts to build bridges to understanding that will lead to overcoming the gulfs that divide the nation and the world.”

The Committee for Hispanic/Latino Ministries of North Carolina also urged church leaders to recognize the serious consequences the election may have for Hispanic-Latino communities, women and other marginalized groups.

“We call pastors and laity to listen to those who are hurting, to pray for and with them, and to respond by speaking up and by taking concrete actions of solidarity and advocacy,” the group wrote in an open letter to the North Carolina Conference.

“While many voices currently urge us to wait to see what changes may take effect in January, the cost is too great. We must act now to ensure that the threats we heard during the campaign are not carried out, as they are having devastating effects on our communities. This is not a time to remain sitting in our pews or to remain behind our pulpits. This is the time to stand with the hurting members of the Body of Christ,” the letter said.

Moving forward

Many local churches focused on helping congregations heal and come together.

The Mississippi Conference Advocacy Committee led a post-election healing and communion service last week on the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol Building in downtown Jackson.  

The Rev. David McCoy with the Mississippi Conference Office of Spiritual Leadership said it’s important for people to talk.

“I think it is better to bring those feeling to the surface,” he said. “If we face it, we can fix it. If we hide it, and act as though nothing is going on, then we have difficulty addressing the issues. So this way we will be able to address the issue and give them to Jesus.”

Los Angeles Area Bishop Grant J. Hagiya, in a statement on the election, urged United Methodists to look beyond the question of “How will I live?” post-election and rather ask themselves, “How will I lead?”

“We are a people of Christian faith who carry a unique message of healing, restoration and prophetic witness,” he said. “We need to be the caring voice of calm and healing to a divided nation. We also must be willing to take bold prophetic stands if the least and most vulnerable of our community are harmed and mistreated. I believe that it is our call to carry this message to whomever our neighbors might be and however our communities might be composed.”

The church has the opportunity to lead by example in the days ahead, said the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of the unofficial United Methodist evangelical advocacy group Good News.

“Going forward, we need to remember that our hope is not in elections or governments or presidents. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. He calls us to live out our discipleship of faith each day through words and actions that embody the gospel. That would be our call, no matter who was elected president,” he said.

He urged people, no matter for whom they voted, to work together to find solutions to the challenges facing the country. 

“We can give each other (and president-elect Trump) the benefit of the doubt, withholding judgment until we see the actions the new administration takes,” he said. “Whether we voted for or against our new president, it is in all our interests that he (in his words) ‘does a good job.’ His success will mean that we all succeed. Most importantly, we can commit to uphold our new leaders in prayer, that they will govern wisely and well, for the sake of all Americans, and indeed for the benefit of all the world.”

Dwyer is general church content editor. Contact her at (615) 742-5489 or [email protected] Tamica Smith Jeuitt of the Mississippi Conference contributed to this report.

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