A group of Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders, including Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, have begun what they call a campaign to “reclaim Jesus” from those who they believe are using Christian theology for political gain.
“We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches,” say the 23 signers of the statement. “We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.”
The group says the church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ, while the government should serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior while restraining bad behavior. “When that role is undermined by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out,” the signers say, citing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who said the church is the conscience of the state, not its master or its servant.
“Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis” offers six “affirmations” of what the group, currently 23 strong, believes, “and the resulting rejections of practices and policies by political leaders which dangerously corrode the soul of the nation and deeply threaten the public integrity of our faith.
“We pray that we, as followers of Jesus, will find the depth of faith to match the danger of our political crisis.”
In summary, the signers, in their the affirmations and rejections, said they believe:
- Each human being is made in God’s image and likeness, and therefore, “we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership.”
- We are one body and, therefore, “we reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.”
- “How we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself,” and, therefore, “we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God.”
- “Truth is morally central to our personal and public lives,” and, therefore, they reject “the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.”
- Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination, and, therefore, “we reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule… raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority.”
- Jesus “tells us to go into all nations making disciples,” and, therefore, they reject “‘America first’ as a theological heresy for followers of Christ.”
The statement says in its conclusion that “our urgent need, in a time of moral and political crisis, is to recover the power of confessing our faith. Lament, repent, and then repair.”
The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, and Curry began talking earlier this year about the need for such a statement. The signers agreed to the wording of the statement at an Ash Wednesday retreat that Curry hosted at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.
“I joined with other Christian church leaders on this confession of what faith in times like these require,” Curry said March 22 in a statement to Episcopal News Service. “When faced with social issues, our Church has not been silent and we will continue to strive for justice and peace. Our role is one of moral leadership for our nation, for our church, for ourselves.”
The “Reclaiming Jesus” message, Wallis said in a March 22 commentary on the Sojourners website, needed to be “something that would be much more than just another statement to sign and then file away.
“Rather, with a shared humble spirit, we felt called to act as elders for a time such as this and to commend our message to the churches for a process of prayer, study, reflection, and action.”
Wallis called his commentary “Reclaiming Jesus: How Confessing Faith Can Respond to a Moral and Constitutional Crisis.”
The signers have set up a website, Reclaiming Jesus, where the statement and a one-page summary can be downloaded. There is also due to be a collection of resources in addition to a five-week “civil discourse curriculum” that already has been released.
The signers currently include:
- Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks
- Rev. Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church in North America
- Dr. Amos Brown, Chair, Social Justice Commission, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
- Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
- Dr. Tony Campolo, Co-Founder, Red Letter Christians
- Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
- The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
- Rev. Dr. James Forbes, President and Founder, Healing the Nations Foundation and Preaching Professor at Union Theological Seminary
- Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
- Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA
- Rev. Dr. Richard Hamm, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Faith Community Organizer and Chairman, Community Resource Network
- Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church
- Bishop Vashti McKenzie, 117th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, AME Church
- Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Co-Convener National African American Clergy Network
- Dr. John Perkins, Chair Emeritus and Founding Member, Christian Community Development Association
- Bishop Lawrence Reddick, CEO, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
- Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation
- Dr. Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action
- Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
- Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director, NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative
- Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network; President, Skinner Leadership Institute
- Bishop Will Willimon, Bishop, The United Methodist Church, retired, Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School