Prayer IS Action! Here’s a word of hope and action in face of President Trump’s recent Immigration Order. Steve Sprecher is interim Cascadia district superintendent in the Oregon-Idaho Conference. We can all pray with Muslims around the world at noon on Friday. One God, many names! – Bishop Elaine
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
It is no secret that we are living in a tumultuous and disturbing time of social and political upheaval. Almost every newscast or conversation starts with a phrase like, “we’ve never seen anything like this before.”
But in fact we have. This is not the first time in our history that dark forces have attempted to build walls of division between people, to label and demonize others, and to use these wedges to persecute those “others” who are different from us. Examples of such prejudice and xenophobia are, sadly, too numerous to mention.
Today we are in a different country with different players, but the underlying forces are the same. Attempts to play to our fears instead of our hopes, to emphasize divisions instead of the commonalities which are the strength of our communities have brought us to a moment of truth when we have the opportunity and responsibility to decide who we want to be in the future – as Americans, and especially as Christians – and where we want to look for guidance to lead us forward.
The recent immigration orders have put this in bold relief. How are we to address such serious issues as Christians? Most importantly we must remember that our guidance does not come from political leaders, of either party. As Christians, our ultimate focus is on God and the powerful biblical message of love, justice and grace.
Regarding issues of immigration and refugees, the biblical message is crystal clear. From the Hebrew scriptures to the words of Christ, the message is repeated over and over: you shall welcome the stranger; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. From a biblical perspective, a nation is judged by how well it treats the sojourners in its midst. Such welcoming brought salvation for the nation, but also for the individual. In the words of Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops, Jesus tells us:
“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
The original Greek language is far more poetic, powerful and prophetic. In finer translations of the Greek language, we hear Jesus saying:
“Whoever seeks to build a wall around their soul shall destroy it; whoever tears down the wall (around their soul) shall bring their soul to a living birth.”
We sometimes hear that we should not “be political.” But it is not a question of being political; it is a question of being faithful. Our United Methodist heritage calls us to let our faith guide our actions. John Wesley believed absolutely that personal holiness and social holiness went hand in hand. He not only fed the poor but wrote, preached and lobbied against laws and customs which kept people poor.
We know Christ’s words of love, justice and grace are life-renewing words for us. But we as Christians have a message that can transform societies as well as persons.
What can you do?
This is our country – all of ours. I invite our churches to be in prayer and discussion about how we bring America back to its mission of welcoming all who yearn to breathe free, and to support those who stand and work for biblical values of welcoming the sojourner.
There is one action you can take immediately – you can pray tomorrow, Friday, February 3, at noon. This is the prayer time of Jummah, the most important prayer time in the Muslim day. Our United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), along with Church World Service, is inviting everyone to spend time in prayer at that hour, to express solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters and to pray for our human family. This can be done individually or in a prayer group at church. If you are able, contact a local mosque to ask how best to be of support. For those of you who are comfortable with social media, post your event with #WeAreAllAmerica #UMC. If needed, for further information this guide will help.
You may also contact our (OR-ID) Annual Conference Church and Society Chair, Donna Boe (firstname.lastname@example.org), and our Annual Conference Peace with Justice Chair, Claudia Roberts (email@example.com), or the chair of our Oregon-Idaho MFSA (Methodist Federation for Social Action), Jan Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org). If we in the district office can provide any resources to aid you in that conversation, we will do our best to help.
Interim Cascadia district superintendent, Oregon-Idaho Conference