MORE than 1000 people walked by candlelight to the White House on Thursday of last week, under the banner of “reclaiming the integrity of faith during political and moral crisis”.
Among those linking arms on the walk from the National City Christian Church was the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael Curry, and the President of Sojourners, the Revd Jim Wallis, both of whom were signatories to the Reclaiming Jesus declaration.
The vigil was a public witness to this statement, which begins with the warning: “The soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.”
“When politics undermines our theology, we must examine that politics,” the declaration states. “It is often the duty of Christian leaders, especially elders, to speak the truth in love to our Churches and to name and warn against temptations, racial and cultural captivities, false doctrines, and political idolatries — and even our complicity in them.”
Among items that it rejects are “the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership”, “the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life”, and “America First”, which it denounces as “a theological heresy for followers of Christ”.
Before the service at the National City Christian Church, Bishop Curry told CNN: “It’s like somebody woke up Jim Crow and said ‘Let’s not just segregate Americans over race, let’s separate people along religious and political and class lines, too.’”
The walk was not a “protest march” but a “procession of Christian people”, and those gathered were “not a left-wing group; we are not a right-wing group; we are a Jesus Movement”.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “I’m not here to criticise anybody. I’m not here to point any fingers. I’m here to appeal to the better angels of our nature, that, if we love God and each other, for real, we will find our way together as a nation, and as a world.”
“This is not tonight about Donald Trump, it’s about Jesus Christ,” Mr Wallis said.
Since the inauguration of President Trump, bishops from the Episcopal Church have opposed several of his policies, including the withdrawal from the Paris agreement on tackling climate change, the proposed ban on transgender people in the military, and the halving of refugee resettlement numbers (News, 10 November 2017).
“We don’t tell people how to vote,” Bishop Curry told The Guardian last week. “We don’t tell people exactly what policies they must stand for. We identify what are the values that will guide you in your life. But the rest? That’s between you and God.” He also confirmed that he prayed for the President: “He’s a child of God, just like the immigrant is a child of God.”
The Reclaiming Jesus declaration has been signed by 23 leaders, including the Revd Dr Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary, and Dr Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-convener of the National African American Clergy Network.