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Follow your conscience, Presiding Bishop Curry urges US voters

25 September 2020

Social divide is so deep that an election alone can’t heal it, Primate says


President Donald Trump discusses the Californian wildfires with officials at Sacramento McClellan Airport last week

President Donald Trump discusses the Californian wildfires with officials at Sacramento McClellan Airport last week

THE Episcopal Church’s non-partisan stance in the coming presidential election in the United States should not be confused with “moral neutrality”, the Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, declared as he urged voters to follow their conscience.

Christian voters should consider “What would Jesus do?” Voting was a “sacred act”, he said.

“Partisan neutrality, bidden to us by human civil law, does not mean moral neutrality, because we are bidden to obey the royal law of almighty God.” This law “is summed up in the words, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.’

“With grace to aid and conscience to guide, each of us must discern and decide what love of neighbour looks like in our lives, in our actions, in our personal relationships, and in our social and public witness.”

His speech was delivered online to the House of Bishops.

The Episcopal Church in the US is forbidden to endorse or oppose particular candidates, although it can lobby for policy changes and encourage people to vote.

Bishop Curry warned that the present time was one of “great divisions, that are deep, dangerous, and potentially injurious to democracy”, and that to address them would require more than an election.

“The vote is vitally important, but it’s not enough. The wounds and the divisions in American society are so deep that even an election by itself cannot heal them. The murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others has exposed the death-dealing depth of racism and white supremacy deeply embedded in the soil and in the soul of America. We can’t go on like this,” he said.

Black church leaders in the US have accused President Trump of inciting terrorism in a campaign video, Meet Joe Biden’s Supporters, which, they said, suggested a link between church and violence. It shows scenes of burning buildings before showing the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, kneeling in front of the altar at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, with black clergy. The text of the video reads “Stop Joe Biden and his rioters”.

The church has denounced the ad as “overtly racist and offensive”, and church leaders have called for an apology and the removal of the video.

Political and religious observers believe that religious issues and the religious vote are critical to this November’s election. In 2016, President Trump won a huge majority of votes of Evangelical Christians in the US. Some polls suggest that as many as 81 per cent of white Evangelicals voted for him.

But in recent weeks there have been polls that show a significant decline in support for him from both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. The flagship Evangelical magazine Christianity Today, which in 2016 backed Mr Trump, published an editorial in which it described him as unfit for office.

Groups, however, such as the influential Catholic Vote campaign, which, in 2016, said that Mr Trump was unfit to be President, have swung in his support and are backing him in campaigns worth millions of dollars.

Mr Biden is a Roman Catholic who speaks often about his faith, but he does not support a near-total ban on abortion, as President Trump does, and would withdraw the Trump nominee to succeed the liberal Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg. This has alienated him from many RC and Evangelical Christians.

One poll suggested that support for him among white Evangelicals had risen to 28 per cent: 12 points ahead of the exit polls for the 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton.

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