EPPN LENTEN SERIES: Care of Creation, Evangelism, and Reconciliation

2017-03-01 | Rebecca Linder Blachly, Director, Office of Government Relations

“Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.

Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” -Proverbs 31: 8-9

 “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.” -Luke 6:36

     Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent, and as Christians, we will spend the next 40 days in preparation and reflection. We may seek to deepen our practices of contemplative prayer, to renew our commitment to worship, and to read and to meditate on God’s holy Word. For many, it is a time of turning inward, of devotion, and individual daily practices that serve to ready the spirit. Indeed, we are all called to renew our repentance and our faith.  We ask for this renewal when we pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with me.” (Psalm 51:11).

     As we carry out the ministry of public policy together, what particular meaning does this season of fasting and penitence have for us? What work must we do to ready ourselves for the Holy Days to come that this season prepares us for?

     First, we must recognize that the seemingly outward-facing work of public witness is not separate from the inward work of prayer, self-examination, and repentance. In repentance, we examine our hearts and our consciences in the hopes that we can move forward transformed and renewed. From that place of ongoing repentance, forgiveness, and renewal, we turn to the work we are called to do: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome the stranger, to care for the sick, and to visit those in prison. Our advocacy aims to help our society meet the needs of the hungry, the sick, and the prisoners, and yet the work is made meaningful in and through our repentance. Ephesians 6:2 tells us that” “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

     Secondly, we must come to this work with humility – knowing that we live in a world that is redeemed through Christ and not through our own efforts. Advocacy at its best can address great systemic injustices and effect changes that save and improve lives. We aim to ensure protections for society’s most vulnerable, responding to the call of the Prophets: “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17); “Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 1:23); “Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” (Zechariah 7:10). We must strive for justice even as we know we live in a world that is aching and broken. We know that our faith must lie with God, and not in illusions about our own strength or power. We approach the work of advocacy with careful discernment and prayer.

     Finally, we must recognize that the work we do in the Office of Government Relations is one way among many to answer the call to righteousness and love we find in Scripture. We are grateful for those who carry out work in their communities: through feeding the homeless at soup kitchens, through visits to the incarcerated and their families, through inviting and welcoming refugees to their communities. We are grateful for those who lift up prophetic voices in public fora and in churches, calling us all to account for the injustices we are complicit in. We are not in this work alone, and we believe that through federal public policy advocacy, we can serve as a public witness, that we can advocate for more just policies and laws, even as we recognize the complexity and variety of righteously-held views. Our job is to bear witness, knowing that the outcome is God’s kingdom.

     This Lent, we will share with you our perspectives on the work we do, sharing more personal stories and reflections. We will share how it is that we conceive of advocacy and how we are focusing our efforts on the three pillars of the Jesus Movement: stewardship of creation, evangelism, and reconciliation. Together, these pillars can help to ground us and help us to live out our faith.

     Creation Care: when we welcome a new member to our family at Baptism, Episcopalians recite together the Apostles’ Creed, which begins: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” God’s act of creation of the earth and oceans we share together is bound to our own creation, to the spirit of life that animates our souls. We honor God by caring for creation. This day in particular, when we are reminded that we return to dust, to the earth, we must remember our connection to God’s world.

     Evangelism: the work we do through public witness is sharing the good news. We encounter one another as fellow humans, where we advocate on behalf of one another and strive towards justice. Love of God and love of neighbor. At this moment, we evangelize by advocating for refugees and migrants globally and raising awareness about the life-giving work of refugee resettlement in the U.S. We strive to listen to their stories, and to work with Congress and the Administration to ensure that we can welcome refugees to the U.S.

     Reconciliation: we strive to reconcile ourselves to God and to one another. As we work towards the goal of reconciliation, we have a particular focus on the global Anglican Communion, recognizing the need for foreign assistance, for conflict mediation and peacebuilding, and for eliminating all forms of gender-based violence.

     As we engage in policy advocacy on each of these pillars, we are attentive to issues of racial justice and racial reconciliation. We remember that environmental racism has meant that communities of color may not have the same access to clean air and clean water. We recognize that discrimination plays a role in how immigrants and refugees are treated, and we aspire to look beyond national boundaries towards a global community in our international advocacy efforts.

     We will continue to work together to share Christian perspectives and values with legislators and policymakers. We will continue to ask you to make phone calls, send letters, set up meetings and attend town halls. But in these next 40 days, let us also reflect on what these three pillars of the Jesus movement mean to each of us – in our daily lives as well as on a national scale. “O give us strength in thee to fight.”

     Thank you for joining with us in this journey.