November 7, 2016

Dear Friends in Christ,

On the eve of this election, one can feel the anxiety everywhere– in private conversations, in the papers, on the Internet.

As people of faith we have two powerful responses in the face of this anxiety: to pray and to vote.

Voting is prayer in action, a fulfillment of the command that we support those in secular authority. It is something positive we can actually do to claim a stake in our future as a country. To pass up the chance to go to the polls is to shrink back from God’s call. To show up and push the button or pull the lever may seem like something small, but it is actually making real our hope.

While we can only cast our vote once, however, we can pray constantly, and part of prayer is discerning the things that matter (Philippians 1:10) as we consider whom to elect. Here are a few thoughts.

While we are not seeking perfection in leadership, we do have a right to ask what virtues and vices a candidate will bring into office with them. In weighing our choice of candidates, we must ask which sins are more manageable than others, and which virtues more necessary. One way of gauging this might be to see how a candidate lines up against Saint Paul’s contrasting lists of the fruits of the Spirit on the one hand, and the works of the flesh on the other (Galatians 5:19-23). In the case of each person, in their words and actions in so far as we can tell, what are the manifestations of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? On the other hand, in what ways, and to what degree, has their life manifested fornication, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy … and the like.

Again, no one is going to come up clean. The question in this kind of discernment is whether, on balance, one candidate’s failings are more or less likely to compromise their office than those of another, and whether something approaching virtue can be seen in the things they have accomplished for others and hope to achieve for us.

This season has laid bare terrible weaknesses in our common life; fear, anger, mistrust, lies, charges and countercharges have been part of our daily bread for well over a year now. It is time to push back with the power of faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

So, please, let us all commit to pray, and discern, and vote. And beyond the vote, let us continue to pray for our country and for all those in authority. Pray that God may work in us to heal the divisions we have seen so glaringly revealed. Pray that we may become instruments of His peace, and that all we say and do may glorify the King of Love, Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of us all.

Faithfully your bishop,

(The Right Reverend) Dorsey W. M. McConnell, D.D.