Skip to content

Bishop Guy Erwin’s Statement on the 2016 Election

To the Pastors, Deacons, and People of the Southwest California Synod, ELCA, from Bishop Guy Erwin:

Dear friends, grace to you and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ!

A long, painful, and divisive presidential campaign has come to its inevitable end. Its outcome is certain to have excited and pleased some, and deeply, bitterly disappointed others—as indeed either outcome would have done. It should also be said that even within our church’s congregations our spirits were sharply divided over this choice, almost certainly more so than many of us realized. We may look around ourselves at worship this Sunday and wonder how those next to us in the pews voted—even though California was less divided than the nation as a whole. We live in a sharply polarized nation, and there is no denying that division.

But now the election is over, and the work of living together—and governing the nation—goes forward. The two candidates themselves attempted to move beyond bitterness in the gracious words they addressed to each other after the outcome was clear. The peaceful transfer of power begins, as the outgoing president prepares to hand over the reins to the incoming one. But real and painful divisions in our society persist and may have been deepened by this election’s outcome. Certainly the pain of those on the losing side is acute and will linger for a long time.

What can I say to you, as a Christian speaking to Christians, about what I saw in this campaign and what might lie ahead for us all? What can I say to you as your bishop, when you do not all agree with each other, or perhaps even with me? The best I can do is to call us—together—back to the faith we all profess, to the church into which we were all baptized, and in which we are all members of the Body of Christ. I call on each of us to remember and recommit ourselves to the unity in Christ that can transcend our differences, and to pray for each other—and to pray for peace and unity and understanding in our church and in our nation. We must also pray for the governing authorities, now and to come, that they may govern justly and for the well-being of all in society.

Pray for peace and unity—and keep working for justice. The commitment to love and serve our neighbor that Jesus taught us in the Great Commandment is not altered by a shift in the political winds. Nothing that was true or good or right on the day before this election has changed a whit on the day after—and this would have been true no matter who won. We may—we must—hold our political leaders to the standards and principles we ourselves hold, whether or not we voted for those leaders. It’s harder to do this when in opposition, but even more urgent then to do so.

Protest injustice wherever you find it, whether those in power agree or not. We must protect the vulnerable and help those who need us: victims of racism, systemic and personal; victims of sexism, of sexual violence, gun violence, and bullying; victims of prejudice against foreigners, refugees, and those of other faiths; victims of homophobia and transphobia; and all those endangered by the fear or ignorance of others. These are our neighbors, and if our political leaders don’t share our care for them, our responsibility to work for justice on their behalf just increases. We must use our talents, our voices, our resources, and even our bodies to continue to stand up for those who need us most.

One other thing seems clear to me: we must help the fearful in our communities see that the anxiety they may feel about their own uncertain futures is not relieved by scapegoating others or by indulging in conspiracy theories. But to do this we have to really listen to and truly hear those fears. The church should be a safe place for people to share what they feel in honesty and without fear of personal rejection. Even those captive to fear and prejudice are our neighbors, and need our help for their fears to be allayed. Churches in particular are magnets for the anxious, and for those seeking simple certainties in a complex, confusing world. So we have much to do; it is slow work; but it is part of our discipleship to care also for those neighbors whose fear distorts their trust.

So pray for peace; act for justice; show compassion for the fearful: Jesus calls us to follow him whether the path is smooth or stony. For many, it got much stonier on Tuesday. But holding on to each other as best we can, we can continue to move forward in faith. Confident that we serve a God whose justice is greater then human laws, whose providence sweeps away human schemes, and whose love is stronger than death, we must live in hope into the future God is preparing for us.

I ask you to keep me in prayers—as you are in mine—and I offer you my blessing in the name of our mighty and merciful God, our Savior Jesus Christ, and the ever-sustaining Holy Spirit. Amen.



November 9, 2016