Election Follow-up from Rev. Chandler Stokes

  Election Sermon Letter
Wednesday, November 30, 2016

On November 13, I gave a sermon on 1 John 3:18-21 and Exodus 3:1-15, asking three things of us as a congregation. One, to get out of our echo chambers by listening to those on the “other side of the aisle,” talking to and trying to understand one another; two, to remain vigilant about racially-charged speech; three, to be in solidarity with those at risk—to “walk each other home.”

Following that sermon, it became clear to me that getting out of our echo chambers is not always easy. The next Sunday, I shared that I wish my sermon had also included, “Please have those conversations in a safe venue, and have those conversations when you are ready. Many are about to go home for the holidays, and that is not always an easy space for those conversations! So, please be gentle with yourselves.”

I also said that we cannot wait on the other two points of that sermon: being vigilant about racially-charged speech and being in solidarity with those at risk. To that end, I announced that the session was sending a letter to the president-elect, asking him to use his authority to disavow the racially-charged rhetoric made during the campaign. The session voted unanimously to send the attached letter.

One might think that such an action would somehow be unusual or violate the separation of church and state. On the contrary, I believe that nearly every Presbyterian session I have ever served has sent some letter to the newly elected president. The focus of these letters has always been on what the president is called to, e.g., “now be the president to the whole nation.”

Our current session, in addition to assuring the president-elect of our prayers, asks him to use his authority to aid us in our work against racism by speaking out against racial attacks. Regarding the separation of church and state, the session’s letter addresses the rhetoric in the campaign, not the persons saying it. The church must always speak out against any form of oppression, but legally cannot endorse persons running for partisan office.

I encourage you to read the letter, which is intended to communicate a concern for justice and safety that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents among us all share.