October 29, 2020 | by JB Brayfindley
Editor's Note: In case you missed the webinar click here to access the recording.
More than one hundred clergy and laity from Bakersfield, California to Sparks, Nevada were on Zoom to hear Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño speak about the upcoming election at a special Wednesday Webinar on October 28, 2020.
“Some United Methodists in our own conference have said to me that we shouldn’t be in politics,” said Bishop Carcaño. “In this political season—one impacted by COVID-19, a very severe economic struggle, and the further unmasking of racism and racial inequity, it is truly important for us as United Methodists, and as Christians, to speak about our civic responsibilities.
“What do politics have to do with our spiritual life?” asked Bishop Carcaño. “Well, friends, as United Methodists we believe that our engagement in politics has everything to do with our spiritual life … do we want to be found faithful in the eyes of Jesus? Our understanding of politics as United Methodists is that, above all political structures, we are citizens of the reign of God, accountable to God above all.”
Bishop Carcaño quoted the UMC Social Principals: “We know ourselves to be responsible to God for social and political life and declare this about governments that the strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert the strongest possible ethical influence upon the state supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing through our vote, voice and expressions policies and programs that are unjust.”
“We are called to be political for the sake of giving witness to God’s mercy, compassion and justice,” said Bishop Carcaño. “Our faith is lived out in the context of real life, which is always political—politics is about people gathering together to make decisions, about how they will live together…”
Bishop Carcaño made it clear that the church does not tell people how to vote, nor endorse particular candidates nor take a party line. Instead, the role of the church is to ask people to consider candidates based on their commitment to the common good. And, to consider propositions as to whether they align with or undermine human and civil rights.
According to Bishop Carcaño, the church’s job is to bring up concerns around compassion, mercy and justice. “It’s not [the church’s] responsibility to write the laws or create the policies, but it is our responsibility to assure that fairness and justice is present; that human civil rights are protected; that the minority is given care; that those who suffer most are treated with care and compassion.”
Church town hall meetings and other opportunities for political dialog were discussed. Bishop Carcaño recommended that such events be held in the social hall and be unpacked or understood through the lense of scripture. Meetings should be immersed in prayer and there needs to be an affirmation of the fact that we love one another in Jesus Christ.
Also, rules of engagement need to be set up. “Have some rules that everyone can agree to and respect,” Bishop Carcaño added noting that the church needs to be a safe place to have difficult conversations. “Above all, can we not affirm that we love God, we love Christ, and we love one another?”
Examples of rules are outlined in the suggested “Ground Rules for Racial Justice Conversation” guide on the UMC Religion and Race website. (Download PDF HERE.) Rules include: Do no harm by thinking before you speak and not judging yourself or others unfairly; Do good by owning your thoughts and listening with compassion; Stay in love with God by praying for one another and being faithful in word and deed to your commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“How are we going to live after the election is over?” asked moderator Rev. Craig Brown, Executive Director of Congregational Development. “…and going on from here? This is an important issue for us to deal with—so much is being built up to this election… ”
“Because an election has been held does not mean that we cease having a responsibility for our communities, for our states, and for this country, for our families and for our neighbors,” stated Bishop Carcaño. “Post-election, then, part of our work is to hold those who have been elected to office accountable--that they live up to their commitments to be worthy of our vote by being people that respect civil and human rights, that respect justice, that aspire to a more just and humane society.”
“We continue to have the responsibility to work on those issues that don’t get resolved in one election,” said Carcaño. “but that will take decades and generations to resolve—climate change, poverty, the way that we treat children … our prison system … the way we treat our neighbors in how we treat migrants that come from neighboring countries, and we need to be mindful of the fact that this is not just about us, it’s about the world—the world that God loves and that God has placed under our stewardship. “
“It’s not something the we do alone,” said Bishop Carcaño. “We do it together with people of Christian faith, of inter-religious communities of faith and with people of good hearts and justice perspective and commitment, we do it across states, nations and the world.”
Next week’s Wednesday webinar will be conducted as a prayer vigil entitled, “Concert of Prayer” led by leaders from around the conference. On Monday, November 2nd, Conference Lay Leader Micheal Pope and Rev. Dr. Fel Cao, director of Camping and Retreat Ministries and Young People’s Ministry, will gather on Zoom with young adults throughout the conference for prayer.