Bishop's Call to Responsible Citizenship

 

October 28, 2012

Dear International Diocese Church Family,

Greetings in the name of the Lord.

Sunday, October 7 was not only the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, it was also designated as “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” in which more than a thousand pastors spoke in defiance of an Internal Revenue Service ruling that limits what pastors can say about political situations and elections.

Under the ruling, called HR 235, churches and religious non-profits risk losing their tax-exempt status if they endorse political candidates. Prior to that ruling in 1954 it was not uncommon for preachers to preach specifically about elections, political candidates, moral issues, and pending legislation.

The purpose of this letter is not to endorse a candidate or candidates, but to speak about spiritual responsibility in the face of the upcoming election. Tragically, seventy-five percent of those who are self-described as evangelical Christians do not vote in most elections.

In the last half of the twentieth century, many people assumed a division between secular and spiritual things. The argument was that spiritual things are pure and heavenly, and “secular” things are not. They thought Christians should not be sullied with things of the world. That however, is not a Biblical position.

The revelation of the incarnation demonstrates the falsehood of the position of separating spiritual things from every day life. In fact, in the Incarnation, exactly the opposite is true. God became man specifically to enter the world as a man and effect change with fallen men and the fallen creation as well.

Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” (Matthew 22:21), but that does not mean that we should abandon our values and identity. Christ has not just come to the world to save us from it, He came in order to redeem mankind and extend the Kingdom of God. He calls us to participate in that extension.

Where it is possible for us to fulfill our vocation to usher in the Kingdom of God, we should do it in those areas. Where there is a more challenging situation, we should strive to pursue the action that will bring incremental improvement rather than falsely assuming that it is possible to maintain the status quo. In fact, either we “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” (Matthew 6:33) or we are rebelling against it. Throwing up our hands in despair is not an acceptable option.

Contrary to what many people assume, this nation was founded on Biblical principles. Some years ago in my book, Wild Vine-Fruitful Vine, I cited numerous references and quotes from historical documents including state constitutions that have explicit Christian references. God’s revelation in Scripture is the great moral underpinning of the nation. It is not difficult to find those things if original research is done rather than jut accepting the assertions by secularists that the “Founding Fathers” were Deists.

There are many issues that swirl around the political process. Instead of accepting the priorities that the media are setting, Christians are called to assess issues according to Scriptural principles and values. Not all issues have the same impact.

In this election, there are critical issues that Christians must consider if we are to remain faithful. Three of them stand out. First, is reverence for life. Second, preserving the integrity and stability of the family as God has revealed it. Third is religious freedom. There is an orchestrated attempt among some politicians to shift our historic “freedom of religion” to be changed into “freedom of worship.” Removing the option to object to unbiblical practice as a matter of conscience means that Christians are being pressed to fund and support unbiblical initiatives. The attempt is being made to keep “religious” values out of public discourse and decision-making, but we should not do that. Unwittingly, Christians who opt out of the political process are strengthening that position.

Here is the simple truth: If believing Christians with a Biblical world view do not vote, then the election will be decided by those who do not have a Biblical world view. Consequences will follow this election.

No one but Jesus is perfect, so we do not have the option of voting for a perfect candidate. The proper perspective in this election is to use the vote that you have been given to vote for the candidate who is in the closest alignment with Biblical values. It is not faithful to fail to vote.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Bill Atwood

Bishop of the International Diocese

ACNA