To: People of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan
From: The Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr.
IX Bishop of Western Michigan
My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I write to you in the aftermath of the great evil manifested on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville last weekend. I am deeply troubled by the images coming from the scene; angry young white men carrying torches like the Klu Klux Klan, heavily-armed uniformed militia roaming unregulated while mobs of white supremacists waving Nazi flags openly marched with the expressed intention to incite violence, hatred and fear. They succeeded.
Let me be clear, racism, in any form, along with the tenets of white supremacy, white nationalism, Nazism and other similar ideologies of hate and divisiveness, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of Jesus Christ or the Christian faith. Anyone who proclaims these ideologies and claims to be a Christian is mistaken and in error. As Episcopalians, our mission is to constantly pursue unity and reconciliation with God and each other. Our baptismal covenant commands us to love ALL our neighbors and it commands us to respect the dignity of EVERY human being. All means all and every means every. There can be no compromise, equivocation or rationalizing of these.
Perhaps this horrifying incident will move us all to reflect more deeply on how we understand ourselves as members of the Body of Christ while considering how to more fully be children of light. Are we not called to proclaim hope, certain hope, in the resurrection to eternal life with Jesus or to proclaim ourselves? Are we not to live selflessly serving the least, the last, the lost and the losers amongst us or to serve our own special interests? Are we not to give our lives for the world as Christ did for us, or are we just hedging our bets?
My dear friends, in moments like these, when evil masked as righteousness rears its ugly head, we must be true to our baptism by unabashedly shining the light of Christ's love into the world. It is our Christian task and duty to live compassionately, to pursue justice and mercy, to demonstrate grace, to offer forgiveness, to live, move and have our being seeking to bring reconciliation and unity to an ever more broken and divided world. We are built and empowered by our baptism for these challenging moments. If we do not stand up to hate by bravely, selflessly loving ALL people then we are nothing more than a worship club and our faith will make no difference.
I write this while attending our diocesan Episcopal Youth Camp for third, fourth and fifth graders at peaceful Camp Newaygo. I am thankful for this place and for the holy space it provides our children to experience and practice unconditional love. They are beautiful and good. Their future lies ahead of them open and hopeful even while threatening clouds of hate, violence and fear appear on the horizon. What we do now, in this time, affects their future. How we live now affects their prospects. What we teach them now informs their perspective, their faith, and their very souls. So, today, let us renew our commitment to Christ by seeking to love each other selflessly, generously. Let us firmly and resolutely reclaim our loving, liberating, life-giving faith. Let us humbly proclaim the good news of God in Christ which is the assurance there is nothing, not even death, that can separate from us from the love of God.
Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
For the Mission of the Church, #8, page 816,