Editor's note: This statement has been endorsed by Council of Bishops President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey.
January 6, 2021
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:1-5
The light of Epiphany rose with the sun this morning as people of faith celebrated the culmination of Christmastide. That light was met with darkness as a mob pushed past police and broke into the U.S. Capitol while senators and members of Congress debated the certification of the presidential election. As the scene unfolded, most could not comprehend that this insurrection is taking place in the United States of America.
It is tempting to call for peace, for order and unity. And while we do need to reclaim the peace, we can only do so while speaking the truth of today's horror. It is time to name our reality, to name the deep divisions and hatred being played out in the Senate chamber and throughout the People's House. It is another watershed moment; a time to raise our voices to heaven and take stock of who we, as Americans, have become.
This alarming occupation and violence at the U.S. Capitol are symptomatic of the vitriol and poison that now infects our culture. It disheartens. The rioters who climbed the steps and walls of the Capitol sought to overturn the law, a fair election, and justice, and claimed their motivation was to defend God and their freedoms. They waved banners emblazoned with the words, "Jesus Saves," but this is not what Emmanuel came to earth to embody. This is a perversion of the Gospel. This should drive all of us to our knees.
Since March, I have shared messages with you as we live through this liminal time of two pandemics. Today, the chasm of this in-between time grows deeper. As a church, we are called to profound and fervent prayer — prayer that will shake foundations and usher in a new age; prayer that will transform hearts and a nation; prayer that reminds us of what Christ has called us to be beyond partisan divides. I call on each of you to transcend fear and to resist the temptation to seek the reassurance of easy answers. Followers of Jesus Christ must prophetically embody, in word and deed, the precepts, practices and promises of the Gospel message. It is a message of love, but a love that speaks truth and stands against immorality.
As a church, as Christians, we must condemn all the forces that led to the unprecedented insurrection today - forces of hate, of white supremacy, of distorted self-interest, and abuse of power.
Lawmakers and national leaders are all invoking the name of God, asking that God bless America. That is my prayer as well. But, we must be instruments of that blessing, humbling ourselves to truly claim what Abraham Lincoln called, "the better angels of our nature," seeking to discern how to rebuild our nation and nurture the restoration that God demands. In this light, we continue to pray for and support the peaceful transfer of power that is a hallmark of the democratic process.
In my study, the word HOPE sits on my shelf. It's a word I claim. It is a primary foundation of our faith. I will not allow the actions of an angry mob to steal that hope for our nation, for our church, for our future. Our hope, if it is to be manifest, must be grounded in courage, in justice, in good order, and in fervent love. Our hope proclaims that our light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it — must not overcome it.
Blessings and peace,
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
The United Methodist Church