[Episcopal News Service, by Lynette Wilson] Love your neighbour, the neighbour you like and the neighbour you don’t like, your black neighbour, your white neighbour, your Latino neighbour, your Muslim neighbour, your Christian neighbour, your Democrat neighbour, your Republican neighbour. That was the message Presiding Bishop Michael Curry took to a standing-room-only crowd that overflowed onto the steps at National City Christian Church and into the Lutheran church across the street in Washington DC yesterday (Thursday 24 May).
“We are not a partisan group, we are not a left-wing group, we are not a right-wing group, we are a Jesus Movement,” Curry said to rousing, sustained applause from those gathered to reclaim Jesus. “And we came together, Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, we came together, Republicans, Independents and Democrats, we came together, liberal and conservative, and whatever is in the middle, we came together because what binds us together is Jesus of Nazareth and his way. . .
“This is not a protest march, this is a procession of Christian people. This is what they did on Pentecost. This is a Pentecostal moment and we are committed to following the way of Jesus.”
During the 90-minute church service that preceded a candlelight procession to the White House, one-by-one speakers addressed issues ranging from the rise of white nationalism to mistreatment of and violence against women, to LGBTQ inclusion to immigration reform, the spreading of falsehoods and the normalisation of lying and moves toward autocratic leadership.
“The Reclaiming Jesus declaration says that we believe there are two things are at stake: the soul of the nation and the integrity of our faith,” said the Revd Jim Wallis of Sojourners, who co-led the service and the procession alongside Curry. “Why do we say that? Because we love our country and we love our churches even more. We see people bringing politics into faith. Tonight we are bringing faith into politics.
“And there’s a big difference. . . The early Christians did everything they did in the name of Jesus, not in the name of their churches or organisations.
“This is not tonight about Donald Trump, it’s about Jesus Christ.”
The service and procession of public witness were part of “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis,” an ecumenical Christian elders’ initiative launched in March to “reclaim Jesus” from those believed to be using Christian theology for political gain.
In total, more than a thousand people processed in pubic witness by candlelight from National City Christian Church to the White House, where they reassembled across the street in Lafayette Square Park and sang “This Little Light of Mine” before crossing the street to stand on the sidewalk directly in front of the White House.
The events in Washington followed last weekend’s royal wedding, where Curry delivered a sermon on the power of love at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, garnering him international attention.
Since the wedding, Curry has become an international sensation, appearing on everything from the BBC to TMZ , with stories about him in The New Yorker, Esquire and Vanity Fair and a parody on “Saturday Night Live.”
During an event today (Friday) at the National Press Club, Wallis said God used a royal wedding to get people to start talking about Jesus, before turning the podium over to the presiding bishop.
“The truth is I suspect what began to happen last night, and has been building and is just beginning, is maybe we are helping – no, maybe the spirit is helping the church to re-centre itself and its voice on Jesus,” said Curry.
“Maybe the spirit is helping us to reclaim Christianity, not as ideology, not as anybody’s political party. Jesus can’t be bought. But to re-centre Christianity and have it named and heard and understood as grounded in the teachings of Jesus, who said blessed are the poor, blessed are the poor in spirit, the Jesus who taught us love God and love your neighbour, the Jesus of the parable of the Good Samaritan . . . to re-centre ourselves on this Jesus.
“And as that happens, not in high lofty terms, as that happens to the average Christian, the average person sitting in churches, Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, I dare say they become the movement that actually can move forward.”
Since its release, other Christian leaders have requested to sign on to the statement, and more than 2 million people worldwide have accessed it. The elders conceived of it as a tool for discipleship intended to move people to the streets in their own communities.
In an interview with Episcopal News Service today following the press club event, Curry encouraged Episcopalians to study and reflect on the Reclaim Jesus declaration and study materials.
“It’s a document worth studying, it’s grounded in scripture, it’s based in theology, it’s an attempt to articulate some of the core Christian beliefs that have to do with our values and our values having their origin in the teachings and spirit of Jesus,” he said.
Adult formation, Bible studies and other groups can use the document and the study guide to come to areas of agreement and disagreement and to reflect on them.
“This is not the word from on high, but it can be used to help people identify what are the core Christian beliefs that actually matter in my life, and how do I live them out following the teachings of Jesus,” he said. “And then what action steps will I take, what actions steps will we take to be witnesses to this way of following Jesus in our lives.
“And so, my hope is that our folk will take it and study it and reflect on it, pray on it and then decide what are we going to do about it?”
- Click here to read more of Lynette Wilsons in-depth report on the Episcopal News Service website.