The Arizona judicatory leaders of the Disciples of Christ, the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), The Episcopal Church, and the African American Christian Clergy Coalition jointly released the following message in response to Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol:
As bishops and judicatory heads of churches in Arizona, we are compelled to speak after the violent assault on the United States Capitol building and our electoral process Wednesday.
There is much that can and will be said and done in the days ahead, but we wish to elevate a few key thoughts that relate to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- We have one savior, who is Jesus. We believe that there is no human being, institution, or group that can be elevated to a position equal to or higher than our Lord.
- Jesus preached a non-violent Gospel. He chose to die on the cross rather than take up arms. And yet he changed everything. We believe that non-violence is the legitimate form of protest.
- Law enforcement should have the resources to protect the nation’s capitol, and the legislative branch of our government. We observe that the police resources deployed for Wednesday’s violent actions were substantially fewer than those deployed in the summer of 2020 during mostly peaceful protests for racial justice. We also observe that those attacking the capitol Wednesday were mostly White; while the protesters over the summer included many people of color. We join other civic voices in asking for answers as to why this is so, and an examination of the policies that left our government so vulnerable to Wednesday’s attack.
- For those who committed or incited Wednesday’s violent acts, the Gospel requires repentance, accountability, and justice. Repentance is internal work—it is up to each individual to wrestle with their conscience and their faith about how they have sinned. Accountability and justice are external. Those require the work of the institutions of government and society. We call upon local law enforcement, the Justice Department, and our elected officials to ensure that those who committed crimes Wednesday are held to account.
- To that end, let us offer our own first step of repentance: we, as leaders, have sometimes chosen the easier path in not publically denouncing words and actions that we saw as contrary to the Gospel. We did not want to be accused of bringing partisan politics into the church; we did not want to alienate our members. Our silence has enabled the escalation of rhetoric and violence. Neither the rule of law, nor the following of Jesus are partisan endeavors; and we pledge to speak and act more courageously on behalf of the Gospel today and in the days ahead.
- Finally, as leaders of faith communities we are reminded that hope and love are linked together as necessary steps in this journey. Therefore, we proclaim our hope that the shocking events of Wednesday will call us all–beginning with ourselves–to walk the way of love not only with friends but also enemies, not merely with neighbors but also strangers. It is past time that we relearn how to speak the truth in love to one another both for naming injustices as well as asserting the God given dignity of all persons. May we, Christ’s Church, lead the way toward rebuilding our democratic institutions as a nation through active participation in open, transparent and respectful dialogue.
January 6 was the Feast of the Epiphany in our traditions—the day we remember the three Wise Men bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. But the story is not just about Jesus and the Wise Men—it is also a story of King Herod. Matthew’s Gospel says that Herod was so enraged and threatened by the prospect of an infant rival that he killed all the babies in Bethlehem under the age of two out of fear. The Epiphany is a story about how the love of God and human evil exist in our world at the same time.
In our lives, we are faced daily with choices about whether we will side with the love of God, or with human evil. Our Gospel and our faith teach us the right answer to that question. And we call upon our members and Christians throughout Arizona to stand up and take non-violent action to protect the life and freedom that we have been given in this nation.
The Rev. Jay R. Hartley
Regional Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona
The Rev. Dr. Robert T. Hoshibata
The Desert Southwest Conference
The United Methodist Church
The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer
Bishop, Grand Canyon Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons
Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ
The Rev. Brad Munroe
Pastor to the Presbytery
Grand Canyon and de Cristo Presbyteries
Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall
Sixth Bishop of Arizona
The Episcopal Church
Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr.
African American Christian Clergy Coalition