Washington University’s Danforth Center on Religion & Politics hosted Presiding Bishop Michael Curry recently and he delivered a public lecture, entitled “Healing a House Divided.” while he was there he also gave an interview to their in-house online news magazine Religion & Politics. It is an interview worth checking out in its entirety, covering abroad range of topics, from the nature of sin, being church in politically polarized America, human sexuality and the language of evangelism.
Some highlights included asking about how can the church be a place of unity in a time of such stark divisiveness;
R&P: Doubtless the Episcopal Church is home to supporters of Donald Trump as well as very strong opponents to the president. How does the church minister to both sides, often in the same congregation? How do you as the leader of this national church, in a deeply divided moment, minster to people of faith on both sides?
MC: I do think that some of it is pastoral, and some of it is taking seriously the teaching role of the church again. One of the things I learned as a parish pastor was that those relationships affected everything else. People could disagree with you, but if they knew you loved them and cared for them and vice versa and were in relationship with them, they might disagree with you and they might put some grey hair on you too, but it didn’t cause schism, you see what I mean? That pastoral relationship impacted everything else. If that wasn’t there, it doesn’t matter how right or wrong you were. You could be prophetic all day, but if you don’t have a pastoral relationship, it doesn’t matter. I mean that’s pastoring 101, it really is.
I think that the second piece is related to that, and it has to do with the teaching and vocation of the church. I think one of our real opportunities now will be to help—and I’m just talking about people in the church right now for the moment—to help our folk engage the deeper values, principles, and ideals that are at the core of the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus. You know there’s some stuff we don’t understand, but we understand a whole lot more than we don’t. There’s a whole lot that’s clearer in the Bible than is unclear, so let’s do what we know, what is clear. And if we start there, and then engage matters of morality and public policy with some clarity about the principles and values we’re seeking to uphold or live into, understanding that how we work out the specifics may not be the same for everybody, and that’s ok. If we’re working form common principles and common values, and learn from the teachings of Jesus, we’ll be able to navigate that.
When I was bishop in North Carolina, our state legislature made some decisions on some actions that were highly problematic. There was a whole Moral Monday movement that got going, and I was supportive of that, but that doesn’t mean that every Episcopalian was supportive of that. We were able to navigate that because I consistently said to our folk, when it comes to healthcare, Medicaid, when it comes to unemployment insurance, when it comes to just basic human rights and decency, we’re not talking about extreme stuff. Let’s start with the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Let’s start with Matthew 25: As you did it to the least of these, do it to me. Let’s start with love of God and love of neighbor. Let’s just take those. There’s clarity about that. So we start there. Then apply them.
Now, you might come up with a different way of applying them than I do, but let’s make sure that’s the starting point. I did say any matter of public policy has to pass the golden rule test. Do unto others. Is this a piece of legislation that I would want the results to affect my children, or my grandchildren, or my family, or me? If it’s not, then how could you do it? You got to find a better way. It wasn’t my job to always say what that better way was, but to say to our legislatures and others, you got to work together to figure out what is that better way that passes that golden rule test.