President of the House of Deputies, Gay Clark Jennings, had an editorial published at Christian Century titled; “Tempted by the Favors of Power.”
Starting from the point that white Christians made up the largest bloc of voters supporting Trump, President Jennings cautions that they (we) should be careful in accepting favors from the administration because of the dangers in being complicit with actions that are contrary to basic Christian beliefs, suggesting that the cost for a seat at the table of power is too high.
“I understand that the president is attempting to reward white Christians, who supported him by large margins while most of the rest of the country was voting for Hillary Clinton. But his gifts will only corrupt us—or, more accurately, keep us from repenting of the sins of privilege and complicity that corrupted us long ago.”
She warns specifically about the administrations policy intentions on immigration, refugees, and religious liberty that appear to be sops to white Christian support, but which contain dangers for the church’s witness. Referencing the the recent contested executive order concerning immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations, she writes:
“The order would close our borders to desperately vulnerable people, many of whom have already done great service to our country. It flies in the face of biblical teaching and is an affront to the example of Christ, especially because it includes an exception for religious minorities living in the seven named countries. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump acknowledged this exception was intended to help Christians.”
Many news organizations (for example here, here and here ) have reported on the draft of a sweeping order on religious liberty which could undo many protections for the basic human and civic rights of religious minorities and LGBT+ persons. Given that nearly all elected officials in America profess Christianity, and its prominence in the public sphere it seems unlikely that it needs protecting in the ways the draft order (and Conservative supporters) imply. Jennings suggests likewise;
“I do not believe that our religious liberties are in peril. Rather, I believe that some religious leaders who wish to continue to receive federal funds while ignoring anti-discrimination laws have found this claim to be a handy shield. Nothing in the life or teachings of Jesus of Nazareth suggests that Christians are entitled to promote their own interest at the expense of others. Rather the opposite.”
She also touches on the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment which holds that religious organizations cannot engage in political advocacy and maintain their tax exempt status.
“If religious organizations can campaign for political candidates while maintaining their tax-exempt status, they will be able to benefit from barely disguised political contributions. The faith community’s ability to speak God’s truth to political power will be eroded as the line between church money and state money disappears and is replaced with a cadre of preachers satisfying their paymasters.”
President Jennings has laid out her position clearly here. They are in line with her earlier comments on resisting policies that run counter to the Gospel. In placing her editorial in the Christian Century she is clearly seeking to use her office in the Episcopal Church to reach a broader audience. The Christian Century, however, is not likely to be a vehicle that reaches many of the evangelical Christians that support Trump. It is though a clear signal to fellow-travellers in Christian progressivism and an invitation to them to stand together as partners in our witness in favor of the Gospel and against the worst impulses of the Trump administration.