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Prayers for the President: Statement from Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Curry

Prayers for the President: Statement from Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Curry

The Episcopal Church has published this statement from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. It is reproduced in full below, and can be read on TEC’s page here.

This past week, Barack H. Obama, the 44th President of the United States, in the tradition of Presidents dating back to George Washington, gave his farewell address to the nation. Next week Donald J. Trump, in the same tradition of this country, will be take the oath of office and be inaugurated as the 45th President.  We all know this election has been contentious and there are deep feelings being felt by Episcopalians on all side of the issues.

We recognize that this election has been contentious, and the Episcopal Church, like our nation, has expressed a diversity of views, some of which have been born in deep pain.

There has been much discussion, and some controversy, about the appropriateness of the Washington National Cathedral hosting the Inaugural Prayer Service this year, and of church choirs singing at inaugural events.

Underneath the variety of questions and concerns are some basic Christian questions about prayer: when I pray for our leaders, why am I doing so?  Should I pray for a leader I disagree with? When I pray what do I think I am accomplishing?

On one level these questions seem inconsequential and innocuous. But real prayer is not innocuous. It is powerful. That question can become poignant and even painful as it is for many in this moment, given that some of the values that many of us heard expressed over the past year have seemed to be in contradiction to deeply-held Christian convictions of love, compassion, and human dignity.

So, should we pray for the President?

We can and, indeed, I believe we must pray for all who lead in our civic order, nationally and internationally. I pray for the President in part because Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord.  If Jesus is my Lord and the model and guide for my life, his way must be my way, however difficult. And the way prayer for others is a part of how I follow the way of Jesus.

This practice of praying for leaders is deep in our biblical and Anglican/Episcopalian traditions. Psalm 72 prays that the ancient Israelite king might rule in the ways of God’s justice, defending “the cause of the poor,” bringing “deliverance to the needy.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 encourages followers of Jesus to pray earnestly for those in leadership, that they may lead in ways that serve the common good.  Even in the most extreme case, Jesus himself said, while dying on the cross, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” was praying for Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Rome who ordered his execution, and for all who were complicit in it.

In this spirit, the Prayer Books of the Anglican/Episcopal way have always included prayer for those “who bear the authority of government,” praying in a variety of ways that they may lead in the ways of God’s wisdom, justice and truth. When we pray for Donald, Barack, George, Bill, George, or Jimmy, Presidents of the United States, we pray for their well-being, for they too are children of God, but we also pray for their leadership in our society and world. We pray that they will lead in the ways of justice and truth. We pray that their leadership will truly serve not partisan interest but the common good. When we pray for them, we are actually praying for our nation, for our world, indeed we are praying for ourselves.

Prayer is not a simplistic cheer or declaration of support. Prayers of lament cry out in pain and cry for justice. Prayer can celebrate. Prayer can also ask God to intervene and change the course of history, to change someone’s mind, or his or her heart.  When we pray for our enemies, we may find that we are simultaneously emboldened to stand for justice while we are also less able to demonize another human being.

Real prayer is both contemplative and active. It involves a contemplative conversation with and listening to God, and an active following of the way of Jesus, serving and witnessing in the world in his Name. For those who follow the way of Jesus, the active side of our life of prayer seeks to live out and help our society live out what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” So we work for a good and just, humane and loving society. We participate as followers of Jesus in the life of our government and society, caring for each other and others, and working for policies and laws that reflect the values and teachings of Jesus to “love your neighbor,” to “do unto others as you who have them do unto you,” to fashion a civic order that reflects the goodness, the justice, the compassion that we see in the face of Jesus, that we know to reflect the very heart and dream of God for all of God’s children and God’s creation.

I grew up in a historically black congregation in the Episcopal Church. We prayed for leaders who were often lukewarm or even opposed to our very civil rights. We got on our knees in church and prayed for them, and then we got up off our knees and we Marched on Washington. Following the way of Jesus, we prayed and protested at the same time. We prayed for our leaders who were fighting for our civil rights, we prayed for those with whom we disagreed, and we even prayed for those who hated us. And we did so following the Jesus, whose way is the way of unselfish, sacrificial love. And that way is the way that can set us all free.

As we celebrate the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we may find guidance in his words, spoken during one of the most painful and difficult struggles in the Civil Rights Movement. He asked that all participants live by a set of principles. The first principle read: “As you prepare to march, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus.”

Should we pray for the President?

Yes!

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Christie Logan

I love and respect our presiding bishop with every part of my being, and I will try to understand what he is asking us to do in this unbelievable time and situation in our church and our country. I will join him in prayer, trying to trust in our God, the values we purport to believe in for humanity, and our world and nation, but I can not support the idea of our national choir celebrating or sharing in this ceremony. I believe with every part of my being that the election and values this person and the those he brings to the leadership are wrong, demean the values our nation was founded upon, and will be detrimental to the well-being of our people and indeed the people of the world. The one thing I hold onto right now in our church is our baptismal covenant, and I think many in our church have lost sight of what that commitment means. I can not support the election of this person, those who voted for him, those appointed by him or those who support and adhere to the values he brings with him for our nation or our world. I will boycott this inauguration ceremony. I will walk in the Women's march. I am sorely disappointed in this election, and concerned for the many who will suffer as a result its outcome. My heart breaks for our country, our church, and all those whose voices and needs go unheard. I give thanks for congregations like those at All Saints Pasadena, the clergy and congregations which have the courage of their convictions, and stand for the true values held in our Baptismal Covenant. May the Peace of God live in all our hearts, and find is way in our nation and our world. Thank you for this opportunity to share what is on my heart. God Bless our church, our nation and our world with peace, wisdom and compassion.

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Catherine Ambos

I do not just pray in thanksgiving for blessings received. I also pray in petition, as I will be doing whenever I pray for the incoming Federal administration (and as I have been doing with my State legislators and Governor since Chris Christie was elected). Please, dear God, guide these lawmakers, since they seem to have misplaced whatever sense you gave them in the first place.

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Prof Christopher Seitz

The fact of the matter is this. The average American assumes TEC is a liberal religious entity that is small and wealthy, and is Obama friendly. It takes the billing of "National Cathedral" at face value and doesn't have much idea about dioceses, church history, linkages to TEC, and so forth. You will search in vain for any news coverage that reinforces a sense that TEC is being misrepresented, etc. So people should rest contented that TEC will carry on and nothing is really being done to adjust or confuse on that front. Most people get it that big monuments have to make compromises and this will leave untouched the branding people have come to expect of TEC, if they expect anything.

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Marta Hollowell

Unfortunately I'm seeing a lot of hate in these comments. Accusations that are unsubstantiated. I prayed for Mr. Obama for 8 years though I disagreed with almost every one of his policies. I prayed for him to have a loving heart and to follow the ways of Christ. I hope you all will do the same for Mr. Trump.

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Mike Kozak

Hate? I've seen, in these posts, a lot of concern, anxiety, grief, all kinds of emotions, anger even, but hate? I'm afraid Marta I don't understand your definition of hate.

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David Allen

It's strange that what you see here you want to label as hate. It doesn't even begin to compare to the rancor and evil Donald Trump exhibited during his campaign.

It's easy to make the claim that there are unsubstantiated accusations here, please tick off a half dozen of them so we know which ones that you believe they are?

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Carolyn Gutierrez

Others have spoken eloquently of their disappointment about the Cathedral choir singing at the Inauguration and I agree completely. I will accept Bishop Curry's reasoning that we should pray for Trump and our Nation, never doubting the Power of Prayer, and that the prayer service at the Cathedral is appropriate--though my struggle towards acceptance is mammoth. So I will pray along with Bishop Curry. My question is, will he march with me. A good time to start is the Women's March on Washington on January 21.

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