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The line in the pulpit between the prophetic and the political

The line in the pulpit between the prophetic and the political

A political group wants to provoke the IRS into suing a minister for endorsing a candidate and a political party from the pulpit. The mainly right-wing group promotes something called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” and they say nearly 1500 preachers took part.

Where is the line between the political and the prophetic in the pulpit?

Pat McCaughan of Episcopal News Service went around the Church asking that question.

The Rev. Canon Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, called Pulpit Freedom Sunday “an ill-conceived movement confusing pulpit freedom with partisan politics.” His parish successfully fended off a 2004 Internal Revenue Service challenge to its own tax-exempt status,

“Preachers who tell you for whom to vote and who become instruments of partisanship have thus relinquished their freedom to evaluate prophetically all candidates and all parties using the plumb line of the house of love,” said Bacon in remarks posted on YouTube.

She spoke with others who have ministered at the intersection of faith and politics.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told ENS that “Jesus was deeply concerned with political processes in his own day, challenging people around him as well as the Roman and religious governments about injustice, violence, and exploitation.”

“Our task as Christians is always to explore how the political processes and decisions before us can help or hinder the coming of the Reign of God in our midst,” she added. “Does a tax proposal seem to care for ‘the least of these’? Does a policy decision mean greater justice for the ‘little ones’? Does one candidate seem to have a greater interest than another in the primary issues of justice that Jesus spoke most about?”

And while people of good faith “may come to different conclusions about any such question” the quality of the dialogue and the way it is conducted must also be taken into account, the presiding bishop said.

The Rev. Bob Massie said faith inspired his candidacy and the way he organized political campaigns, for Massachusetts lieutenant governor in 1994, and for the U.S. Senate two years later. He decided to run for office, partly because “the public conversation was so bleak and pessimistic … [and] about welfare, taxes, not about the possibility of what people could do together in community.”

“To my surprise I won the Democratic primary” for lieutenant governor, Massie said during a recent telephone interview, but he was defeated in the general election. He dropped out of the Senate race.


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