Responding to the Violence in Washington DC

To the People of the Diocese

Dear brothers and sisters,

What a traumatic and tragic week we have been through together. I am reeling from the report of the death of a Capitol police officer from the mayhem on Wednesday in Washington.

I know many of you, like me, are still having trouble believing that the Capitol could have been under siege with members of Congress literally hiding in the building.

Obviously, there were people in the crowd who meant to only be a part of a peaceful protest. I ache for them. At the same time, those who were on the attack, an attack that led to deaths, had no legitimate justification for their actions.

While the rally was itself peaceful, it inflamed the passions of many. Words have consequences. As James warns us, “So ... the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5, ESV). Sadly we saw this fulfilled on Wednesday.

I write this to share two concerns.

The first is to urge us all to pray for our nation in this tumultuous and divisive season. Only the Prince of Peace can bring true peace.

Secondly, I have encouraged the clergy of the diocese not to speak out against any particular persons or parties tied to Wednesday. There are no easy answers. There have been huge debates and rumors about the election. There are many founded and unfounded frustrations caused by it, especially for those who could not accept the results.

When I was with many of you this fall, I pointed to the Apostle Paul’s reminder that we are first and foremost citizens of heaven, and all earthly kingdoms and countries will end when Jesus returns (Philippians 3:20).

Scripture warns us to not put our trust in princes, but all too often we as American Christians ignore the import of that command. Our trust must be in the Lord and him alone.

We are in a moment when, having felt crushed by the siege in DC, we are now watching blame fly in every direction. No doubt much of it is justified, or we would not have seen what we did.

But our calling is to pray for those on all sides, recognizing our own sinfulness in the process.

Please pray for President-elect Biden, President Trump, and our other leaders.

While I certainly expect that you will have vigorous conversations with friends and family, I ask that you not throw political grenades or jibes publicly and on the Internet. I’ve made a similar request to the clergy of the diocese. “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)

We may certainly all speak against the chaos of the moment, but we must do so from a place of humility, not self-righteousness. And we must remember that those who disagree with us are made in the image of God, and should be treated accordingly.

May the Lord uphold us and our nation in this painful and potentially dangerous season.

In Jesus the King of Kings,

+Neil

Bishop Neil G. Lebhar