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The Perfect Storm

Dear Clergy,

Many of you are familiar with the book and movie The Perfect Storm. It told the tragic story of one fishing boat lost at sea in 1991. It encountered a storm created by three converging factors: a ridge, a cold front, and the remains of Hurricane Grace.

At the moment, it feels like we in this culture are facing a similar storm, a combination of a pandemic with a resulting recession, an upcoming election with all the political divisiveness on full display, and now the protests and related upheavals sparked by the unjust death of George Floyd. Each element is a storm in itself. The combination seems overwhelming.

And of course, each one demonstrates a variety of conflicting understandings. How do we speak in such a season?

There are no easy answers to that question. But fundamentally we will be of no use if we are afraid like the disciples in the boat on the stormy Sea of Galilee. They forgot that while Jesus was asleep, the Father neither slumbered nor slept (Psalm 121:4).

Here are three things to consider:

  1. The pandemic is not over. Please follow your plans to deal with it in your own situation, adjusting as necessary as local governments move through the phases. You should feel free to lag behind government decisions, but please do not get ahead of them. 

  2. I request that you not get dragged into the election fray by taking sides, either in your preaching or online. Neither party and no candidate fully represent the Kingdom of God. That kingdom is both our destination and our primary focus now. You may of course humbly address certain moral issues like racism and abortion, but you should do so without vilifying those who disagree. Be very careful in what you retweet or recommend. As clergy you always represent the Church. The argument that you get to “just be yourself” on Facebook is contrary to your calling to be a wholesome example to the flock at all times. 

  3. The racial injustices and subsequent protests are perhaps the most distressing storm. There is a history of systemic racism,* in that slavery itself and subsequent segregation were certainly systems. The debate now is over how much those systems still affect our country and what must be done in response. There are no simple answers, but the questions must not be avoided. The fact is that there are conservatives and liberals, both black and white, hotly debating how best to respond. In the midst of it all, we must clearly state that racial prejudice and its related injustices, along with violence, are all symptoms of our sinful nature, and are contrary to the values of the Kingdom of God.  We must call all people to demonstrate both love and justice. We cannot love without being just, and we cannot act justly without love. The American Church’s track record includes tragic complicity and silence.** Honestly I think we as clergy must study more about the issue.

As far as the racial issues are concerned, I have asked the Rev. Canon Dr. Esau McCaulley, the director of the ACNA’s Next Generation Leadership Initiative, to share with us on our clergy ZOOM call on Thursday, June 11 at 11:00am EDT.  I do not expect that we will all agree with him on everything, but we need to listen to his perspective prayerfully with open hearts and minds.

Please feel free to call me about any of these things. 

May the Lord calm all the storms you are facing. 

In Jesus the Messiah, 

+Neil

The Rt. Rev. Neil G. Lebhar
NLebhar@GulfAtlanticDiocese.org

 

*I encourage you to watch “Racism and Corporate Evil: A White Guy’s Perspective – Tim Keller” www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhJJcTKTVGo

** The book The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby has been recommended to me, and I have just begun to read it. There is also a video series tied to the book.