Commitments for Following Jesus in a Contentious Election Season
by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister
In a season of heightened political tension, we have sometimes forgotten our primary loyalty to each other as followers of Christ and to God who demands our full allegiance. God forgive us.
Some days we have been overwhelmed by what we have heard and the fear of what may come in the days ahead. Yet God is with us.
We remain committed to the way of Jesus who commanded Peter to put down the sword, called us to love our enemies, and pray for our persecutors. Yet Jesus also turned tables in anger at injustice.
Our hope does not rest in the political process. The church endures. The Spirit empowers us to bear witness. We will speak the truth. We will act in love until Christ comes again.
Resources for Sunday and Election Day
As we live in this time of great national tension going into election day, it is easy for individuals and the church at large to lose its way. When bombarded with political advertisements, a call to prayer is needed. We encourage you as leaders to invite your congregation to prayer and careful reflection in the coming days.
The pastors of Doylestown (PA) Mennonite Church (Randy Heacock, KrisAnne Swartley, Sandy Landes) shared this pastoral call to prayer, written by them, with their congregation. Feel free to use as is or edit for your specific congregation.
As we head towards this year’s presidential election, there is no question
tensions are high within our society. Fear is evident in much campaigning
and report. Christians have lined up behind both candidates to give their
support. We, your pastoral staff, wish to call us to pray for the following:
Pray that Christians will refocus on God for hope and security.
Invite God to search our hearts and to identify any attitudes and or actions
that call for repentance.
Pray that leading up to the election, Christians will be more interested in
showing God’s love than convincing others for whom to vote.
Pray that Christians will seek to live God’s peace for all people after the
Pray that our actions will cause others to want to follow Jesus.
Pray that Christians will trust in the power of the Spirit to bring change
rather than the power of politics.
A perspective on voting from the Mosaic Conference Intercultural Team
In Acts 1, Jesus sent out his people, telling them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. And in many ways, this is the same directive Jesus gives us as we approach the ballot box.
Jesus tells his people to bear witness to who he is in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
- Think through the issues that affect you and your family. (What is your Jerusalem/Judea?)
- Think through the issues that affect a community adjacent to yours. (What is your Samaria?)
- Think through the issues, and how they would affect a vulnerable community, perhaps one that might be far from your social or economic experience. (What is your end of the earth?)
(*excerpts from an article by Nikki Toyama-Szeto in the Asian American Christian Collaborative)
The leaders of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S.’ supporting denominations – Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches, Brethren in Christ U.S., CMC (Conservative Mennonite Conference), LMC – a fellowship of anabaptist churches, Mennonite Church USA and U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches – together requested that MCC U.S. staff prepare this message. We pray for the witness of the church in the U.S. at this tumultuous time.
Choosing Christ’s way of Reconciliation
by Ann Graber Hershberger & Jessica Stoltzfus Buller, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Nearly 500 years ago, the Anabaptist tradition was born of a small group of believers whose commitment to following Jesus showed an alternative path to the widespread Christian practices of the day, which were bound up in politics and power.
For this group, following Jesus meant orienting their lives around Christ’s call – not as second, third or fourth priority, but as primary. As articulated in their Schleitheim Confession, this included rejection of the sword as their protection, declaring it was “outside the perfection of Christ.”
Their faithful witness inspires Anabaptists in this time of enormous division and upheaval in the United States. Jeremy Miller, president of Rosedale Bible College in Irwin, Ohio, wrote recently in the CMC (Conservative Mennonite Church) Beacon that amid growing polarization, “the country and the church need people of deep character, authentic faith, and a deep reservoir of courage” who orient themselves first and foremost to practicing and embodying the Kingdom of God.
As Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S., a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches that is engaged in relief, development and peacebuilding work, we offer this encouragement to the church: to restate and reflect our primary commitment to Christ and Christ’s reconciling ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18). We do so in consultation with leaders of Anabaptist denominations that support our ministry.
Too often, our churches do not look different from the world around them – quick to judge and divide, slow to draw together and model unity across ideological diversity. When we do this, we betray our calling to the reconciling ministry of Christ.
The Bible shows a different way. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit breaks down barriers between people and creates a community that values every language and experience. In Colossians 3, Paul outlines the characteristics of life in Christ: compassion, gentleness, humility, kindness, patience, forgiveness, love, unity and peace. These must be evident in how we relate to one another in every situation.
At a practical level, this means learning how to talk together. Healthy dialogue skills help us engage in ways that reflect God in us. It is a spiritual practice to put on compassion when we don’t agree with one another, to listen more and speak less (James 1:19).
As we engage in the spiritual work of reorienting ourselves toward compassion and away from judgement, MCC U.S. invites Anabaptist churches to:
- Restate our primary commitment to God above earthly kingdoms.
- Follow Jesus, practicing reconciliation, humility, nonviolence, unity and peace.
- Ask for the Spirit’s guidance in our interactions within our families, churches, society and world.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NRSV)
By Mennonite Church USA staff
Peacemakers are most needed during times of uncertainty, fear and polarization.
The United States has been dealing with all three in 2020, exacerbated by a pandemic and the urgency surrounding the presidential election.
No one knows what will happen on or after Election Day. The heightened emotions and mistrust across the political spectrum make widespread violence seem more possible than in years past.
As followers of Jesus, what do we do in a time such as this?
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Our nation, states, cities and churches need peacemakers more than ever in the weeks and months ahead. Peacemakers do not hide safely behind the status quo, ignoring the rise of violence, while thanking God for personal safety. Peacemakers show up boldly with love and deepen relationships with those who are most vulnerable to bodily and systemic violence. Peacemakers consider the complexity of violence — that structural systems of oppression are already operating in violent ways. Peacemakers look at the roots of violence and join the work to seek transformative justice for all.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Peacemaking is what Jesus demonstrated through his life, death and resurrection. It is what Mennonites have claimed for centuries and often struggled to embody. Now is a time to be bold in our peacemaking. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) We have a community of believers around us and the steadfast teachings of Jesus to guide us through these times.
During this time of uncertainty:
- We call on government and public safety officials to fulfill their obligation to offer equal protection and access to the voting process for all registered voters.
- We pray that all candidates and citizens honor the outcome of the election(s) and reject any violent reactions that bring harm to others if there are disputed results.
- We pray for a Spirit of Peace to hover over our nation, bringing a sense of deep spiritual strength and groundedness during this fragile moment.
We pray that our churches act as agents of healing through nonviolent witness and tangible acts of love and service – even to our enemies — living into our call as people of God’s peace.
This link to a sermon by Josh Meyer, Leadership Minister and pastor at Franconia (Telford, PA) Mennonite Church, entitled, “Navigating Faith and Politics in 10 Easy Steps,” may be a helpful resource for you.
Leadership in Contentious Times
Executive Minister Steve Kriss held a panel conversation for Mosaic Conference pastors on Thursday (10/29) at 5pm/2pm Eastern/Pacific featuring Dr. Todd Allen, Marta Castillo, Sue Park Hur, and Mike Spinelli.
- The Soul of America by Jon Meacham
- Compassion & Conviction by Giboney et al
- Difficult Conversations by Stone et al
- Prophetic Lament by Soong Chan Rah
- Ing Podcast by Mennomedia