Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, released this statement following the 2020 election:
After more than a year of non-stop campaigning, seemingly ever-present advertisements, and far too much divisive rhetoric, another election is behind us. We’ve all prayed, and we’ve all had the opportunity to vote.
Now it is time to set aside our differences and move forward together with love as our biblical foundation – looking honestly and forthrightly for ways to work together for the betterment of our community, our state, our nation and all of God’s creation.
“Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless – that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9 (MSG)
After months of disharmony, dissonance and discord, that might sound like a tall order. And it is. Accepting the grace and love that God offers so freely is simple. Actually living as followers of Christ in a world that often seems like it’s going in the other direction – that takes hard work and persistence.
So, how do we “be a blessing?” How do we take the next faithful step?
Our foremost duty is to remain grounded and steadfast in our faith. That means not giving up on the hope of the gospel. It means following that straight and narrow path laid out for us. It means staying true when the rest of the world may be detouring to the right or to the left or making a U-turn.
We are called to remain vigilant – always on alert for opportunities to respond to the physical, emotional and spiritual need that surrounds us, and to affirm and encourage those who already are engaged in building up our communities, not tearing them down.
We know that being “agreeable” doesn’t necessarily mean that we are of one mind on everything or that we set aside our conscience and our character for the sake of getting along. Being agreeable is rooted in having empathy with those with whom we don’t agree – actually being able to put ourselves in their position and feel what they are feeling.
As difficult as it might seem, given our current political climate, we can work together. As much as some might try to rally us to gloat or to begin plotting how to undermine the success of those with whom we disagree, we can come together.
But we must be willing to take that first step toward common ground. We must try.
Please join me in prayer for the women and men who will lead our communities, our state and our nation forward. Pray that we engage one another with honor and respect, always living with a purpose bigger than ourselves. Pray that we center our lives on faithful action more than words. And pray that we remain committed to serving as Christ served – loving all.
Finally, may we balance our prayers and support for our elected leaders with our obligation to work for social, economic and restorative justice for all of God’s children.
My friends, let’s take the next faithful step together.
Grace and peace,
L. Jonathan Holston