Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, released this statement a week before the 2020 election:
As children of God, we are called to live with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; to forgive one another as the Lord forgave us; and, above all, to love and to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.
Paul’s instruction for holy living in Colossians 3 is as pertinent to us today as it was to the earliest Christians – especially during these times when it can feel as if we have no choice but to choose sides and fight.
With Election Day a week away, people of faith who profess to follow Jesus Christ have an opportunity not only to participate in the decision-making process (2016 Book of Discipline ¶164.B), but to do so in a way that expresses our Christian witness in our communities.
Sometimes, we witness with words – sharing our story of the saving grace of God poured out on our lives. Other times, we do more than speak; we witness by our actions. Voting is a unique fusion of both speech and action.
Voting is more than simply saying what we believe. It is a sharing of faith, a tangible witness of love of God and love of neighbor. Voting is a way to acknowledge that we are one community, all in this together.
And so we cast our vote and – regardless of whom we support – we strive to work together for the betterment of our communities, “supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust.” (2016 Book of Discipline ¶164.B)
I encourage you to participate in the electoral process – not just as an obligation, but as an opportunity to witness to your faith. Talk with your neighbors, fellow church members, family and friends so that they, too, might witness to their faith by casting their vote.
Let us unite in our witness – relentlessly seeking ways to build up and encourage one another, rather than tearing down and destroying. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus is a blueprint we can follow for how we should act as Christians and as neighbors – both in the run-up to an election, and in the days, months and years that follow.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love.” – Ephesians 4:31-5:2 (NIV)
In that spirit, let us be ever mindful to watch our thoughts, for they become our words; watch our words, for they become our actions; watch our actions, for they become our habits; watch our habits, for they become our character; and watch our character, because it determines our destiny.
Please join me in praying for the healing of our fractured nation, for wisdom for our leaders, and for compassion and forbearance for its citizens. Pray that our elected leaders act in ways that ensure justice and opportunity not just for those who voted for them, but for all citizens.
Let nothing distract us from the gravity of this duty.
Grace and peace,
L. Jonathan Holston