As many in the Christian faith begin to observe Lent, the Reclaiming Jesus elders are renewing their call to Christians to remain steadfast in their faith and engage with the deepening challenges our nation faces. Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the release of a new video featuring Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, President of the Skinner Leadership Institute, and other faith leaders from across the country. They urge Christians everywhere to “apply Lenten spiritual practices to our lives and to the dangers facing our democracy.”
For the elders, Lent is an appropriate time to respond to moral crisis as it is traditionally characterized by prayer, penitence, and almsgiving—which is defined broadly as solidarity with the most vulnerable. Their newest statement A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Action calls upon both clergy and laypersons to lead and prepare churches to serve as the conscience of the nation.
In 2018, the group of elders from faith communities across the country came together on Ash Wednesday to discuss the crisis of faith that the ongoing national political turmoil was revealing. That initial meeting led to the Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis declaration. More than 5 million people responded to the initial call and many added their names to the declaration. Since the public launch of the declaration in Washington, DC on Pentecost, the moral and political emergency in our nation has worsened, and constitutional crises may soon be upon us. This precarious national situation requires a season of prayer, fasting, humility, and repentance.
In affirming the national call to for prayer and action, Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners said, “Timing is important--sometimes timing is everything. That may be true now with the likely release of Special Counselor Robert Mueller’s report on President Trump and his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia during the election season and with the potential obstruction of justice. Our elder call is intentionally timed to anchor us for a potential constitutional crisis. Rather than the political responses of left and right, we are calling for a response from the followers of Jesus, anchored in prayer, to protect two things: the checks and balances of power that help insure the common good, and the defense of the “least of these” which is an instruction of Jesus. We call upon our political leaders, not to act for their self-interest and party interest, but to serve the public interest by doing the right things.”
The Most Reverend Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, also echoed the elders’ statement, saying that “Lent is a season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is fitting and appropriate that at this time in our life as a nation we stop, pause, pray, and fast for our nation; that we may live together in the ways of love, of justice, of compassion. And, that in so doing, we may live out the deepest ideals and fondest hopes of this nation and the world.”
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner of the Skinner Leadership Institute also reiterated the message “Prayer is essential as it reorients our hearts to God and, in turn, spurs us to action. Let us use Lent as a time to pray, corporately and individually, to discern our response to the challenges facing our nation. We pray for those who face violence—especially parents who fear for their children of color—and those who endure language of racial divisiveness. We pray that all Christians be bridges that bring God’s love to our angry national discourse.”