The Council of Bishops signed a Bible to be presented to the 45th president of the U.S. in a tradition that is more than two centuries old.  Photo by Kathy Gilbert, UMNS

UMC leaders respond to presidential election outcome

By John W. Coleman

As Americans continue to process the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election in various ways that span a spectrum of emotions, United Methodist Church leaders are reaching out to encourage respect, reconciliation and a forward-looking resolve to seek peace and progress together as one nation.

BishopBruceOughIn a congratulatory letter to President-elect Donald Trump on behalf of the Council of Bishops, Council President Bishop Bruce R. Ough sent a prayer and a plea for the nation to come together.

“We are a deeply divided nation in a world community marred by division, war and unprecedented forced migration,” writes Bishop Ough, following Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States. “This is a time for all Americans, particularly our political leaders, to put aside divisiveness and rancor and come together for the common good of this nation and the world.”

He further pledged that the Council of Bishops will work to “build bridges to understanding that will lead to overcoming the gulfs that divide the nation and the world.”

“I call to mind the best that is in us: we live under God; we are indivisible; and liberty and justice extend to all,” said Ough.

Gathered at St. Simons Island last week for their fall meeting, the bishops signed a Bible that will be presented to Trump following his inauguration in a tradition that dates back to the very first president of the United States when Bishop Francis Asbury presented a Bible to President George Washington in 1789. The tradition has continued with each subsequent president.    Read the full text of Bishop Ough’s letter

Bishop Peggy Johnson, 2016 photo, purple jacket“I applaud the system of democracy that gives citizens the power to elect their leaders and also allows for a peaceful transfer of power,” said Philadelphia Area Bishop Peggy Johnson. “Sometimes we are happy and other times not happy with the results of an election. But it is incumbent on us to work together with our nation’s best interests as our goal. The election is over and now the work of reconciliation begins. We must be a part of peacemaking and prayerful conversations in the months to come.”

Other bishops in other conferences—from California-Pacific to Louisiana—have written episcopal messages to their members. And the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, who heads the denomination’s General Board of Church and Society, joined them and others in calling for prayers and national unity.

“May we stand united in prayer for all those who have accepted the mantle of leadership: that they might find strength and wisdom to lead our communities and country in the days ahead,” wrote the general secretary. “We pray that they remain always focused on the common good, continually shaping through their words and actions a more just and peaceful world.”

susanhenry-croweHenry-Crowe quoted from President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, an apt choice for a divided nation, and also renowned Methodist theologian Georgia Harkness’ hymn “For the Healing of the Nations.”

“Despite the long and rancorous road to this election,” she urged, “let us pray that we, as faithful witnesses, find renewed strength for the journey ahead as we hold leaders accountable to supporting policies that transform our world into a more just and peaceful home.”

The Rev. Christopher Kurien, Eastern PA Conference Director of Connectional Ministries, sees a good reason for the most “fiercely fought election season of our times: … because we all love our country.” Pointing out that we still have more things in common as Americans than are different about us, he adds, “I pray that we will find ways to move on and learn to work together. Let us be kind and show respect to each other. Let us pray for the unity of our nation and may God bless us all.”

presidential_electionFor those whose candidates lost and who find it difficult to be consoled and to move on, the Rev. Craig Gilliam, a United Methodist pastor and conflict transformation expert, offers some advice in an article by UMCom writer Joe Iovino, “Moving on after Election Day: Tips for finding healing and peace.”

Gilliam, Coordinator of Congregational Services for JustPeace, suggests a process of healing and finding peace that includes engaging in harmonious conversation with others but limiting one’s exposure to news programs that are still analyzing the election. Also participating in selfless acts of service, exercising, spending time with friends, and praying attentively to seek God’s invitation and listen to God’s voice.

Gilliam reminds us of Bishop Rueben Job’s summary of John Wesley’s General Rules: “Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God.” When we do that, Iovino writes, “we can overcome the conflict and grow from the experience.”

Finally, the denomination’s website, www.umc.org, also offers a Prayer for After the Elections that urges us to “Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.”