An Open Letter to the Clergy of America: Time to Decide. You Must Stand Up or Forfeit Your Spiritual Authority

Posted on 13 Aug 2017 at 6:26am

The Rev. Steve Sprinkle

In the name of the God who calls clergy to their ministries, this is a time of decision for the women and men who lead religious communities throughout America.

There is no longer any middle ground. Your voices, your actions and your ministries are vital for non-violent action against the strategies of white racist nationalism that are attacking our democracy in the United States. Do not fail to recognize the signs of the times: Attacks against the vulnerable in our society are assaults against every congregation, synagogue, temple and mosque in America.

We must take to our pulpits, our classrooms, social media, our chaplaincy posts and all our spheres of influence to denounce the forces of white supremacy as wrong, immoral, anti-democratic and heretical. We must do so now as well as for the long haul. And we must resolve to put our bodies and our deeds where our convictions call us to be in this struggle.

For too long, the majority of the pulpits of America have either remained silent or have aided and abetted theological malpractice in the name of “unity.” The only unity that counts is the common humanity of us all under God, not some sort of calculating institutional uniformity that causes clergy to deny the very faith that calls each of us to stand against violence perpetrated against racial/ethnic, gender/orientation and immigrant minorities who are the Beloved of God. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have showed us the way.

Now, it is up to us to decide whether we will remain “nice” and forfeit our spiritual authority, or to stand up against the ugliness and immorality of groups that have never been “right,” “alt right” or “patriotic.” No such movements or ideologies are welcome in our society. Tolerance of the intolerant is intolerable any longer for us as religious leaders. This is not a choice between “right” and “left” on a political spectrum. This is a time to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong.

When we were called to ministry, God didn’t promise us a rose garden of safety and ease, but the prospect of a cross. Jesus was clear on what is required and by what divine standard we shall all be held accountable for the gift of ministry given to us: “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16 NRSV). The clergy of America must show who we are now. God help us.

Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, ordained Alliance of Baptists Minister and Professor at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas

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