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Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Extra: Church and Politics

Songbird occupying Portland, briefly.
Do you talk about politics in church?

Saturday I went with a colleague to the Occupy event in our small New England city. We went to check out what was happening and ended up observing a "teach-in" by an Economics professor from a local university. It struck me that we are out of place at either a progressive or a conservative political event, two women in clergy collars. Lots of conservatives are surprised when women are pastors, and lots of progressives assume all pastors are conservatives.

And although my friend serves a large, more overtly liberal congregation, while I serve a smaller not-so-liberal one, we both know that there is a funny dividing line between talking about justice in church and being perceived as talking politics.

What's your situation? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


  1. This is actually a tricky one for me because I am FAR FAR more liberal than my congregation. While I do not believe that the pulpit should be used to push political causes and try to never advocate for a particular political position, my beliefs about what the gospel says and calls us to have political implications. One parishioner in particular has called me on things that he heard as political, things that I did not see as political when writing the sermon.

    I do believe that outside the pulpit, and especially in my private life, I am called to act politically as fits my beliefs--showing up at a protest in my collar, putting a political bumper sticker on my car, writing letters to the editor or to Congressional representatives as a clergy person are all things I've done.

    There are limits I don't like where I am now. Last spring our state was engaged in a campaign to end the death penalty--an issue I feel very strongly about, and our bishop asked us to consider have our congregations take part in a letter-writing campaign. I had to think long and hard about doing so, and finally decided not too, out of worry that taking on something that many people would see as overtly political in church and something they disagreed with would work against my overall credibility and authority as their pastor/priest. At the time I had been here less than 2 years and I think that was the right call, but I hope if it comes up again, I will feel like I can take that step.

    One last note: after I had been blogging for a year or so, I had two different people from very different backgrounds say to me that before they read my blog (and others in this group) they didn't realize that Christians could be progressive/liberal and that there were so many women clergy around. I am so glad that I can help break down some of the stereotypes that still abound!

  2. As a daughter of the black church I am heir to a tradition that requires engaging social and political context, frequently by making a stand that is aligned with or against a specific issue. And I don't shy away from it. I do so as contextually as possible. Yesterday's sermon on taxes and empire had to deal with the contemporary definitions of empire by the protesters and with the deep Hawaiian reverence for monarchy.

  3. Well, my congo is very politcally liberal and progressive, but they don't necessarily want to hear it from the pulpit. In any case, yesterday I talked about the Occupy movement, and while I celebrated it, I was careful to preach beyond it, to encourage people that wouldn't ever go to a protest, to find out where their call is (using the Isaiah passage.) Afterwards, we had a young woman who is part of the leadership of Occupy Boston come and talk to us about her experiences.
    They loved it. I think I am lucky.

  4. my church is one of the more liberal in this diocese but that's not saying much! You don't hear the Occupy movement mentioned in the pulpit. Our assistant rector (the first black female ordained priest in this diocese) DOES challenge us to move beyond our current understandings of social justice. I love that. I love her.


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