Over the course of the last few years I have felt increasingly concerned that my endorsements of political candidates, particularly at the local level, have negatively impacted my ability to speak as a minister on the issues most important to the church. I’ve always made it clear that endorsements are my own and do not represent the churches I serve but that line is to thin. Frankly, my endorsement of political candidates has never mattered much. But I recognize that as a member of the clergy that my voice can carry weight on some of the important moral issues we face. That is where I can make a difference.
I’ve preached before that when we align the church with one candidate or one political party, we risk becoming an agent of that cause instead of an agent of God. Scripture teaches us that we are called by God to be loving critics of the conventional wisdom, not agents of the state. And it is in that task -- calling the political leaders of our day to account -- that there can be no negotiation. Scripture teaches that we have a responsibility as a people of God to be actively involved in the life of the world. That means that the role of the church is sometimes to lift up difficult issues and put them before the public. That is what abolitionists in our churches did during the era of slavery, that is what civil rights marchers did in our churches during the Civil Rights Movement, and that is what our churches are doing today in calling for economic policies that help reduce poverty and lift up children. Those of us who are followers of Jesus have a special responsibility to speak out on issues related to peace and justice.
No one can accuse me of ever going easy on a candidate I’ve endorsed. After all, I’ve been a loving critic of the policies of President Obama and local officials here in Oregon when I felt it important.
Still, it concerns me that too many people link me these days with politicians instead of the causes I believe should be the focus of my ministry.
Therefore, moving forward I will not be offering endorsements, at least in local elections where the connections are so close. Instead, I will focus on the issues that have always been important to our churches and to me – particularly fighting poverty and the battle for equality – and will happily work with political leaders that share those goals and will hold those that do not to account in the best prophetic tradition of the church.