Dear Friends in Christ,
“So, tell me, Bishop. Do you believe you will prevail with this lawsuit?” The interviewer had the distinction of being the first to pose the question so bluntly.
We had been talking about the lawsuit our diocese filed against the City of Brookings. It’s been all over the news, you can search for it on the internet if you haven’t heard about it. My primary concern from the very start has been protecting the freedom of our congregations to express our faith. In the case of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Brookings, the freedom of religious expression has been in the form of feeding the hungry. St. Timothy’s does a great many other things to serve those in need, but the city seems particularly interested in limiting our right to feed the hungry.
The very idea that a city council would decide that feeding the hungry was not in the interests of the city or of its citizens struck me as wrong-headed, to say the least. Anyone, whether or not they are religious, could see the fundamental goodness in helping someone who is hungry. Our faith as expressed as Episcopalians calls us to serve those in need. It’s in our Baptismal Vows. It’s in the Scriptures.
“Prevailing” legally is certainly an outcome we hope for – it is the reason for the lawsuit. We want to keep serving those in need and have been pushed to the point where we have to seek the court’s judgment to defend our right to do this. But beyond the legal remedy we seek, the essential and core purpose of our fight is to maintain our ability to live out our Christian faith. Our ministry, at the most basic level, is to continue to do what we are called to do to bring about the new creation revealed by God in the Resurrection. This new creation is not something we expect to see completed in our lifetime (although that would be a welcome miracle). It is something we live into while knowing its fulfillment will outlive us.
Why do we persist? We persist because there is no other way. Yes, some of us could give up out of fear or greed. But at our core, we know the only way is forward and in hope because we believe that the crucified Jesus was not the end. We believe that the fear, hatred, and greed that crucified Jesus will not prevail … it will not have the final word. We know this because, in his resurrection, Christ Jesus returned to us as proof positive that love and compassion will reign.
So, yes. I believe we will prevail. In the fulfillment of our Baptismal Vows, we will prevail. In our proclamation of the Good News of God in our midst, we will prevail. In our striving to be Christ’s hands and feet in this broken world we will prevail.