November 3, 2010

Church and State

The separation of church and state is a key cornerstone of the U.S. government. At the same time, everyone at my noonday meeting on Tuesday had cast their vote in a local church.

This juxtaposition struck me today as we move from one of the most contentious, fractious election cycles in my lifetime into a new era of leadership. Our churches serve as polling stations as a way to support their communities. But we have so much more to offer, especially now.

The Episcopal Church, with its bicameral form of government, knows a thing or two about controversial elections. Wider church meetings are often consumed by headline-grabbing moments of vitriol and disdain. But on the ground, in churches across the country, we are figuring out how to talk with people whose views are radically different from our own.

In many parts of the United States, there's only one Episcopal church in a county. That means people drawn to this expression of Christianity don't have a choice about whether to go to a progressive or traditional church, with high or low liturgy, with a focus on formation or social justice. We all end up in the same soup pot, trying to figure out a way to live and worship together, despite our differences.

I believe in the separation of church and state, but I also believe we the church have an opportunity to model and share the difficult task of reconciliation.

How should we do this? What ways are your congregations inviting different voices to the table? How can we contribute to the public dialogue to move our country into a more united state?