Bishop Andrus calls out the danger of militarism turned on American citizens and our continuing racial injustice

Posted on June 2, 2020. Updated on June 2, 2020

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. Acts 2:42,43

The above passage from the Acts of the Apostles shows the result of the miracle of Pentecost. The gift of the Spirit overcomes division and makes us one. The Spirit works miracles of healing and gives courage in the face of great and daunting danger. As the Church has just celebrated the great Feast of Pentecost, we are mindful of the surpassing gift of the Holy Spirit as we make the following statement. 

Yesterday, Donald Trump, the President of the United States, threatened the use of American military force under his control to quash protests across the country, “If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the rights and property of their citizens…” The President declared that he would deploy, "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers" to quell unrest. In the same speech, the President proclaimed himself to be “an ally to all peaceful protestors.” He then ordered a peaceful protest  in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C., to be cleared by military and police forces using tear gas and flash bang explosives, so that he could walk across the park from the Rose Garden of the White House to stand in front of an Episcopal parish, St. John’s, Lafayette Square. The President then used the church and a copy of the Bible as props for his political statements. The Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry have spoken clearly and forcefully about the President’s misuse of sacred spaces and texts. Bishop Curry has also spoken personally, as a Black man, and prophetically about the latest, tragic enactments of the enduring racism that infects and distorts our society.

I strongly support the statements by Bishops Budde and Curry. It is also necessary, I believe, to speak to the statements made in words and actions by the President that seem to threaten the very fabric of American freedom and are an affront to our faith and Baptismal commitment to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.  

For us, as people of faith, there is only one way for us to respond – nonviolently, by using what St. Paul calls, “The weapons of the Spirit.” The only force in the universe that endures, and that does not create a spiral of ever-worsening violence is what Jesus called us to use – unconditional love. Examples of “weapons of the Spirit” available to people of faith include the following: 

  • Continued nonviolent mass protests. Making dissent visible gives support and encourages those who feel frightened. Resolutely peaceful mass protests demonstrate and make love visible. I recognize that peaceful protest is itself dangerous. Nonviolent demonstrators need training and preparation, and need to, as Jesus warned, “count the cost” of action contemplated. Why should anyone risk their safety, even life in a demonstration? As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote more than fifty years ago, the loss of a life demonstrating for full educational access for Black children must be seen in the light of years more educational disenfranchisement for millions of Black children; knowing the cost, will we take the risk?
  • Advocacy for or against specific policies and advocacy for voter rights. 
  • Economic pressure. 
  • Solidarity – the literal meaning of “diabolical” is to shatter the integrity of life. Isolating a vulnerable group increases their vulnerability. 

There are resources to aid us in living into all the above points. Long-standing peace organizations such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation (one of the founding members in the United States was an Episcopal bishop) can provide training in peacemaking. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations can support advocacy efforts around our Church’s historic commitments to racial reconciliation and justice. Our diocese, as with others across the Church, provides training in understanding and overcoming racism. And if you are longing to be in solidarity and meaningful relationships across lines that divide many in the United States now — economic disparity, race, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation — we will seek to help you. We have existing ministries of justice and peace that can help you forge new relationships within God’s Beloved Community. 

Know that all of you in the Diocese of California are constantly in my prayers. I am grateful for your own witnesses, the clergy and laity of the communities we serve; I am inspired and encouraged myself by you. And know that we are not alone. The Spirit of God is with us, a divine presence that cannot be taken away or overcome by any adversity.

In faith,