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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Monday, August 27, 2012

The "Better Angels Statement"

Imagine Rick Warren, pastor of the evangelical Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose-Driven Life, connected in the same sentence with Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, James Forbes of the Riverside Church and Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.  It's a striking combination, isn't it?  Surely, whatever text that follows would detail some issue of great contention among these prominent Christian leaders of our day:  political leanings, styles of worship, interpretations of scriptures on social justice.

If you've seen some recent news, you may already know that instead, just in the last few days, these people have joined with agreement in strong statements on the same theme, the need for civility and respect in public discussions of all kinds.  Politics especially at the moment, but also other weighty topics in our lives together in this country.

We have to join in this, applaud these efforts and spread this word.

Pastor Warren announced on August 23 that his mega-institution would not host another Civil Forum for the presidential candidates as they did in 2008.  That event then was very well received as providing an important platform for the two candidates to discuss their views together in a thoughtful, substantive way.  However, Warren's announcement last Thursday says this about the current campaign:

"[W]e feel the climate of the current presidential campaign is the exact opposite of the values of the Civil Forums.  We created the Civil Forums to promote civility and personal respect between people with major differences. The forums are meant to be a place where people of goodwill can seriously disagree on significant issues without being disagreeable or resorting to personal attack and name-calling. But that is not the climate of today's campaign . . . [which is full of] irresponsible personal attacks [and] mean-spirited slander. . . . We felt it would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day. "

Saddleback Church will substitute a program on religious freedom and First Amendment rights, featuring leaders of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim communities in the U.S., which is certainly an important topic in its own right.

Even as Warren identified and acted on the civility problem, another group took a stand to try to counteract it.  On the same day Warren made his announcement, an organization called The Faith & Politics Institute released a major statement of commitment to "model civil discourse with and respect for those with whom we disagree".  The overall pledge is titled the "Better Angels Statement" and emerged from the "Better Angels Summit", a meeting that took place June 27-28 in Washington.  According to the Rev. Land, the 18 signatories, representing a cross-section of Protestant and Catholic leadership of both liberal and more conservative denominations and positions, promise to "try to lead by example and by exhortation to get people to elevate discourse by understanding that we can disagree with everything somebody may say without attacking them as a person."  The statement itself even says that signers recognize that they need not undermine or compromise their own opinions in such discussions.  The statement aims explicitly at a "ministry of reconciliation".

Here are the last two points of the Statement:
"III.  We agree to begin working toward a broad initiative that will influence church members, media, and all of society toward greater civility.

"IV. We agree to pray for each other and for our leaders of all different political views."

Last January, readers of Ways of the World may recall that Barbara Crafton and I participated in such a "civil discourse" at a forum at Trinity Church Wall Street.  She and I disagree fundamentally on many economic issues of our time, but that day, we addressed questions jointly, respectfully and cordially.  If we listen and speak in measured tones, we may be able to learn from each other.  Such conversations are prerequisite to the development of solutions. Everyone will benefit.

Indeed, may we all "pray for each other and for our leaders of all different political views" as this crucial election season proceeds.

Rick Warren's interview with the Orange County Register:  August 23, 2012

The Episcopal News Service release on the "Better Angels Statement":  The Faith & Politics Institute was founded by the Honorable John Danforth, former Senator from Missouri and Episcopal priest.

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Anonymous celticanglican said...

This is very much needed, and I'm glad to hear about it. I tired of politics after some of the things that happened during the last presidential election. May we, as a country, grow up and start being more civil to each other.

8/27/2012 7:40 PM  
Blogger Carol S. said...

Thank you, "Celticanglican"! I appreciate very much that you wanted everyone to read you sentiment.

8/27/2012 8:41 PM  

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