Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
To loyal people of the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2)
The tragic loss of nine lives at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston appears to have motivated many people to do the exact opposite of what Dylann Roof intended. Instead of starting a “race war,” the black and white communities in the Holy City have come together in a spirit of “unity.” Indeed, several services emphasizing the unity of God’s people have been celebrated in our own city of Beaufort.
The events of this week take a different turn as families and friends come together in order to grieve and affirm their faith in the Christian hope of the resurrection. President Obama is scheduled to deliver the eulogy for Sen. Clementa Pinkney on Friday. This will most certainly be a day and weekend filled with strong feelings and emotion. May we continue to keep these families in our prayers asking for the Lord’s peace and comfort.
As Christian communities prepare to bear witness to the resurrection in loving memory of family members and friends, Gov. Haley has announced her support for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capital. It was noted throughout the nation that as the national ensign was lowered to half-mast in the aftermath of the shooting in Charleston, the Confederate flag remained at full mast. It can only be lowered when the state legislature votes to lower it.
As a Christian and pastor of the Sea Island Presbyterian Church, I believe this is an appropriate time for reflection and action. In the aftermath of Gov. Haley announcing the political effort to remove the flag from the state Capital, our governor has my full and complete support. I especially resonate with State Representative Doug Brannon who commented Tuesday that he, too, would work within the state house to remove the flag. His only regret is that he did not start the effort when he was elected to office five years ago. Asked what his reaction might be if his constituency opposed his stand and voted him out of office, Brannon answered that he would leave office with a smile on his face and peace in his heart knowing that he had done the right thing. When we are faced with situations that call for decision-making and a voice that speaks in support of the right thing to do, the temptation we all face at times is to remain silent when we feel compelled to speak. We hesitate and hedge our words in the fear that friends and neighbors will dislike what we have to say and respond with threats and anger. Now is a time to speak.
The Confession of 1967 sets a high standard for those of us who find our place in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Reformed tradition, “To be reconciled to God is to be sent into the world as his reconciling community. This community, the church universal, is entrusted with God’s message of reconciliation and shares his labor of healing the enmities which separate men and women from God and each other. Christ has called the church to this mission and given it the gift of the Holy Spirit” (9.31).
In closing, life is not static. We constantly find ourselves confronted by issues and events that cause us to think and ponder. I find myself, once again, in the position of choosing whether to remain silent or to lend my voice to what I believe is right as I read and understand Scripture and listen to the still, small voice. Now is a time to speak: the Confederate flag must come down. Peace and Grace.
+ Pastor Steve