Bishop encourages United Methodists to vote


Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, to the people of the Great Plains Conference urging them to vote and to do what was within their power to ensure all who are eligible have the ability to exercise their right to vote.
Download a printable version of the letter.

Dear Great Plains clergy and laity,
Voting matters. It matters both to the health of our American political system and to the people who participate in it. Voting creates powerful impacts on public policy and government.

The ability to vote is a precious right. It is by this democratic practice that we elect leaders, and it is this right that gives voice to all American citizens regardless of race, income, education, or political orientation. All are equal when casting a ballot.

Friends, we live in contentious times marked by incivility, even violence. We are tempted to scornfully speak about those with whom we disagree. Political candidate advertisements more often tear down and disparage rival candidates instead of highlighting the vision and skills they bring to the office — should they be elected — that will best serve the common public good. The COVID-19 pandemic and voting precautions necessary to keep people safe already have cast doubt on the integrity of the election results. Suffice it to say, the election of 2020 will be unlike any other in American history, both leading up to the election and long after the election results are declared.

United Methodists in Kansas and Nebraska are politically diverse. We identify as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, with other parties, and as unaffiliated.

Regardless of which party you favor, as Christians we know God is Sovereign over all the earthly kingdoms, rulers, and governments yesterday, today, and forever (Psalm 22:28). This ultimate perspective orients our present and future hope and gives us comfort regardless of who wins in the November election. But as followers and imitators of an incarnate Christ that engaged in the concrete issues of his day — religious practices, poverty, hunger, health care, taxes, criminal justice, and social ethics — we are also called to faithfully engage as his disciples in the world around us. The Spirit of Christ leads us out into our public squares and moves us to ask how we can creatively bring to bear the saving word of God and the justice of God on the needs of the people around us, especially the vulnerable. One way to do this is by voting.
John Wesley offered counsel on Oct. 6, 1774, to the Methodists as they considered which candidate would gain their vote. He advised Methodists to:

  1. Vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy.
  2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
  3. And, to take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.
I urge you to let your voice be heard with your vote. Do not yield to seeing your vote as a single vote that, by itself, doesn’t matter. It does matter! Your voting voice, added to the many others in our two states, can help to transform our world into a more civil, more just, and more peaceful place for all God’s people.

This precious civic right is open to all U.S. citizens who meet their state’s residency requirements, are at least 18 years old by Election Day and who are registered to vote by their state’s deadline.

In Kansas, that date is approaching quickly — next Tuesday, Oct. 13, to be exact. Register online or in person at your county’s election office by then. In Nebraska, you can register online by Friday, Oct. 16, or in person at your county’s election office by Friday, Oct. 23.

The right to register to vote and vote is open to all citizens, and it is one that we as United Methodists should do all in our power to protect for all eligible persons. Our Social Principles (Book of Discipline ¶164) state:

“We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to free and fair elections and to the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, communications media, and petition for redress of grievances without fear of reprisal; to the right to privacy; and to the guarantee of the rights to adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care.”

This principle encapsulates not only the importance of all eligible people having a voice in elections, but intentionally draws attention to key issues faced not only by people across our oceans but right here in the United States and Great Plains.

Maye and I will Vote by Mail (VBM) this election, and I urge Great Plains United Methodists to support voting by mail. Safeguards in our absentee balloting system have worked well for many years, and some portions of the nation have exclusively voted by mail for more than a decade. The goal of VBM is not necessarily to make voting easier, and it certainly is not to promote fraudulent actions by a few people. Instead, VBM in this particular time of pandemic is meant to allow those in our military serving our country abroad, those vulnerable to illness and the infirm to cast their ballots and have their voices heard.

I urge United Methodists across Kansas and Nebraska to serve as examples in our communities — rural and urban, large and small. Exercise your right to vote. Assist with voter registration for all eligible persons. Use your influence to work with local officials to ensure polling locations are adequate to handle the number of voters expected on Election Day.

And above all, please be in prayer for our communities, our states, our nation and leaders at all levels that God would grant them wisdom and just hearts to govern in ways that seek the welfare of all the people they are elected and appointed to serve.

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.

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