Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following statement Jan, 8, 2021, regarding the riot at the U.S. Capitol Building the previous Wednesday.
Download a printable copy.
Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference,
Like many of you, I was shocked Wednesday by the television images of our U.S. Capitol being overrun by protesters who do not accept the voting process and results of the recent 2020 presidential election. The protesters sieged and broke through the Capitol’s doors and windows to enter the U.S. Senate chamber and the offices of lawmakers. In doing so, they temporarily disrupted the Constitutional duties of our elected officials to ratify the results of the election. Five people are dead as a direct result of Wednesday’s protests.
This week’s shocking events emphasize the growing depth and breath of our self-destructive national divide. Jan. 6, 2021, will be forever remembered as an opprobrious day in our nation’s history and an occasion for mockery and scorn by a watching world.
I will let others engage in debates about what incited the protesters to move from a rally with the outgoing president to the U.S. Capitol. I choose, instead, to focus on where we go from here as disciples of Jesus Christ and United Methodists of the Great Plains Conference in Kansas and Nebraska.
Our current crisis — deep political divides, a relentless coronavirus pandemic that has prematurely cut short the lives of 360,000 Americans, economic uncertainty, and unresolved social unrest — moves God’s Spirit to summon the Church to the work of healing and reconciliation.
In show of God’s care and desire to heal our wounded and weary world, I call upon our clergy, laity, and congregations to:
1. Observe Sunday, Jan. 17, as a Day of Healing and Hope. The Sunday sermon should be sensitive to the political leanings and social realities of your contexts and focused on what your congregations can continue to do or begin to do to be instruments of God’s healing and peace to our wounded and weary world. The aim of the worship service will be to inspire and send our congregations into the world to sew — as St. Francis of Assisi so eloquently writes — love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, faith where there is doubt, hope where there is despair, light where there is darkness, and joy where there is sadness. The conference will provide by Wednesday, Jan. 13, a worship litany for use by congregations.
2. Host Non-Partisan Dialogue and Civil Discourse Forums in 2021. Our houses of worship have historically been “schools for democracy” during the founding of our nation that provided moral and ethical resources for community conversation. As schools for democracy and sacred spaces, we are open and welcoming of non-partisan civil discourse and deliberative dialogue — framed by scriptural and theological principles — about the complex issues our communities face. The goal of dialogue and civil discourse is to help people feel heard, engaged, empowered, and inspired to think and act better when grappling with complex issues, becoming well-informed, and discerning how to best respond to the needs and concerns of our communities.
3. Pray for the next 100 days. Beginning Sunday, Jan. 17, through Easter Sunday on April 4, 2021, I urge our clergy, laity, and congregations to set apart a sacred and regular time each day during the next 100 days to pray for our nation and a smooth transition of power using, “A Prayer in a Time of National Crisis” (United Methodist Book of Worship, #517):
God of all the ages, in your sight nations rise and fall and pass through times of peril. Now when our land is troubled, be near to judge and save. May leaders be led by your wisdom; may they search your will and see it clearly. If we have turned from your way, reverse our ways and help us to repent. Give us your light and your truth, let them guide us; through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen.
Through prayer, we grow in greater awareness, trust, and embodiment of God’s mercy. Walter Brueggemann says prayer helps us turn from our small, preoccupied selves to the larger self we find in God. Prayer, he continues, liberates us to take bold and imaginative action toward a world of neighborliness, a community of care and generosity for our neighbor.
Friends, God is summoning the Church in this season of national crisis to renew our covenant relationship with God and to make a vital contribution that works toward the health and wholeness of our deeply divided and wounded nation. God is summoning us to imagine a new thing and future with hope that is emerging before us. God summoned prophets in times of national crisis to warn and proclaim hope. They willfully responded to God summons with the words, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” I trust our response as disciples of Jesus Christ and United Methodists to God’s summons will be the same.
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.
Great Plains Conference