I respect the statements of Bishops Curry and Budde and Dean Hollerith about their views and intentions for the Inaugural Prayer Service, and afterward I will read what Bishops Budde and Magness and Dean Hollerith have said. But with respect for these leaders’ intentions, words, and office, I am pained by Episcopal involvement in the presidential inauguration.
Truly it is Episcopalian tradition older than the Episcopal Church itself that we pray for those in authority, such as the King, the Queen, or the President. This discipline reflects with our Anglican origins and has scriptural support (1 Timothy 2:2). We do this regardless of how we feel about the individual. However, I differentiate between praying for the President or President elect and reverent public observance of the start of a new reign or a new presidental administration. In this context, observance becomes frightfully close to endorsement of the values whereby the new administration has chosen to define itself in its ascent to power.
Therefore, it grieves me deeply to realize that the National Cathedral will be used as venue for the Inaugural Prayer Service, its choir singing, and three prominent Episcopalians speaking. This is entirely different from the intercession that is provided (and in fact required) in our Book of Common [Collective] Prayer. A church is not the Church, the community of believers in Jesus the Christ, but it of often represents us as a house does the family.
When asked about this Episcopalian involvement in today’s and Saturday’s inauguration hoopla, it is difficult for me to explain. As a midwesterner, even a very involved member of this denomination, I often forget the National Cathedral’s existence and its association with presidential inaugurations, funerals, and the like. It is a strange paradox since a cathedral pertains to a diocese, not a nation, anyway. Episcopalians have a highly visible hierarchy but not a strong, centralized decision-making process. I am at core a member of “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement,” but in this, some Episcopalians of high rank do not represent me.
The very moment I imagine trying to explain all this, I wonder why anyone not already familiar with it should care. That especially includes my friends in the Muslim community which has not been heard despite its consistent efforts to educate others on the distance between itself and the rogue terrorists who hijack the name of a religion of peace, with a good deal of help from the western press and thoughtless ordinary citizens.
But I must state that, contrary to appearances suggested by such Episcopalian involvements in the inauguration, these are not my values: the racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia by which Trump obtained votes in order to be sworn in as president. It is not my opinion that a Trump presidency is a good thing thing which Christians should celebrate and honor ritually. Nor do I believe that a Trump presidency is a normal thing, and therefore Episcopalians may as well continue long-time customs such as the program at the National Cathedral.
This candidate reached this day of inauguration by arousing hostility against vulnerable people to an extraordinary extent. I believe that through skillful, repeated innuendo, not errors of hasty speech, he has mischaracterized others on a large scale which amounts to bearing false witness against our neighbor. It is a pattern likely to continue as modus operandi of his new administration. I wish the Church had not involved itself in inaugurating such a thing.
As an Episcopalian Christian, I will pray for the new President. But I do not believe we can separate this person from his message. If there is going to be such notable Episcopalian involvement as he assumes power, then I must articulate opposition to these injustices all the more urgently.
Please also note that Episcopalians are a politically diverse denomination. I expect many support for President elect Trump. I know quite a few do not and share my concerns.