PC(USA) seminary presidents unite in appeal to end climate of fear, distrust

Letter gains signatories asking to reaffirm ‘Christian commitments’

December 10, 2015

LOUISVILLE

In response to recent inflammatory statements made by politicians, T. Erskine Clarke, editor and publisher at the Journal for Preachers and professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary, has issued a letter appealing Christian to “seek to be agents of God’s justice and reconciliation in the world.”

As of 12:30pm EDT today, over 320 people had signed their names to the growing list of those reaffirming what the letter calls “Christian commitments” to oppose a climate of fear, the stereotyping of racial ethnic persons, the proliferation of guns and gun violence, the demonization of refugees and dangerous isolationism. 

The full text of the appeal and PC(USA) seminary president signatories, as of press time, are contained below:

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An Appeal to Christians in the United States

We the undersigned are deeply concerned that in the current political climate many politicians and many in the media are calling on Christian voters to abandon our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to turn from His call to discipleship. We appeal to all of us who are seeking to be faithful followers of Jesus to reject such calls, to reaffirm our Christian commitments, and to seek to be agents of God’s justice and reconciliation in the world.

A fundamental conviction of Christian faith is that God is sovereign over our lives, over all nations, and over the course of human history. When we abandon that faith we surrender to fear on the one hand and to pride on the other. Both pervasive fear and overweening pride violate our commitment to the lordship of Christ.

Because of fear we too easily caricature or condemn those who are different from us. Politicians and too many in the media stereotype African Americans, Asian Americans, people from Hispanic background and followers of Islam. If we follow their lead, we slander our neighbors and blaspheme against the one God of all peoples. We resist such stereotypes and pledge to work for laws and practices that honor the dignity of all people. 

Because of fear we have armed ourselves beyond all reason and beyond reasonable restrictions. Politicians and too many in the media rush to stigmatize mentally disturbed people as if they were the source of all violence, promoting the illusion that more assault weapons in our homes and in our public places will make us safe. If we follow their lead and believe their illusions, we will not only live in the midst of growing violence but will also abandon our commitment to the Prince of Peace. We resist such illusions and pledge that we will seek to limit the proliferation of guns in the U.S.

Because of fear our politicians and too many in the media try to win our votes for themselves or their candidates by demonizing the refugee and immigrant. If we follow them we will turn from following Jesus who was once a refugee in a foreign land, and we will ignore the rich biblical injunctions to welcome the stranger. We resist such enticements and pledge to be advocates for laws that regulate in a just and orderly manner the flow of refugees and immigrants.  

Because of pride too many politicians tempt us to believe we can build a wall of cyber security, pretending that by technology we can be saved.  Because of pride too many of our leaders are trying to lure us into believing we can build a wall of geographical security, pretending that we can engineer our way out of compassion. Because of pride, too many of our leaders call us to be like gods and to build our own twenty-first century towers of Babel. If we heed their calls and surrender to their enticements, we will turn from the God who has called us to be one and who in Jesus Christ breaks down every dividing wall of hostility. We resist such pride and the fears that drive it and pledge to work for systems of security that guard human dignity and protect the vulnerable as well as the strong.

As Christians we call ourselves and our Christian brothers and sisters in the U.S. to reject these temptations that are being promoted among us. There is too much at stake for easy blasphemy. Let us resist publicly all politicians and leaders who exploit fear and pride. Let us help shape the character of our much loved land not by an abandonment of our most cherished Christian convictions but by following the counsel of the Prophet Micah--to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminary presidents: 

Brian Blount, Union Presbyterian Seminary
Craig Barnes, Princeton Theological Seminary
David Esterline, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Frank M. Yamada, McCormick Theological Seminary
James McDonald, San Francisco Theological Seminary
Katherine Rhodes Henderson, Auburn Theological Seminary
Leanne Van Dyk, Columbia Theological Seminary
Michael Jinkins, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Paul Roberts, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary
Ted Wardlaw, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

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A complete and updated list of signatories is available at the letter site.

Those wishing to sign the letter can find instructions at this link.

  1. I agree with this statement, but would add LGBTQ people to the list of those who are vilified and whom we are taught to fear.

    by Barbara Hedges-Goettl

    April 17, 2016

  2. It's to bad the the Seminary Presidents could not come out with a strong statement on the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus.

    by Larry S. Lindsay

    December 16, 2015

  3. Enough is enough.

    by Rev. Irvin Nussdorfer

    December 10, 2015

  4. As a Catholic Christian, I join in agreeing with your statement and would ad the following: Too many politicians who call themselves Christian have totally forgot what Jesus said to His disciples regarding the last judgement. Jesus spoke of those who do not assist the poor and marginalized - the least of our society - as being Himself as Blessed Mother Teresa described them - Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor. The job of politicians today seems to be one of protecting the wealth of the wealthiest and the guns of the most violent. Thank you for your statement regarding the radicalism of certain politicians trying to outdo each other in the race for president by using fear mongering and vilification.

    by Mary Lou Shookhoff

    December 10, 2015