Take an already stressful year and add in the tensest political season in our lifetime. What is a pastor to do? These resources promise to offer guidance and clarity for the role of the church during an election year.
First, make sure you review guidelines from The United Methodist Church and the IRS about what a local church or church leader can do without potential ramifications on the local church.
You may also want to make use of the excellent ideas in this article, The Church and Election Day, from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.
Amplify is offering a free webinar series, Justice, Love, and Humility: Pastoring a Divided Culture. The series is hosted by the NC Conference’s own Rev. Lisa Yebuah. The sessions include:
- 10/13 How Did We Get Here? Exploring the Roots of Our Division
- 10/15 Courage and Compassion: Preaching a Prophetic Message
- 10/20 Grace-filled Accountability: Holding Our Communities Together
The Center for Leadership Excellence and Conflict Transformation Ministries are offering a webinar on Casting the First Stone: Church Conflict and the Scapegoat Mechanism on October 14th. This workshop will explore the scapegoating phenomenon from a family systems perspective, while also including theological reflections grounded in the work of René Girard.
Resources You Can Borrow
- Includes study guide with prayers, icebreakers, scripture, and discussion questions for each chapter
- Free video series on YouTube perfect for Zoom meetings. New videos added weekly.
- Blog post by the author: 5 Ways to Find Common Ground this Election Season
- Podcast with the author
- Promo video
- Book Excerpt
Mark Feldmeir, pastor of a 3,500 person, politically diverse United Methodist congregation, explores eight of the most divisive issues of our day—climate change, racism, immigration, healthcare, medical aid in dying, Islamic extremism, homosexuality, and social isolation and suicide—through the lens of “a politics of compassion,” the motivating, unifying ideals of the gospel that insist that we work together for the benefit of the common good.
Through a series of axioms, or principles we can all agree on, Feldmeir seeks to identify those shared values that affirm our commonality and inspire a more creative and collaborative approach to finding practical solutions and healing our divisions.
Religion, politics, and money. Three things you’re never supposed to discuss in polite company. But what if you’re a pastor? Forget red state/blue state divisions, what happens when your church members disagree about politics? In this age of prosperity preaching, how do you preach, “You cannot serve God and money?”
Clay Stauffer addresses the challenges that preachers face when serving a politically diverse congregation in Preaching Politics. Money, materialism, and their effects on modern-day faith and spirituality are viewed through the teachings of Jesus, as well as the work of Methodist pastor Adam Hamilton and Duke ethicist Stanley Hauerwas.
Politics in the Church
A House United: How the Church Can Save the World by Allen Hilton. Allen Hilton believes that religion isn’t inherently divisive, and he suggests a new role for Christianity. Jesus prayed that his disciples might all be one, and this book imagines a proper answer to that prayer in the context of American polarization. Rather than asking people to leave their political and theological beliefs at the church door, Hilton promotes a Christianity that brings people together with their differences. Through God’s transforming work, he writes, we can create a house united that will help our nation come back together. Read the introduction to the book.
Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide by Mike Slaughter and Charles E. Gutenson with Robert P. Jones. There has been a growing tendency to conflate one’s theological commitments with one’s political ideology. As a consequence, partisan politics has infiltrated our churches and political commitments are creating unnecessary divisions. Perhaps of most concern, these trends generally tend to obscure the properly holistic nature of the Gospel of Christ and turn people off to Christianity altogether. Too often, it often seems politics trumps theology. Sadly, this leads to division, where decisions on church direction, and even the content of teaching, gets determined more based on partisan politics than on sound biblical and theological factors. Hijacked explores this phenomenon, offers analysis, and proposes a way forward.
Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith in Politics (DVD). Rooted in the theological conviction that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, that neither party is thoroughly moral nor completely immoral, this DVD explores the rightful role of faith in politics through interviews with clergy and politicians in Alabama, Missouri, and Tennessee. It expands the moral agenda from the narrow list of issues prioritized by the Christian Right to the fuller expression of issues found in the Christian tradition, beginning with the biblical priority of doing justice. This 35-minute documentary includes a discussion guide. Watch a video clip.
Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics (DVD & book) by Adam Hamilton. Everyone agrees that America is polarized, with ever-hardening positions held by people less and less willing to listen to one another. No one agrees on what to do about it. One solution that hasn’t yet been tried, says Adam Hamilton, is for thinking persons of faith to model for the rest of the country a richer, more thoughtful conversation on the political, moral, and religious issues that divide us. Hamilton rejects the easy assumptions and sloppy analysis of black and white thinking, seeking instead the truth that resides on all sides of the issues, and offering a faithful and compassionate way forward. This book is available with a 5-session DVD study.
Having Civil Conversations
How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church by C. Christopher Smith. In today’s highly charged social and political environment, we often don’t know how to talk well with others–especially with people whose backgrounds differ from our own. C. Christopher Smith addresses why conversation has become such a challenge in the 21st century and argues that it is perhaps the most-needed spiritual practice of our individualistic age. Smith shows how church communities can be training hubs where we learn to talk with and listen to one another with kindness and compassion. The book explores how churches can initiate and sustain conversation, offers advice for working through seasons of conflict, suggests spiritual practices and dispositions that can foster conversation, and features stories from several congregations that are learning to practice conversation. Watch video clips of the author talking about the book.
Rooted in Grace: Essays on Dialogue Without Division edited by Larry Duggins and Andrea L. Lingle. Rooted in Grace is a collection of essays, liturgies, and spiritual exercises focused on staying connected during difficult discussions. Each essay includes questions for discussion for ease of use in small groups and Sunday School lessons. While the collection was designed to be helpful in congregational discussions of the 2019 UMC General Conference and the discussion of The Way Forward, it does not specifically address questions around human sexuality. Rather, it addresses the vanishing art of disagreeing without devolving into animosity. The book has applications well beyond the current issues within the UMC.
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland. In this eye-opening book, learn the hidden reasons behind conflict and divisions. With a personal touch and the trained eye of a social psychologist, Cleveland brings to bear the latest studies and research on the unseen dynamics at work that tend to separate us from others. Learn why Christians who have a heart for unity have such a hard time actually uniting. The author provides real insight for ministry leaders who have attempted to build bridges across boundaries. Here are the tools we need to understand how we can overcome the hidden forces that divide us.
The Conversation Matters: Why United Methodists Should Talk with One Another by Henry H. Knight, III and Don E. Saliers. In this book, Knight and Saliers issue a challenge to members. They insist that we recover the lost Wesleyan art of Christian conference, a way of carrying on theological debate that is at once true to the principles we hold, yet open to the possibility of changing our minds. Drawing on recent essays on civility in political discourse, they argue for “speaking the truth in love” in a way that makes respect and love for the other our paramount concern, and in which making an argument is not the same thing as having an argument.
NOOMA: Bullhorn (DVD) by Rob Bell. Start off your conversation with this 12-minute film as a discussion starter. Sometimes we strongly disagree with other people’s political views, religious beliefs, behaviors, or something else, and it makes it hard to love them when we feel like we’re right and they’re very wrong. But Jesus doesn’t separate loving God and loving others. So maybe the best way for us to show our love for God is actually by loving other people no matter how hard it sometimes is. Maybe it’s the only way.
Creating Change Together: A Toolkit for Faithful Civic Engagement by The General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church. Within these pages, you will find the biblical and United Methodist grounding for civic engagement as well as strategies and tactics that you can do as an individual or group to pursue the common good. Creating Change Together will equip you with essential tools to address public concerns. Topics include: claiming our story, connecting with decision-makers (with tips for advocating through visiting, public witness, calling, writing, and social media), and engaging in the electoral process. Download the PDFs from their website.
Vital Conversations by The General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church. Across four series focusing on different themes, there are dozens of videos to spark conversation about the church, faith, and social issues. Each online video includes a discussion guide.
United Methodist Social Principles 2021. The UM Social Principles have been revised and updated. This website provides all of the text and translations as well as resources for talking about the Social Principles in your faith community including videos and teaching resources.
Request These Resources
These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. We will mail them to your home! All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.