‘We’ and ‘Us’ rather than ‘They’ and ‘Them’

Published 12:24 pm Saturday, June 27, 2015

As a United Methodist pastor in Virginia, I am part of the “Virginia Conference” of the United Methodist Church. We meet yearly to talk, pray, worship and vote on issues pertaining to the life of the church. Every four years we elect delegates to be part of the “General Conference” gathering of United Methodists from around the globe, which is the only group who can make decisions that impact the entire United Methodist Church.

Last week, 2,000 clergy and laity gathered in Roanoke in order to elect 22 delegates to General Conference. It took us quite a while to elect all of our delegates, but we eventually selected those who will make up the “Virginia delegation.” Some of those elected I voted for, some I did not vote for, some I do not even know. I know that some people were especially pleased with the slate of delegates we elected and others were disappointed because they are concerned their views will not be represented. Just like any election in the political realm, there are some who feel like winners and some who feel like losers.

However, regardless of whether we feel like winners or losers, this group of women and men will be representing the Virginia United Methodist Churches next summer at General Conference. The temptation is for us to support those with whom we agree and oppose those who we think are on “the other side,” but the reality is that, once an election is over, they are all our delegates and we are all on the same side. This reality is the same for someone who is our president, our governor or our senator. They represent us regardless of whether we voted for them.

Over the past few decades as political dialogue as grown more polarized, we have moved away from recognizing that we are represented by someone regardless of whether we voted for them. Party politics in Washington, Richmond and many other places has replaced “we” and “us” language with “they” and “them” in an attempt to avoid any association with those we did not vote for. However, I want to invite us to move in a different direction.

The New Testament book of 1 Timothy records this: “First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions and thanksgiving be made for all people. 2 Pray for kings and everyone who is in authority…” (2:1-2). We are invited to pray for all those who are in authority — regardless of whether we voted for them or like their positions. Our prayers are vital for all people! We need to move away from the polarization which says, “they” don’t represent me to a place where we honestly recognize that we are all in this together. Even if you did not vote for them, they are going to be making decisions which will impact all of us.

If you compared my first ballot (we take many) at the Virginia United Methodist Annual Conference to the slate of delegates going to General Conference, there would only be a few names in common. However, that doesn’t matter anymore. The 22 delegates elected represent us, and I am committed to supporting, praying for and strengthening them as I am able. The elections are over and we have work to do.

I have made a commitment to pray for our delegates every day until General Conference in May of 2016 and have been encouraging others to do the same. My hope for you is that you will figure out what leaders or people in authority you need to be praying for regularly. Your prayers will probably be directed towards different people than mine, but if we were all serious about praying for those who are making decisions around us, we would see a huge difference in the world around us.

At Courtland United Methodist Church, we are committed to being people who learn how to support and strengthen those around us regardless of whether we agree on everything. We are looking forward to this summer’s Vacation Bible School which will begin Sunday, June 28 and runs through Wednesday July 1 from 5:30-8 p.m. (including dinner) for children in pre-K through 6th grade. Our theme is: “Everest: Conquering challenges with God’s Mighty Power,” and we are looking forward to pointing these children toward the power of God, which is even available for those we did not elect.

We would love to have you join us for Vacation Bible School. Simply come to the church at 5:30 even if you have not registered. Whether or not I see you this week, I hope you will consider how you can be praying for those who represent you. They need your prayers regardless of whether you voted for them!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or andrew@courtlandumcva.org.