As the newly elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America, I have no hierarchical power, no mandate as spokesman, no authority to intervene in the affairs of our denomination’s churches or presbyteries. My role is to assure the meetings over which I am called to preside are constructive, irenic, fair and conducted in an orderly way. That’s pretty much it.
But I do have a voice. And a heart. And the latter is broken over the senseless, tragic and hateful events which occurred last night in Charleston at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
I have been watching the news and twitter feeds. I have been praying. I have been interacting with the clerk of my own Presbytery, Randy Schlichting, and with our first Presbytery Moderator, Mike Higgins. So I say this: Today I weep, I repent, and I remain hopeful. Again. Yet. Still.
I weep because evil counts the event of June 17 at Emmanuel AME in Charleston as a victory. I weep because the forces of darkness in the hearts of men and women who hate those of other races claim success. I weep and grieve with the families of those who have suffered injustice and anguish. I weep because those who hate do not know hope. I weep.
I repent of my inclinations toward indifference, and busyness and minimization; my preferences to avoid rather than confront systemic issues in our culture and in my own heart which have fertilized the ground from which such unspeakable acts can spring. I repent of the comfortableness of assuming that others, like “the authorities”, can deal with such evil, leaving me untouched and unmoved and uninvolved. I repent of presuming I am invulnerable to hate.
I also remain hopeful. I remain hopeful because we are the Church. Sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from every tribe and race and people, united in Christ. I have hope for a better day to come. A richer day. A sweeter day. And I know, I am convinced, I am even more certain today, that I — indeed that we — are called to love in the midst of weeping and repenting and hoping. I will not be deterred, because Jesus has called us and He will empower us to bless those who wound us, to help those who are downtrodden, to minister to those in pain. And we will. We will because He is able. I pray the Lord will continue to convict us of our indifference, to unite us in Christ, to gird our hearts and to quicken our steps as we, city by city, neighborhood by neighborhood, family by family bring the good news of the gospel to the world in word, deed and with our very lives. I ask that He would bring justice to bear and that He would use His means, even ever so severely, to deal with those who have acted with such malignant hatred.
What can men do against such reckless hate? Ride out. Ride out with me to meet it.
Lord, have mercy.
Jim Wert is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of America, and the moderator of the 43rd General Assembly