Christ Has No Body Now But Yours: Politics & the Church
by Anthony Suggs
The rap of the gavel cuts through the sounds of bustling legislators, aides, lobbyists, and constituents. “The House will be called to order.” A few doors down, the same thing is happening in the Senate. The 2018 legislative session of the General Assembly of the State of Colorado has officially begun. For the first time, the Office of Advocacy & Social Justice is in attendance, representing the voice of The Episcopal Church in Colorado and those it serves through 30 Jubilee Ministries and over 100 faith communities.
Scripture calls us to be voices for the voiceless and advocates for those who have, for whatever reason, been marginalized and oppressed by society. The political arena itself, however, leaves many feeling left out and in the dark. The complicated structures of electoral districts, closed-door negotiations, and lack of human connection are too much for many to endure. Many political systems are intentionally structured to exclude those who most need their voices to be heard. As a result, many resign themselves to passive nonparticipation and remove themselves from the political sphere. But there are things that every person can do to feel less in the dark and more powerful and engaged as an active member of society and an effective witness to the liberating message of the Gospel.
From the Catechism (Page 855, BCP)
Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
Q. How does the church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.
Q. Through whom does the church carry out its mission?
A. The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.
We are called, as members of Christ’s body, to seek and serve Christ in every person and to respect the dignity of every human being. More often than not, the Church pursues this calling through charity. Countless parishes and ministries, 30 of which in Colorado have been recognized by The Episcopal Church as Jubilee Ministry Centers, care for the immediate needs of the marginalized, the hungry, and the oppressed. This is holy work. If it is the only work the Church engages in, however, then we run the risk of neglecting the crucial and holy responsibility to address the unjust systems and structures that created the need for charity in the first place.
Advocacy that addresses systemic injustice requires that we as the Church look critically at our society and our place in it. It requires that we be bold and prophetic as members of Christ’s body. Advocacy can be local, state, national, and international. It can be as simple as contacting your local city council member.
The Office of Advocacy & Social Justice is modeled, in part, after the Office of Government Relations, The Episcopal Church’s chief political engagement organization at the federal level. All policy priorities are determined by consulting General Convention resolutions and Executive Council resolutions in The Episcopal Church’s “Policy for Action” document, which can be found online at https://episcopalchurch.org/file/ogr_policy_for_action_booklet.pdf.
Everything we advocate for is deeply connected to what The Episcopal Church as a whole has agreed upon.
Once a policy priority is determined, partners and shareholders can be identified, contacted, and organized so that a united front of support can be made. The Office of Advocacy & Social Justice currently partners with the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry — Colorado, Together Colorado, and Voices for Justice (organized by the Colorado Council of Churches). Once partners and shareholders have been organized, we can begin lobbying, planning actions, and mobilizing members of the community to voice their support.
Mobilizing the community starts at the grassroots level with encouragement and information. Organizing the community can include protests and marches (Episcopalians are a people of procession, after all). Information panels, press conferences, and other actions also keep community members involved and elected officials accountable. Lobbying, on the other hand, is when the feelings of the community are brought directly to those in power. Lobbying involves meeting with elected officials to influence their opinions on bills that impact their constituents. Anyone can organize and anyone can lobby. You can organize; you can lobby.
The Colorado state government is accessible in a way that many state governments are not. By visiting http://leg.colorado.gov/, the General Assembly’s website, any Coloradan can see which bills are being presented, who is presenting them, and information regarding when and where those bills will be heard. All committee meetings are open to the public and anyone can sign up to testify for or against any bill. Your voice matters, and it is waiting to be heard. Now is the time to be bold and prophetic about what our faith teaches us about human dignity and the kingdom of God, here on earth as it is in heaven.
Our Next Steps
If you feel called to become more involved with the work of the Office of Advocacy & Social Justice, start by emailing Advocacy@EpiscopalColorado.org. You can also visit the Office of Advocacy & Social Justice webpage at https://episcopalcolorado.org/programs-ministries/advocacy-social-justice-2/ to learn more about the different aspects of its ministry. We want to learn more about your individual passions, talents, and skills so that together we can partner in bringing positive change in our communities. Let’s get to work.
Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
— Teresa of Avila
ANTHONY SUGGS is a Colorado Episcopal Service Corps member and the Advocacy & Social Justice Coordinator for The Episcopal Church in Colorado.
If you have any questions about this work or desire to get involved, please email Advocacy@EpiscopalColorado.org.