With the November 3 Election Day only one week away, I encourage all eligible voters to cast their ballot either in person or by absentee ballot. Each time I vote in an election, I find myself remembering what Teddy Roosevelt said more than 100 years ago: “The Methodist Church is the most American of all denominations.”
He was not saying that we are more patriotic than others. Rather, he was referring to the fact that Methodism in America grew up alongside the developing nation. Our governing structure, for instance, reflects the three branches of the U.S. government: presidential, legislative, judicial. The bishops are our presidential officers while laity and clergy are elected as our representatives in annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences, and General Conference. Like the Supreme Court, our Judicial Council is composed of nine elected members. (Our own Warren Plowden is currently the first alternate on the Judicial Conference.)
Today, having become a worldwide denomination, our democratic structure continues to provide an opportunity for church members to be directly involved in decision making. Whether in the church or in the nation, we understand voting to be a privilege and a responsibility. Paragraph 164 of The 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline
describes the importance of voting in two statements:
Political Responsibility: The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust… (Para. 164B)
Basic Freedoms and Human Rights: We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to free and fair…The form and the leaders of all governments should be determined by exercise of the right to vote guaranteed to all adult citizens. (Para. 164A)
I encourage each of us to:
- Prayerfully discern which candidates for public office to support.
- Do all in our power to ensure that every eligible U.S. citizen has access to voter registration, mail-in ballots, and convenient polling sites.
The actions of voting and ensuring others have the freedom to do the same are expressions of our faith and witness.
Sherrill and I recently voted by absentee ballot. It is our right and responsibility to vote and to work to make it possible for every eligible U.S. citizen to have that same opportunity.
And once the election is over, let’s continue to pray for those elected and take advantage of our own opportunities to witness to our faith through engagement in the life of our communities, our state, and our nation.
Alive Together at the Table,
R. Lawson Bryan