Who Are We?

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Election Day Communion began with a concern that Christians in the United States are being shaped more by the tactics and ideologies of political parties than by their identity in and allegiance to Jesus.

Out of this concern, a simple vision sparked the imaginations of several Mennonite pastors: The Church being the Church on Election Day, gathering at the Lord’s Table to remember, to practice, to give thanks for, and to proclaim its allegiance to Christ.

This simple vision is now shared by individuals, congregations, schools and groups of many denominations and many locations. In red states, blue states, and swing states, we will celebrate Election Day Communion together, as one.

You are invited to join us. What do we ask from you? Simply this:  RSVP your group’s acceptance of this invitation.

We ask this of you not to build views for this web page, not to gain notoriety or publicity, not to market to you, but to worship and witness with you as one of you. As we prepare to gather for communion on November 6, 2012, we want to have each other in mind as we have Christ in mind.

Who are we? We are the Church, and we’re in this together — together, with Jesus.

Grace and peace,

Mark Schloneger (Pastor, North Goshen Mennonite Church, Goshen, IN)
Kevin Gasser (Pastor, Staunton Mennonite Church, Staunton, VA)
Ben Irwin (Creator, The Story; lay Episcopalian, Grand Rapids, MI)

14 thoughts on “Who Are We?

  1. Andrew says:

    …and fundamental/independent/sword of the Lord Baptist.
    Well, at least one. If they could, I’m sure our “forefathers” would roll over in their graves.

  2. Henry McCarter says:

    We are God’s. Let us share Communion!

  3. Wayne says:

    Can’t wait to use this idea for elections here in Canada…. Blessings.

  4. [...] encourage you to consider participating in something that points to our true political allegiance: Election Day Communion. It’s an opportunity to take part in communion on November 6th to point to our true hope, not in [...]

  5. Elbon Kilpatrick says:

    Here is what headlines the electiondaycommunion.org website (with my commentary in italics):

    On November 6, 2012, Election Day,
    we will exercise our right to choose.

    Who is the “we”? Christians? If so, why are Christians voting in Mennonite churches? Where is the witness of clergy to the fact that a Mennonite cannot involve himself/herself in partisan politics that supports policies and procedures, legislation, laws that are backed by the use of force – even, deadly force – against humans created in the image of their/our Father in heaven.

    Some of us will choose to vote for Barack Obama.

    Some of us will choose to vote for Mitt Romney.

    Some of us will choose to vote for another candidate.

    These Christians will have made a choice for men who violate the teachings of Christ found in the sermon on the Mount.

    Some of us will choose not to vote.

    Many of these Christians may not have voted because they did not like the choice of candidates who ran for public office – not because they saw such a practice violated the love of God.

    During the day of November 6, 2012, we will make different choices for different reasons, hoping for different results.

    But that evening while our nation turns its attention to the outcome of the presidential election, let’s again choose differently. But this time, let’s do it together.
    Let’s meet at the same table,
    with the same host,
    to remember the same things.

    We’ll remember that real power in this world — the power to save, to transform, to change — ultimately rests not in political parties or presidents or protests but in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

    This event recognizes Christian involvement in American politics while calling these Christians into participation of Christian communion by writing “real power…ultimately [my emphasis] rests not in political parties or presidents or protests…” This shows a hierarchy of concerns with ultimate concern in Jesus Christ while allowing the Christian to believe he/she can participate in partisan political concerns (though the party can be loving and kind toward the other political party) but still he/she has voted for someone who will make choices that lead to evil and death (abortion, euthanaisa, capital punishment, war, economic boycotts, etc.) that obviously violate the teaching of Christ. This approach leads Republicans, Democrats, Independents in the Church (sad fact) to accept a decent approach to work together for the common good of this country while not recognizing that the very foundations of this country’s founding documents and history is rooted in violence against domestic and foreign enemies.

    We’ll remember that, through the Holy Spirit, this power dwells within otherwise ordinary people who as one body continue the mission of Jesus: preaching good news to the poor, freeing the captives, giving sight to the blind, releasing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:16-21).

    But is this mission carried out only through the Church or can its membership be involved in political means that are contrary to Christ-like love to achieve political ends to help the poor, prisoner, blind, and oppressed while giving praise for the Lord’s favor when they have won the political battle against political enemies? Is the Holy Spirit really engendered in such politics? I think not.

    We’ll remember that freedom — true freedom — is given by God and is indeed not free. It comes with a cost and it looks like a cross.

    It is has been experience in encountering Constantinian Christians that they believe God gave them the victory over the Nazis and now terrorists so that the freedom we have in this country was purchased with the blood of men and women who fought carnal wars. They will quote Jesus’ words: “Greater love hath no man than this: To lay down one’s life for his friends.” This communion will strengthen their belief that their God is the God of Americans who wars against evil enemies who seek to take their freedom away. This is idolatry that makes God in the image created by American politics.

    We’ll remember our sin and our need to repent.

    What “sin” are we needing to repent – the fact, we participated in a political process called an American election to continue the death and destruction this country perpetrates against its own and the people of other countries? Why are congregations signing on to participate in this communion without defining what the sin they have committed?

    We’ll remember that the only Christian nation in this world is the Church, a holy nation that crosses all human-made boundaries and borders.

    What makes the Church a “holy nation” when its citizens spend most of their days and nights participating in the the lethal politics of it country? Let’s let the membership know that they are sinning before they come to communion so they can actually repent/change their minds from their worldly patterns of thinking and be transformed by the mind of Christ.

    We’ll remember that our passions are best placed within the passion of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

    Just how long of a liturgy is going to take place on Election Day to help erring Christians, Mennonites included, to receive hear the truth of the gospel, repent of their false idolatrous practice, and receive holy communion? My guess is Christians will say to one another after the communion service: “Even though you are a Republican/Democrat/Independent (if Ralph Nader was running for President) you are my brother. We have the same heavenly Father. May the best candidate win.” They will leave the communion service thinking they can participate in American politics without their participation dividing their congregation. Kumba ya!

    We’ll remember that we do not conform to the patterns of this world, but we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

    I believe this communion service will only strengthen a conformity to the evil, violent patterns of this world. The world will have continued the subversion of the Church’s faith and practice through the ordinance of holy communion. This event will subvert the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ with Church membership’s faith and practice in American mythology and rituals, especially their devotion to voting for false teachers/messiahs.

    We’ll remember that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.

    Maybe Christians will be decent losers when their candidate loses to the candidate of other Christians but the issue is not about decency, not about getting along together. The issue is whether or not Christians will follow Jesus’ way of saving the world – by the love of friends and enemies, even to the point of death. I see this event not speaking the truth to the falsehood Christians have become involved in.

    And we’ll re-member the body of Christ as the body of Christ, confessing the ways in which partisan politics has separated us from one another and from God.

    If Mennonites/Christians are politically divided how did this ever occur? How does it happen that we have Mennonite/Christian congregations who have membership that make their livelihood from work in the military, prison, and justice systems that involve the use of coercion and violence while engendering the spirit of enmity and hate in the hearts of those effected by their policies and actions? How can they be involved in these systems as well as economic and diplomatic affairs that oppose the unconditional love of Christ for all peoples created in the image of our heavenly Father who is the Father of all?

    Now, if all participating congregations are forewarned that this Election Day Communion is about true repentance that calls them out of the politics of this world and into the politics of Jesus and requires them to make confession of their renouncing of further participation in politics that violates Christ’s teachings you’re right about a misunderstanding on my part about what this event is about. But I don’t think this will be the case. I think the event will only create a cancerous growth of evil within the Church.

    I will not participate in such a communion service – not because I’m holier than thou but because it negates the message and mission of Christ when it does not inform the membership that their participation in American politics is a sin that leads to evil and death in this world. If this event does not name the sin then those who voted will not know to repent. I see this as deception and a blessing of their idolatrous practice.

    What we have today in Christian churches is a bunch of agnostics led by agnostic clergy who have created a Christ that supports their comfortable way of life. It allows for all kinds of falsehoods to come into the Church because the gospel of Jesus Christ was not defended. Arguments are made against the clearest of Christ’s teachings. Eventually, no one believes in the Christ of the Gospels. Instead, they have been led away by false christs and teachers who seek to have followers to support their desire for power, prestige, and property. They lift up a false Christ as the way of saving the world but their end is only destruction.

    • Phil Gardner says:

      Yikes!

    • Dennis Barr says:

      I appreciate the rigor with which you’ve stated your response to this event. I also appreciate the fact that you will disagree with what I am about to say.

      I am not a Mennonite. I am a Christian belonging to a non-denominational church in the middle of the United States, trying with all my fellow Christians to live the life G-d has commanded us to live. I am also a citizen of this country. As such, I try to take civic responsibilities as seriously as I can, and make decisions that bear witness to those things I hold sacred. I fail often, both personally and in the civic arena, in living out the fullness of that life. With G-d’s grace, I persevere.

      I will not let others have the only say in the way this country goes. As long as I have the ability to influence the direction of this nation’s government, I will take advantage of the rights and duties of citizenship to make my voice heard. Voting is the first step in that process. Acting individually and in concert with my fellow Christians, in the political sphere and also in acts of sacrifice, witness, and love, we try to turn the nation’s course.

      Until our King arrives, I don’t see any alternative. Flawed as we are, flawed as our nation is, it is the realm where we live. I pray for wisdom and guidance to make good decisions, but I will not refrain from making them.

      • Ben Irwin says:

        Hi Dennis,
        Actually, I think you’d find that a lot of people who will be participating in Election Day Communion have a similar perspective to yours. Our aim is not to discourage Christians from voting or civic engagement. Our goal is to provide a way for Christians of all denominations to remember together that our loyalty to Christ supersedes any other loyalties we may have (including political loyalties…and also that our unity in him is more important than whatever political divisions we may have.

        I don’t know if you live near a participating church or not, but if you do, I’m sure you’d be very welcome to join your fellow believers in communion after making your voice heard at the ballot box. Blessings (and thanks for taking the time to share!).

      • Dennis Barr says:

        Ben, thank you for your words. I found no way to respond to you directly, so I’m replying to myself. That’s kind of like looking in a mirror and telling someone reflected there what I’d like to say directly.

        Anyway, I came across this site yesterday morning from a link on CNN.com’s Belief Blog. It struck a nerve with me, and I began setting things in motion to celebrate the Lord’s Table in our own church. With just a couple of days to prepare, it’s going to be a pretty basic affair.

        I’m a layman, but I’ve been an active participant in our church (Lakeland Community Church in Lee’s Summit, MO) since its first public service back in 1996. I see the need for an event, a celebration of the true Kingdom, in particular after all the rhetorical heat of this year’s election campaign. I truly think the Spirit was speaking to me when I saw the mention on CNN.com about the celebration.

        I am looking forward to celebrating Holy Communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ tomorrow evening across our country. Thank you for helping to bring this about.

  6. ManofHope says:

    Elbon — Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Unless you’re a monk (and you’re certainly not a monk with a vow of silence), we all try our best to live “in the world, but not OF the world.” Christ was (and is) a man who recognized governmental authority (as flawed as it is) and urged participation in good citizenship (Love thy neighbor as thyself). Until he comes again to establish THE government to end all governments, we do what we can with what we have. As Churchill noted, “Democracy is a terrible form of government — except for all the others” (sorry if this is a paraphrase). Judge not (unjustly), lest …

    MEA from Massachusetts

  7. Elbon Kilpatrick says:

    MEA,
    I’m submitting the following reply I made to a Mennonite minister who now is pondering his position on participation in Election Day Communion:

    I welcome your questions and hope the following responses (Q & A format) will benefit you in your discernment of the Holy Spirit’s movement in your life and ministry to a violent world:

    Q: Among Christians, what means can we use to curb violent behavior? Obviously, we use self-giving (even self-sacrificing) love. And we can use protest. But can we also use physical restraint–such as wrestling a gun out of the hand of a potential shooter?
    A: It seems to me that when Jesus asks Peter to feed my “sheep” I am called to act like a lamb – to be vulnerable to the “wolf” who seeks to devour my life. Therefore, as a Christian I cannot use physical restraint to coerce my will over the shooter’s/violent person’s will.

    Q: Or locking someone in a room temporarily until they cool off (or de-tox)?
    A: If a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs s/he is not operating under free will. The Christian could use restraint in the same way an adult would use physical restraint with a toddler who attempts to walk into car traffic because the adult recognizes the toddler does not have the ability to judge such an act as a danger to her or himself or others. In the case of the violent person, if the person is mentally ill he or she is not operating under free will. The Christian could intervene to save the person from hurting himself/herself or others.

    Q: Is it possible to have a police force that makes no use of lethal weapons, but is trained, say, in judo and the use of pepper spray for disarming violent people? Is it possible that such a police force could be used by, and include, Christians?
    A: No. It becomes violence when one person or group controls another group with the use of a threat. Therefore, Christians could not follow Christ’s command to “resist not an evil one” when they take their stand with violent means that leads to a violent end (the forced submission of a will by the will of another).

    Q: If the answer to that previous question is “no,” then how should the church restrain members within the church (or those outside the church) who occasionally act in destructive ways? Obviously we make use of love and patience and reasoning and forgiveness, and even accept suffering and injustice. But if the church were responsible for society at large would it not need some sort of nonviolent police?
    A: Christians should not be restraining Christians or non-Christians. Christians should be restrained by the command of Jesus to put away “the sword” (any type of weapon, including chemical weapons) and be willing to take up their crosses and follow him in the non-violent way of suffering love. If Christians would seriously follow Christ’s command to make disciples of Christ by teaching his commands then good will overcome evil but when Christians refuse because Christ’s commands are impractical in their minds then the peace of Christ is not given a chance to operate in this world.

    Q: Your response to my OT examples of Jewish participation in the Persian and Babylonian governments was to say that these must not be relevant since the early church leaders did not use them. But the early church leaders were not living under our circumstances (representative democracy), so we don’t know if they might have used these OT examples under these present circumstances. Also, as much as I admire Origin and Tertullian, I do not think they are perfect and ultimate interpreters of the biblical faith.
    A: A different political system (representative democracy) does not change the issue of governments founded on the use of violence to enforce its will on people which we have early church leaders objecting to the use of violence and Christian participation as magistrates who enforce the will of the government through the threat of force. My citing Origen was to show he was responding to the 70-80 year old complaint made by a pagan philosopher (Celsus) that shows the practice of early church in Celsus’ generation and Origen’s generation was the same – their non-participation in worldly government and their participation in the divine government, the Church.

    Q: I think the closest the New Testament gets to the issue of voting is when it says “pray for the emperor.” Why pray for the emperor? Are Christian prayers for the emperor solely for the purpose of having the emperor leave office and become a Christian? I think not. Much more likely, early Christians were urged to pray for the emperor so that the emperor would carry out his governing duties with greater justice and less violence. This is, I think, exactly what Christian voting is about. We seek to influence government (by means of nonviolent voting) so that those in power may act with greater justice and less violence. This is something government can do, and–according to Paul–is ordained to do. Praying for the emperor, I think, gives us warrant to try to influence government to be a better government. Even some early Christians wrote letters to emperors and officials urging tolerance. Was this not seeking to influence government? Was this not, in its own way, a way of voting?
    A: In the beginning the original government was the home (Adam & Eve & their children) with God as their governor. Later, the home became divided through the institution of divorce on account of the hardness of man’s heart toward the woman. With the coming of the kingdom of God the Church called parents to love as Christ loved and not to lead their children to wrath. The Christian home is the microcosm of what the Church is called to be. Since the early church existed in a Roman empire that led its children/citizens to wrath (persecution) against Christians the Church called on its citizenship whose citizenship was in heaven to pray for the emperor. They were following Christ’s command to pray for those who persecute them. Obviously, Christ is not calling on Christians to pray that the emperor continues his policy of persecution. Their prayers and respect for the emperor is for the overcoming of evil with good. The early church is not lighting a votive candle for the 21st century church to vote but to pray for the emperor to do right.

    Q: For me the theological question comes down to this: Are all national governments inherently and necessarily demonic for all time? I used to believe the answer was yes, but now I am thinking the answer is no. Governments are demonic only insofar as they rely on violence. If a government does not rely on violence, then it is no longer demonic. It is the church’s job (among other things) to help governments become un-demonic. Voting, I think, may be a step in that direction.
    A: All human governments rely on violence to enforce their will. The early church called on its citizens to submit to – not participate in – human governments. They prayed for the rulers of this world who lord it over others to submit to the will of God with the eschatological hope of a new City of Peace (Jerusalem) where darkness does not exist. To vote is to participate in a kingdom of this world that is under the dark power of the devil whom Jesus did not deny the devil’s power to give the kingdom(s) to him. The Church has the commission of Christ to make disciples of all nations by teaching them to follow Christ’s commands. As the Church grows numerically in its citizenship the dominative power of the devil and his kingdoms will diminish until every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings.

    I believe it is the church’s job to become un-demonic.

    In conclusion, non-lethal does not equate to nonviolent. Weapon is not the same as means. The Christian must use nonviolent means in conformity with the nonviolent means that Jesus used. What these are or should be in a particular and unique living moral situation cannot be known ahead of time. For example, Clarence Jordan, the Southern Baptist minister, farmer, and founder of the Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia (a heavily occupied Ku Klux Klan area), approached some local men, who had on a previous night machine-gunned the farm community homes that housed white and black farm workers. He used humor in his conversation to lighten the atmosphere. While they were laughing he noticed one of the men had a wedding band on. He told the men that their shooting up the farm the night before had woken up and frightened a baby to the point that the mother and father were up all night and the father had to go out into the fields to work the next day without any sleep. His use of humor and creating empathy in the hearts of those men led to their cease fire on the farm. Now, in this particular and unique living moral situation Clarence Jordan chose – out of an infinite number of options – to use humor and empathy as a creative response to violence. I give this example because this is where the issue of freedom, religious self-deception, and standing before God in good conscience and in good faith enter the picture with full seriousness. It is here that the creature stands in the Presence of his or her Creator. It is also here where one has to rely on the Holy Spirit, who is the same Spirit of truth and love that also filled the Being and life of Jesus. Abstract casuistry before the actual unique moral moment in time and space is an adventure in moral fantasy. There is no detailed blue print on how to love as Jesus loves from unique moment to unique moment. There is the Jesus of the Gospels and His new commandment, which includes all the others He proclaimed and lived unto death, e.g., “Love your enemies.” But, the Jesus of the Gospels is alive and risen and with us always, and therefore can send His Holy Spirit on us if we open ourselves, our freedom, up to that option by simply asking Jesus to send His Holy Spirit to lead us into God’s truth and God’s love now, in this situation. The fantasy exercises of moral casuistry—what would you do if…‚?—which have absolutely no access to the hundreds and thousands of variables available in any given existential moment nor to the unique psyche that must access or not access some of these, are diversions (and perhaps calculatingly orchestrated diversions) that keeps Christians from developing the habits of mind and heart necessary to love as Christ loves moment to moment in their Christian lives.

    It seems to me that we, the Mennonite Church USA, can witness to Constantinian Christianity and the world by being the embodiment of Christ living in us through non-violent love of friends and enemies and can teach every generation of Mennonites that we are members of a political body – the Body of Christ – elected to reconcile the world via Gospel holiness (“living sacrifices” who have taken up their crosses in their faithful following of the crucified Christ in loving as Christ loved) as the means to glorify/magnify God on this earth as in heaven. We, then, go into all the world as ambassadors of the kingdom of God to teach the nations all Jesus commanded and welcome those who confess Him as their head of state into the holy nation, the political body of Christ, the Church through their baptism/new birth as citizens of the New Jerusalem, the true City of Peace.

    It seems to me that a Mennonite casting a vote for a candidate for political office in a nation founded on (and operates through) violence rather than founded on (and operates through) the non-violent love of Christ has confessed his or her allegiance to the way of Caesar as the more excellent way toward peace and justice and has left the Way of Christ. To then go with other Mennonites (et al Christians) to participate in the Lord’s Supper turns the Table of the Lord into a table of demons because he or she has not discerned the body of Christ as the political body of participation he or she was called into by baptism.

    My responses to your questions are given with the hope that God is magnified, Christ is honored, and the Holy Spirit draws us closer into a more perfect union as the holy nation we have been called into as full-time citizens of heaven’s colony on earth.

    In His service,

    Elbon

  8. [...] of churches or denominations, but 2 Mennonite pastors and a lay Episcopalian in a swing state.  Election Day Communion puts forth a compelling vision: on the day when our country feels the most divided, invite [...]

  9. [...] to the national event website, “Election Day Communion began with a concern that Christians in the United States are being [...]

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Ephesians 4:2-6

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

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