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“Christian Principles in an Election Year”
Offer Criteria for Judging Candidates
July 14, 2004, NEW YORK CITY - The National Council of Churches USA has released 10 principles for evaluating candidates that it hopes all Christians - from liberals to conservatives - will study and apply in this election year.
These “Christian Principles in an Election Year” apply well-established ecumenical principles to both domestic and foreign policy issues, and address issues of war, poverty, immigration, education, health care, racial justice, distress in U.S. inner cities and rural communities, the environment and the criminal justice system. They urge domestic policies that build “communities shaped by peace and cooperation” and a foreign policy “based on cooperation and global justice.”
“This is an important voice in the public conversation about where this nation should be headed,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, who chairs the NCC’s Justice and Advocacy Commission. That multi-denominational Commission developed the principles, which then were affirmed by the NCC’s Executive Committee. “The principles are not intended to be partisan, but rather to lift up common principles that have been affirmed ecumenically and that can provide guidance in this election season.”
Neither are these principles meant to be exhaustive of all concerns, Dr. Kinnamon said. “There are other issues on which some Justice and Advocacy Commission members wanted to speak and that Roman Catholics and conservative evangelical Christians might add, but on which churches aren’t united - among them, abortion and gay marriage. For us, the issue is how to begin a conversation in the pews. We proclaim with a bold humility that this is where we stand right now, even as we invite others into the conversation.”
A number of the principles have roots in ecumenical agreements that date back more than 50 years, noted Dr. Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister and professor at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. For example, the first principle, “War is contrary to the will of God,” was affirmed at the World Council of Churches’ founding assembly in 1948. “It’s not a pacifist position,” he said, “but it says ‘no’ to crusade. It acknowledges that ‘while the use of force may, at times, be a necessity of last resort, Christ pronounces his blessing on the peacemakers.”
Other principles echo such “key principles of the whole ecumenical movement” as the interrelatedness of all people, God’s priority concern for the poor, the infinite worth of each person as created in the image of God, and the God-given responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation, Dr. Kinnamon said.
Commented the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, a United Methodist minister and former member of the U.S. Congress who is NCC General Secretary, “Elections are an opportunity for education of voters, communities and churches around what civic responsibility is. We believe in the separation of church and state, but not in the separation of people of faith from institutions of government. We believe people of faith need to be involved in the political process, be registered, and vote with a sense of empowerment and conscience. We hope these principles will help them.”
Said the Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., of Shreveport, La., Bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church’s Fourth District and NCC President, “We hope churches will post these principles on bulletin boards, include them in the church bulletin, and use them in Bible study groups, young people’s forums and senior citizen meetings. We hope the principles will help people enter into dialogue and be ‘Spirit-filled voters’ who don’t just get stirred up about emotional hot-button issues but also keep sight of all the other issues like racism, poverty and issues of peace and justice,” Dr. Hoyt said.
The principles address not only the issues but also the conduct of campaigns, asking candidates to “refrain from using faith-based organizations and institutions for partisan gain” and urging that “the campaigns of political candidates and the coverage of the media in this election season be conducted according to principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.”
The full text of “Christian Principles in an Election Year” follows. A study guide to the principles is available on this Web site at: www.ncccusa.org/electionyearprinciplesguide.html
Christian Principles in an Election Year
Our Christian faith compels us to address the world through the lens of our relationship to God and to one another. Public discourse is enhanced as we engage civic leaders on the values and ethics affirmed by our faith. At the same time, religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy will be protected as candidates refrain from using faith-based organizations and institutions for partisan gain. We offer these ten principles to those seeking to accept the responsibility that comes with holding public office.
1. War is contrary to the will of God. While the use of violent force may, at times, be a necessity of last resort, Christ pronounces his blessing on the peacemakers. We look for political leaders who will make peace with justice a top priority and who will actively seek nonviolent solutions to conflict.
2. God calls us to live in communities shaped by peace and cooperation. We reject policies that abandon large segments of our inner city and rural populations to hopelessness. We look for political leaders who will re-build our communities and bring an end to the cycles of violence and killing.
3. God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well-being of our global neighbors. We look for political leaders for whom a foreign policy based on cooperation and global justice is an urgent concern.
4. God calls us to be advocates for those who are most vulnerable in our society. We look for political leaders who yearn for economic justice and who will seek to reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor.
5. Each human being is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth. We look for political leaders who actively promote racial justice and equal opportunity for everyone.
6. The earth belongs to God and is intrinsically good. We look for political leaders who recognize the earth's goodness, champion environmental justice, and uphold our responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation.
7. Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers. We look for political leaders who will pursue fair immigration policies and speak out against xenophobia.
8. Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick. We look for political leaders who will support adequate, affordable and accessible health care for all.
9. Because of the transforming power of God’s grace, all humans are called to be in right relationship with each other. We look for political leaders who seek a restorative, not retributive, approach to the criminal justice system and the individuals within it.
10. Providing enriched learning environments for all of God’s children is a moral imperative. We look for political leaders who will advocate for equal educational opportunity and abundant funding for children’s services.
Finally, our religious tradition admonishes us not to bear false witness against our neighbor and to love our enemies. We ask that the campaigns of political candidates and the coverage of the media in this election season be conducted according to principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.
Media Contacts: Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350 x 11 or 202-297-2191; Pat Pattillo, 212-870-2048
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