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A Dangerous Time: A Message from Bishop Sean

Dear People of God in the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York:

Like many of you, I watched with disbelief today as an armed insurrection agitated by the President of the United States occupied the U.S. Capitol. I am particularly appalled that some members of this mob, still at large, are displaying flags and banners proclaiming that they come in the name of Jesus.

Leaders from both political parties have denounced, in the strongest possible terms, this attempt to destabilize our federal government and overturn a free and fair election. Let me add my voice to theirs. These violent events are not democratic and they are not Christian. Rather, they make it clear how drastically our faith has been corrupted by those who would use it as in a campaign to overthrow our federal government.

This seditious outburst is occurring on the Feast of the Epiphany, the day on which Christians celebrate the Magi’s visit to the Christ child. Epiphany comes from the Greek word for manifestation. What is being manifest in Washington, D.C. today is not boundless love of a God humble enough to take flesh and dwell among us, but the self-seeking rage of a president who has incited his followers to violence.

This is a dangerous time, and our peril is compounded by the surging pandemic which has already put such strain on the fabric of our common life. I urge you, as an Epiphany discipline, to undertake three tasks:

  • Keep faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, especially where you find people of faith protecting the vulnerable, encouraging the downcast, and helping the needy.
  • Do not turn away from the ways that our faith is being used as a weapon. Instead, meditate on the ways that we have fallen short in our efforts to live out the gospel and the ways that we may have been complicit through our silence.
  • Remember the words of our Savior: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” We must be firm enough to hold one another accountable, yet tender enough to bear one another’s weaknesses.

Friends, today’s convulsive events can make us question who we are. But even now—especially now–we know whose we are. God is with us, giving us the strength to persevere and the courage to witness to the truth. Tomorrow at noon, consider joining the people from across our dioceses who gather to pray on Facebook each weekday. Pray for our nation, grieve for what it has become, and commit our church to renewing our faith and bringing a just peace to our country.

Faithfully,