Dear First Pres Friends,
Last week at its stated meeting, the Session endorsed the Help Not Handcuffs Coalition pledge. You can find a copy of the petition here, but in short it states that we are opposed to building a jail in southeast Fort Wayne, and we call upon the county commissioners to form an “alternatives to incarceration” workgroup. Some of you may question whether a church can take such a pledge, and the answer is “yes”. What a church cannot do is endorse a political candidate. But a church can and often does support justice issues. In fact, the PC(USA) at its General Assembly meeting in June passed resolutions about many justice issues: Israel/Palestine, gun safety, immigration, Ukraine, reproductive rights, and fossil fuel divestment, to name a few. Read about those here: https://www.pcusa.org/news/2022/7/12/summary-general-assembly-actions/
The question before us when we deliberate as to whether to sign a pledge such as the Help Not Handcuffs pledge is “what does our faith compel us to do? What do we believe Jesus calls us to do?” This is not a political question, but a theological question. Reformed theology teaches that because a sovereign God is at work in all the world, the church and Christian citizens should be concerned about public policy. In addition, Presbyterian forefather John Calvin wrote, “Civil magistery is a calling not only holy and legitimate, but by far the most sacred and honorable in human life.”
The Missions Committee, in recommending to the Session that it sign the pledge, stated: “ . . . our faith should compel us to treat our most vulnerable, damaged and marginalized neighbors with Christ-like compassion. Regardless of the local politics involved, the issues surrounding the jail are first and foremost universal concerns for human rights and social justice that we should use our voice and privilege to address.” In endorsing the pledge, the Session and therefore the Church are doing just that.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. I will do my best to answer them or find answers for you.
Annie Epling, Pastor