Pastor’s Ponderings

November 2020

I am in awe of Bishop David Bard the Bishop for the Michigan Area United Methodist Conference. Bishop Bard has a real appreciation and concern for the Michigan churches and pastors that he shepherds. He is in touch with our needs. In the first part of October Bishop Bard sent a message to us as clergy and churches for a reminder of the rules related to political activity of congregations and pastors concerning our 501(C) (3) tax exempt status.

I along with many other pastors have struggled this fall with how we are able to express our personal political views, for we are citizens of the United States and registered voters also. Yet because I am a pastor and at times looked to for leadership, I must still live under some much-needed rules so that I do not jeopardize our exempt status as a religious organization. As outlined by our Bishop, religious organizations such as the Claybanks United Methodist Church are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidates for elective public office. Nor as an institution we are not able to contribute to political campaigns or public statements of position in favor of or opposed to any candidate for political office. Voter education activities including public forums and publishing of voter education guides done in a nonpartisan manner are permissible.

Other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get out to vote drives would not constitute prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a nonpartisan manner. Individual expression by pastors on political matters or partisan candidates is not allowed if done during religious organized activities. Speaking concerning important issues of public policy are allowed under the tax-exempt rulings.

When I express my views on election matters or candidates outside of church activities I must make it clear that I am speaking as an individual and not as a representative of our church or our denomination. I have experienced this fall a real dilemma on how I can express my views and still meet the guidelines set forth to us as pastors. I do have some strong views about our politics and what is right and wrong as we approach our election day on November 3rd . Recently, I read an article written by one of the leaders of the John Wesley Movement concerning how John Wesley approached the political happenings of his day. John Wesley promoted these ideas. 1) Vote for the person you judge most worthy. 2) Speak no evil of the person you vote against. 3) Take care your spirit is not sharpened against those that vote on the other side of you. These three rules that John Wesley brought forward reminded me of my place, helped calm my soul and placed me back into a better presence as pastor. This newsletter message comes out right on the crest of voting on November 3rd and has implications for us not just prior and during voting but also after the votes have been counted and victory given.

So may my and your heart be strangely warmed as we call on the Holy Spirit to help us remember that God created us each with a free will and gifted each of us in many different ways.

I am allowed to encourage you to pray for our election, to go out and exercise your responsibility as a citizen of our great country, and vote on November 3rd. If you have not already exercised your right and privilege of voting please do not take this responsibility lightly.

Pastor Gary

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