Public service as ministry

by Pam Tinsley

In the days that led up to our contentious mid-term elections, I read an uplifting article[1] about Episcopalians from both sides of the aisle who cited their faith as leading them into public service. Just as some people are called to teaching, to medicine, or to ordained ministry, others experience their vocation as public servants. Audrey Denney, who ran for Congress in California, believes that “. . . all people are called to serve God in whatever capacity that [they] have vocationally. Sometimes that’s taking care of a family at home . . . and sometimes that’s running for office.” A consistent thread cited by the candidates interviewed in this article is that their call to run for public office arose out of a desire to make a difference. That desire to make a difference was inspired by their faith.

These candidates also revealed that their faith has instilled within them a sense of integrity and a commitment to justice – be it economic, racial, or environmental. Denney even describes her vision for the future as seeking the kingdom of God, although she acknowledges that she doesn’t necessarily express it in such terms when she is in secular venues.

These individuals – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – are living out their faith in the midst of public service by striving for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human being, and loving their neighbors as themselves. Their faith has shaped their values, those same values that we see in the Baptismal Covenant (BCP p. 304-5).

Our faith shapes our values. Not all of us are called to political office or public service. I certainly am not. Yet I am grateful to live in freedom in a republic, and I view my participation – by voting – in the political process as essential to my faith. For me, it is an expression of how Jesus commands me to seek and serve him by loving my neighbors – with God’s help. Just as I have been encouraged to pray for wisdom and integrity in exercising my right to vote and to pray for our nation and elected leaders – regardless of political affiliation – I encourage others to do so, as well. After all – in the words of Thomas Jefferson – we, the People, are the true leaders of our nation.

[1] Paulsen, David. “Candidates with Episcopal roots cite faith as inspiring, guiding campaigns for Congress.” Episcopal News Service.

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