Dear Christian siblings in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
We write to you as Christian leaders called by God to serve God’s people and to witness to Jesus’ love and God’s grace in our lives. We place our trust in Jesus, just as you do, knowing that the earth is the Lord’s and that every person is fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image.
We also value our Commonwealth’s long-standing commitment to constitutional democracy and to religious liberty. As Christians, we are concerned about a grave threat to our religious communities and to the well-being of all Pennsylvanians: Christian Nationalism.
There has been a lot of talk in the media about Christian Nationalism, often without clarity about its meaning. We define it as an ideology that “demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.”
Many who propagate Christian Nationalism seek to dismantle the voting rights of Pennsylvanians, disenfranchise poor people, the elderly, people of color, women and LGBTQ people in order to further their political agenda.
This is not the way of Christ.
We reject Christian Nationalism as harmful to both our faith and our democracy, and name it for what it is: Idolatry. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Christian Nationalism replaces true faith in God with faith in a “Christian” government that would oppress other religious traditions as well as Christians of differing theological mindsets.
In our current political landscape one does not have to identify as a Christian nationalist in order to spread its message. Likewise you do not have to identify as idolatrous in order to worship idols. There is nothing wrong with loving one’s country. But to conflate God and country is against biblical teaching.
As Christians, we must choose who we will serve: The God of freedom we know in Christ Jesus, or the false God of Christian Nationalism.
If we are to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16), we must understand that Christian Nationalism is inseparable from the idol of white supremacy in both our past and our present.
Christians have long quoted Scripture to support slavery, the genocide of Indigenous people, Jim Crow, anti-semitism, and attacks on Muslims and other religious minorities. Today, when those who claim to want a “Christian nation” lock arms with the KKK and white supremacist groups, in person or online, it is imperative that followers of Jesus boldly proclaim that all people are made in God’s image.
Jesus teaches us that there is no greater commandment than to love God and to love all our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). If we do not love our neighbors, we do not know God (1 John 4:8). How can we claim to love our neighbors of different faith traditions if we do not support their full participation in our Commonwealth and the separation of church and state? Anything less contradicts the teachings of Jesus Christ, who rejected the devil’s offer to rule over all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8).
Every week, we gather to worship the Prince of Peace, who came to bring good news to the poor, to set free the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).
As Christians we are called to do the same, to engage constructively in the public square for the well-being of all of God’s creation. Just as Christian Nationalism has a long history in the United States, so too does the commitment to loving Jesus by working for a just and peaceable society for all people. True love of God casts out fear of our neighbors.
Faithful witness against the influence of Christian Nationalism extends far beyond one election cycle. We know that we are part of a long legacy of Christians opposing the use of Christian rhetoric to further oppression. Nonetheless, teaching about the dangers of Christian Nationalism in preparation for the upcoming election on November 8, 2022 matters greatly. Will we stand on the side of righteousness and peace, or will we succumb to idolatry and fear?
We call on all our fellow Christians to stand with us, alongside our siblings of other faiths or no faith, to create a Commonwealth that serves all people: a multi-racial, multi-religious Pennsylvania where all of us can thrive. Our signatures on this letter are just a small sample of Christian leaders across our state who oppose Christian Nationalism, including over 1000 Pennsylvania signers of a national statement by Christians Against Christian Nationalism.
We commit to denounce Christian Nationalism in its past and present forms and to educate our communities about its falsehoods.
We commit to pray, take public action, and work across religious and political divides to create faithful alternatives to Christian Nationalism for our state’s future. We make these commitments out of our deep love for Christ, care for our communities, and for the integrity of our faith as believers. Together, we will rise for a Christianity rooted in God’s abundant love for all.
Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director, POWER; Senior Pastor, Faith United Church of Christ
Rev. Jay Bergen, Germantown Mennonite Church, Philadelphia
Rev. Margaret Ernst, St Paul’s United Church of Christ, Birdsboro, Berks County
Rev Dr Steve Ohnsman, PhD, Pastor, Calvary UCC, Reading, Berks County
Rev. Dr. Chris Kimmenez, Executive Director, Healing Communities PA; The People’s Baptist Church, Philadelphia
Rev. Dave Swanson, Pittsburgh Mennonite Church; Chair, Spiritual Leader’s Caucus for Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN), Swissvale, Allegheny County
Rev. Albert Johnson, President, A.M.E Ministerial Alliance of Philadelphia, Harrisburg & Vicinity, Philadelphia
Rev. Brynn White, Chief Chaplain, Coatesville VA Medical Center, Reading, Berks County
Pastor Suzanne Schaeffer, United Church of Christ, Hazleton, Luzerne County
Rev. Gregory Frey, St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Douglassville, Berks County
Fr. Joseph A. Genito, O.S.A., Pastor, St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic Church, Rosemont, PA
Rev. Dr. Gregory Welin, Mount Calvary Episcopal Church, Camp Hill, Cumberland County
Rev. Linda Miller-Pretz, United Church of Christ, Zelienople, Butler County
Rev. Andrew VanBuren, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, Douglassville, Berks County
Deacon Garabed Sarkesdian, St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Philadelphia
Rev. Dr. Joanne Marchetto, The Barn, Allentown, Lehigh County
Rev. Megan LeCluyse, The Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Rev Dr Donna Lawrence Jones, Pastor, Cookman Beloved Community Baptist Church, Executive Director, Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia, Philadelphia
Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bates, Pennsylvania Northeast Conference of the United Church of Christ, Whitehall, Lehigh County
Dr. Drick Boyd, Professor Emeritus, Eastern University, Broomall, Delaware County
Rev. Carolyn C. Cavaness, President, Main Line Black Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Ardmore, Montgomery County
Rev. Leah Knox, BCC, Phoebe Ministries, Reading, Berks County
Rev. Lin Crowe, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lancaster, Lancaster County
The Rev. Christopher L. Schwenk, St. John’s Episcopal Church at Diocesan Center, Norristown, Montgomery County
Rev. Bill Worley, Conference Minister, Southeast PA Conference of the United Church of Christ
Rev. Amy Yoder McGloughlin, Frazer Mennonite Church, Chester County
The Rev. Ernest Galaz, Christ Episcopal Church, Media, Delaware County
The Rev. Nicolas V. O’Rourke, Living Water United Church of Christ (UCC) | Metropolitan Archdiocese of America (MTOC), Philadelphia
The Rev. Lisa Keppeler, Church of the Holy Nativity (Episcopal), Wrightstown, Bucks County
Rev. Cean R. James, Senior Pastor, Salt & Light (PCUSA & UCC), Philadelphia
Rev. D John Woodcock, Retired, St Francis in the Fields, Malvern, Chester County
Clerk Jane Cadwallader, Lancaster Meeting Religious Society of Friends, Lancaster County
Rev. Dr. Stephen F Kriss, Mosaic Mennonite Conference, Lansdale, Montgomery County
Rev Bill Bloom, United Christian Church, Levittown, Bucks County
Rev. Laura Colee, Beacon Church, Philadelphia
John Colton, Churchville, Bucks County
Rev. Catherine D. Kerr, Bucks Deanery, Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, New Hope, Bucks County
The Rev’d Joseph A. Wallace-Williams, Church of St. Luke and Epiphany, Philadelphia
Tanya Regli, Seminarian, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Norristown, Montgomery County
The Rev. Sandra L. Etemad, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Norristown PA, Montgomery County
Rev. Beatrice Sims, St. Matthew A.M.E. Church, Philadelphia, Philadelphia
Rev. Canon Hilary Greer, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Yardley, Bucks County
The Rev. Christopher Decatur, The Church of the Holy Comforter, Drexel Hill, Delaware County
The Very Rev. Judith A. Sullivan, Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, Philadelphia
The Rev. Daniel T. Moore, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Doylestown, Bucks County
Rev David Wesley Brown, First United Methodist Church of Germantown, Philadelphia
The Rev. Jill LaRoche Wikel, St. John’s Church, Concord, Glen Mills, Delaware County
Rev. Dr. Kipp Gilmore-Clough, Chestnut Hill United Church, Philadelphia
Elizabeth Logue, Chestnut Hill United Church, Philadelphia
Rev. Paul A. Hagedorn, Tabernacle Lutheran Church, Philadelphia
Dr Ronald Williams, Jr, West Philadelphia SDA Church, Philadelphia
Rev. Joell D. McDuffy, Trinity A.M.E. Church, Philadelphia
The Rev. James H. Littrell, Retired, Philadelphia
Rev. Meagan Esterby, University Lutheran Church, Philadelphia
Reverend Richard Fernandez, Tabernacle United Church, Philadelphia
Rev. Katie Aikins, Tabernacle, United Church. Philadelphia
Carla Campbell, Unitarian Society of Germantown, Glenside
Francie Woodford, Ph.D., Philadelphia
Reverend Glenn, Shepherd, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County
Joanne Kundrat, Christ Church, Philadelphia
The Rev. Kathryn Andonian, Church of the Holy Spirit, Harleysville, Montgomery County
The Reverend Brian G. Rallison, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church and the Incarnation, Philadelphia
Rev. Karen Pidcock-Lester, Presbytery of Philadelphia, PCUSA, Pottstown, Pa, Montgomery County
Rev. Joan Wylie, Episcopal Church of the Trinity, Coatesville, Chester County,
Beverly Dale, United Christian Church of Levittown, Levittown PA, Bucks County
Rev. Dr. Carter Lester, Retired, Pottstown, Montgomery County
Rev. Matthew Arlyck, POWER Interfaith, Philadelphia
The Rev. Patricia Bird, Retired, Philadelphia, Philadelphia
Rev. Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck, Spiritual Director, Lancaster County
The Rev, Barbara Tobin, Deacon, St.Mary’s, Hamilton Village, Philadelphia
Rev. Tim Emmett-Rardin, Calvary United Methodist Church, Philadelphia
Rev. Joan Wylie, Episcopal Church of the Trinity. Coatesville, Chester County
Rev. Angel Halstead, Senior Pastor, Mosaic Community Church, Philadelphia
Rev. Michael W. Caine, Old First Reformed United Church of Christ, Philadelphia
Rev. Tim Emmett-Rardin, Calvary United Methodist Church, Philadelphia
The Rev. Daniel K. Eisenberg, Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Mayfair, Philadelphia
Rev Dwayne Mosier, Reformed Church of the Ascension UCC, Norristown, Montgomery County