Written by John H. Thomas
December 2008 - January 2009
'On behalf of our church'
Dear President-Elect Obama:
As General Minister and President of your United Church of Christ, I write to congratulate you on your election as the next President of the United States. As a church that celebrates the vocation of public service as an honored way to express and embody one's faith, we are grateful for your willingness to take on the demands of this unique office and pledge our prayers as you seek to use that office for the common good. The agenda before us is daunting. Among them are poverty, the environment, and a just and peaceful global community.
The global economic crisis presents you with an immediate and urgent challenge. While needing to address the problems of financial institutions as well as the deep anxieties on Main Street, members of our church would also urge you to give attention to the needs of poor people who have suffered long before the present crisis and whose circumstances are now even more desperate. Your church is eager to be a strong partner with you in long term strategies to ensure that all Americans have access to adequate housing, nutrition, health care, and education. Poverty is not just an economic or political problem. It is at its core a moral issue demanding our commitment to God's justice and compassion.
Equally urgent is the future of God's fragile creation, long abused by our indifference and greed. Your presidency comes at a critical moment for people around the world facing the devastations of climate change. Today our stewardship of the earth demands sacrifice and political decisions that are difficult. The God who calls the worlds into being and who grants us dominion over the earth bestows on persons and nations an enormous responsibility. May your presidency reflect a relationship to the earth in which dominion is exercised as servanthood for the sake of future generations.
During the days preceding the election I was in South Africa meeting with church leaders from around the world. Interest in your candidacy was dramatic, reminding us both of the historic nature of your election as a man who is, in part, a son of Africa, but also of the reality that America has a remarkable capacity to shape the world for good or ill. Two hundred years ago your forebears in the United Church of Christ established the first foreign mission agency in the United States and, since that time, we have nurtured a global perspective that listens with deep respect and care to the hopes and concerns of church partners around the world. Shortly before his death Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that we live in a "world house," and warned us that we face the daunting choice between chaos and community. On behalf of our church and its global partners, I urge you to attend quickly to the peace process between Israel and Palestine, to the AIDS pandemic, to the crushing poverty faced by so many in the world, and to the establishment of a respectful and collaborative foreign policy that sees U.S. interests inextricably linked to the interests of the entire global family.
Because of your membership in the United Church of Christ we have watched you with pride and hope, grateful for the role Trinity United Church of Christ has played in your faith journey. We are also aware that this office involves an enormous burden for you, Michelle, and your daughters. Let me reiterate a commitment made to you last spring, offering the hospitality of our congregations in Washington as places of nurture, sanctuary, and encouragement, congregations where in the midst of all you face can remind you that "God is still speaking." Above all, know that my prayers, and the prayers of your fellow members, will surround you.
Thomas' letter to Sen. John McCain is available online: www.ucc.org/news/pdf/Thomas-to-McCain-sen.pdf