Reflection on Martin Luther King, Jr. from Bp. Provenzano
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As we come to this weekend in which we remember and honor the life, ministry, and witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am struck by the reality that we are presently living through a defining moment in our national story. This moment in our collective history is different from those before today—at least as experienced in my lifetime.
In the 1960s, the turmoil of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the cultural revolution captured our attention and brought our nation face-to-face with the enemies of peace, justice, and equality. Some in the Church focused on the message of peace by seeking equality and justice for all God’s people.
The Gospel message lived and preached by Martin Luther King Jr. was irrefutably formed by the teaching and example of Jesus: peace for all God’s people through equality, justice, fair wages and working conditions, housing, schools, and health care. There could be no accommodation with evil or sin, selfishness, prejudice or bigotry.
"One nation under God" meant just that. It was an accurate and faithful, albeit costly, departure from the cultural Christianity of post-World War II America.
Dr. King’s prophetic life and message was the reality of the Gospel. Like today, that message was an inconvenient truth—it cost him his life.
As we come to this weekend, this defining moment, the Church has been set at odds with itself. The sinful inheritance of white supremacy that has long infected the Church in our nation, along with the mistaken mixture of capitalism and self-determination exhibited by misguided aphorisms such as “God helps those who help themselves”, leave us struggling to defend the message of Jesus’ way of love in the face of hatred, victimization, and the blasphemy of pseudo-Christian leaders. Unlike any time in modern history, cultural Christianity has polluted the Gospel message and allowed large portions of the church to be coopted for political and economic gain.
The Church must be the Church. The way of peace must be realized in the faithful actions of those who recognize the truth of the Gospel of love and live it in the midst of this sinful and broken world.
On this feast of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I call upon the people of our diocese to act in love and be creators of peace in the communities we serve. Act as Christ would act. Live as we are called to live in the Gospels. Take hold of your citizenship in the kingdom of God. Remember on this feast day the words of the prophet, Dr. King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano
Bishop of Long Island
Martin Luther King Day Events and Resources:
From The Episcopal Church: "From Many, One: Conversations Across Difference”
Online Programs from Trinity Wall Street: https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/social-justice/get-involved/mlk
Martin Luther King Annual Tribute with the National Cathedral: https://cathedral.org/event/martin-luther-king-annual-tribute/