As many of you know, I am very intentional about when and how I comment on politics. As a pastor, it's imperative for me to steer clear of endorsing particular candidates and parties. So please do not take what I'm about to say as an endorsement of Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock for the U.S. Senate seat for which he's currently campaigning.
I know Rev. Warnock personally. I promise I'm not name-dropping; he probably doesn't remember me. But when I was in seminary at Candler in Atlanta, he was one of my contextual education supervisors. What that means is that he and I spent 2 hours together every other week for an entire academic year, as part of a small group of students and an advising professor. Dr. Warnock, as we called him, helped to shape and form us students into the pastors and Christians we are today.
You learn a lot about someone when you spend that kind of time with them. And what I learned about Dr. Warnock is that he has a deep personal faith in Jesus Christ, from which he has provided exceptional pastoral leadership to countless people for decades. One does not become the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta without an authentic faith, a compassionate spirit, and a prophetic voice rooted in Biblical text. I can confidently say he has these things in abundance.
During my time with Dr. Warnock in 2006-07, he challenged me in many ways. His experiential wisdom and prophetic voice pushed me to re-evaluate beliefs I had always held - theologically, politically, and culturally. Many times, these challenges did not ultimately change what I believed, though sometimes they did. If Dr. Warnock and I were to talk today, we’d probably still find places where our personal beliefs diverge from one another. And yet, we are united by a common faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, and a belief in that Savior’s mission to “bring good news to the poor...proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
All of this is why I have been heartbroken to see the personal attacks on Dr. Warnock’s Christian faith from both political opponents and other Christians, including other Christian clergy. It is entirely inappropriate to attack or question another person’s faith simply because that faith may at times diverge from your own Christian faith. In the church I currently serve, one of our primary commitments is to remain in relationship with each other even when we disagree on finer theological points, or political or social beliefs. Doing so demonstrates spiritual and emotional maturity.
I am not sharing this as a plea to vote for or against a particular candidate. Most people reading this probably do not live in Georgia, and thus do not have a vote in the runoff election anyway. My only aim is to personally testify to the authenticity of Rev. Dr. Warnock’s faith, and to encourage all Christians to not publicly question the faith of someone simply because it may be a slightly different expression of that faith. As Christians, let us be the kind of people guided by Romans 12:18, which reminds us: “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Learn more about Rev. Raphael Warnock: https://www.ebenezeratl.org/our-pastor/
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here belong solely to Rev. Erik Hoeke, and not necessarily to Avery UMC, or any other group or individual related to Avery UMC. These views should also not be interpreted as an endorsement for a political candidate.