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By: Josiah Robinson
The rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, Mike Kinman, will no longer mention Donald Trump and other national leaders by name in corporate prayer.
Kinman explains his challenging predicament in a recent blog post:
“We are in a unique situation in my lifetime where we have a president elect whose name is literally a trauma trigger to some people – particularly women and people who, because of his words and actions, he represents an active danger to health and safety.”
He continues, saying “for some it could be as if we demanded a battered woman [to] pray for her abuser by name. It’s not that the abuser doesn’t need prayer – certainly the opposite – but prayer should never be a trauma-causing act.”
Kinman and ASC faced some serious backlash after the announcement. His response reaffirms his stance while highlighting the nuance and intention behind it. He insists that the choice to remove proper nouns is not a knee jerk reaction or shallow preference, but a difficult decision made for the betterment of the church body. While seemingly petty, the position is not a baseless fad inspired by PC culture.
It’s important to note All Saints Church will continue to pray for these leaders. Indeed, Mike Kinman begins his post by tying Episcopalian identity to the call to pray for national leaders. This command is explicitly outlined in the Bible:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NIV)
The rector is conflicted between observing this command and ensuring the worshipping community is “a place of safety from harm.” ASC has opted for a compromise that serves the scriptures and protects their parishioners. In this compromise, Kinman and ASC are replacing prayers for “Barack, our president” with prayers for “our president, our president-elect, and all others in authority.”
The response from Kinman also emphasizes that the change in language is temporary. He explains the goal of the Christian community “is to liberate one another from the continuing power of the abuser and help us get to a space where no abuser has power over us … where we can ‘forgive and feel freedom,’ and, in this case, where we can pray by name.”
Kinman and his staff are “confident we will get to that point eventually.” In the meantime, All Saints Church “will continue to work together and bid the Holy Spirit help us in that work.”
I commend the intention, but the accommodation may be sending the wrong message to the congregation. All Saints Church does well to observe the command to pray for national leaders. That being said, our current situation with Trump is child’s play compared to the original recipients’ world.
The writer’s admonition to Timothy above was in a much graver context. First century Christians were social, economic, and political exiles that were slandered, beaten, and martyred daily. Despite this persecution, they were still called to pray for their leaders.
Can we honestly compare our circumstances to theirs? Has Trump’s tyranny reached that level?
Regardless of the legitimacy of their fear, people are genuinely terrified and traumatized. This point is well taken. Mike Kinman will know his congregation’s unique situations better than I. However, even if we concede their fear, Christ followers of all people should overcome fear and trauma. Allow me to quote John Newton, a 19th century theologian:
“There is a peace passing understanding, of which the politicians cannot deprive us.”
Parishioners of All Saints Church that have been traumatized by Donald Trump can cling to God’s promises of peace and assurance. Scripture is replete with them. Even if Donald Trump turns into the next Caesar or Hitler, Christians can boldly stand alongside Stephen, Simon, Peter, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in remaining firm in their faith in the face of government oppression.
Mike Kinman and All Saints Church may be giving Trump too much influence. Christians should conquer Trump trauma not surrender to it, even temporarily.