With Fear Banished | Sojourners

With Fear Banished

There is no room for fear in love; perfect love banishes fear. For fear brings with it the pains of judgment, and anyone who is afraid has not attained to love in its perfection.—1 John 4:18

Bill loved the bishop and people of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, so he stood before the men of the church at their annual conference in 1963 and uttered some words which at the time were harsh and outrageous to them. He did it with fear banished.

It was a presidential election year, an insane war was raging in Southeast Asia, and racial violence was sweeping through dozens of U.S. cities. Bill spoke in his usual easy fashion. He talked of the signs of the times and referred to them as a combination that might well bring the American experiment to a close. He talked of judgment and of the vocation of the Christian in the face of judgment. He called names, cited various positions being taken by the two major contenders for the presidency, used words such as "Antichrist," and said that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the best friend American white people had.

The last statement would find few demurrers today. But in 1963, as the Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee met in annual session in the little mountain town of Monteagle, it was an obscenity and a sacrilege. And to bring partisan politics into the proceedings of that body was as unthinkable as suggesting that a Jehovah's Witnesses woman be consecrated as presiding bishop. One simply didn't do it.

Bill's address was interrupted by frequent outbursts: boos, catcalls, jeers, foot stomping, and booming verbal disputations. The director of the conference center ran frantically up and down the center aisle, arms flailing, red-faced, pausing at the foot of the pulpit long enough to scream, "Please! Please! Please! Not here. Not in this hall. Not in this pulpit! Please! No politics in here!"

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