On Being Interfaith

Interfaith Clergy Call Upon Bishop Jackson to Reconsider His Position toward Other Faiths

On Sunday, September 22, 2013, Bishop E.W. Jackson spoke at Restoration Fellowship Church in Strasburg, VA, and is quoted as saying that there is no means of salvation other than through Jesus Christ. The quotation that has appeared in media all over Virginia is as follows:

If you don’t know him, if you don’t follow him, you engage in some sort of false religion. That’s controversial, but it’s the truth. There is only one God, there is the God named Jesus Christ.

Bishop_E._W._Jackson.jpgBishop Jackson has not denied making this statement. Many clergy have registered unease at this claim, and some have spoken in their congregations about this statement, as well as in conversations with colleagues.

Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline, former Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond, and currently the President & CEO of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, reached out to a few clergy colleagues—Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian—with a draft statement. Several suggested changes and then agreed with the attached statement. Others were asked to sign.

The attached statement and signatures represents a modest effort to register these concerns in the public square, and to ask Bishop Jackson, a man of faith, to reconsider his position, not only as part of his ongoing faith journey but also because he seeks the second highest position in this Commonwealth we all love so dearly.

He recently seemed to back off his earlier position a little—saying he did not mean to include Jews, but even that disclaimer seems to be linked to the fact that Christianity has historic, and of course deep, roots in Judaism. He refused to speak of any other faith. Thus, we remain concerned that he still does not accept the full validity of faiths not his own.

And, of course, the clergy below, and many others, reject this negative views toward LGBT Virginians. 

Here is the statement, and the names of those who signed. 

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We write to raise our concern about the remarks of Rev. E.W. Jackson, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, that those who do not follow Jesus “engage in some sort of a false religion.”

Interfaith_tree.jpgWe—Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, and Christian clergy—do not agree. We know our own faiths, and indeed the faiths of other colleagues—Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.—to be sacred expressions of holy truth.  We reject the proposition that there is only one way to God. We believe our teachers taught the importance of connecting with God and neighbor, not judging our neighbor. And we are certain that it is incumbent on our political leaders to speak and lead in ways that honor all persons—as equally children of God—and all faiths—as equally ways to live holy lives.  

One of the bedrock values of our nation is E Pluribus Unum—Out of the Many, One. This ideal—that  all Americans are equal, that all are included, that our differing beliefs provide the strength that makes us one—requires that we affirm and celebrate our diversity of faiths.

e_pluribus_unum.jpgAs leaders in our own traditions and as clergy engaged in the life of the wider community, we also reject the proposition that we can say one thing in our houses of worship and another in the public square. One either honors all, all the time, or one does not.

We call upon Mr. Jackson to rethink his position, and ask all candidates to clearly state their objection to his remarks. The welfare of our Commonwealth requires unification not division.


Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline, President, POFEV: People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, Richmond

Rev. Jeanne Pupke, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond

Rev. Janet James, The Gayton Kirk, Henrico

Rabbi Ben Romer, Congregation Or Ami, Richmond

Rabbi Martin Beifield, Congregation Beth Ahabah, Richmond

Rev. Dr. Drexel Rayford, Cofounder, The Epiphany Institute of Spirituality, Richmond

Rabbi Gary Creditor, Temple Beth-El, Richmond

Rev. Dr. Kharma Amos, Metropolitan Community Churches, Fairfax

Rabbi Lia Bass, Congregation Etz Hayim, Arlington

Darrell Headrick, Chaplain, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland

Rev. Dr. Davis Yeuell, Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.), Retired, Richmond

Rabbi Dennis Beck-Berman, Congregation Brith Achim, Petersburg

Rev. Dr. Cathie Stivers, Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Glen Allen

Rev. Stuart Schadt, Trinity Episcopal Church, Manassas

Rev. Jennifer Ryu, Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists

Rabbi Amy Schwartzman, Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church

Rev. Greg Ward, Bull Run Unitarian Universalists

Rabbi Jack Moline, Alexandria

Reverend Scott Sammler-Michael, Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church, Burke

Rev. Dr. L. Patrick Prest, Episcopal (retired), Richmond

Rev. Dr. David Ensign, Clarendon Presbyterian Church, Arlington

Rev. Dr. Terrye Williams, Hilton Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Newport News

Rev. Chaplain Martha J. Pittenger, Metropolitan Community Churches, Richmond

The Rev. Dr. Margee Iddings, Presbyterian Church (USA), Alexandria

Rev. Doug Norwood Hodges, United Church of Christ of Fredericksburg 

Rev. Dr. Jerrold L. Foltz, Wellspring United Church of Christ, Centreville

Rev. Melanie Miller, Sojourners United Church of Christ, Charlottesville

Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling

Rev. Mark J. Suriano, Transitional Associate Pastor, Rock Spring Congregational UCC, Arlington

Cantor Jason Kaufman, Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Alexandria

Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe, Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church

Rev. Warren Hammonds, Baptist, Richmond

Rev. David Niemeyer, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Richmond

Rev. James Papile, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Reston

POFEV (People of Faith for Equality in Virginia), P.O. Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220 • www.facebook.com/pofev

email info@pofev.org