House of Deputies

of The Episcopal Church

Finding Common Ground: 2017 Christmas Message

The Hon. Rose Sconiers is a deputy from the Diocese of Western New York.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, we are reminded that this is a time of peace and reconciliation. The angels that announced the birth of baby Jesus said: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14) We need God’s peace today more than ever. We are fighting political and economic battles at every turn and the divide between the races is growing. Politics have become so divisive that our elected representatives cannot talk to each other anymore. The Christmas season provides us with the opportunity to work for peace by finding common ground.

Let us seek to find common ground by subscribing to the following principles:

1. Restoring a sense of common purpose
We have more in common than what divides us; beneath all the differences of race, religion and politics, we are one people.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

“We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)

As God’s children, we need to be at peace with God and one another by staying connected to God through prayer and worship. In our effort to find common ground, we must take God’s peace everywhere, especially to our halls of government as well as our churches.

2. Learning to disagree without being disagreeable
It is possible to compromise without compromising the principles that we believe in, such as honesty and decency. We must be willing to listen to each other without demonizing one another when we do not agree. Common ground requires civility!

3. Promoting just and fair inclusion for all
At this time of peace and reconciliation, we need to focus on the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves. We need to offer peace to the forgotten and downtrodden and become peacemakers in our churches, communities, and ultimately the world.

Angela Glover Blackwell, president of PolicyLink, wrote in her article titled “The Curb-Cut Effect,” “The antidote to inequality is equity…It means eliminating barriers to economic inclusion and civic participation…[W]e rise or fall together. Without equity, there can be neither progress nor prosperity…”

This statement underscores our need to reach out to people everywhere who are willing to engage in thoughtful discourse aimed at understanding that God’s plan for peace on earth is countries where everyone, regardless of race, religion or politics, can participate and prosper.

My own story is one of peace and reconciliation. In my role as judge and community leader, I learned to embrace these principles and to find common ground. I was privileged to be elected to the City Court of Buffalo and the New York State Supreme Court, but not without a struggle. In each election, my victory was challenged and I had to sustain a ballot recount before being certified as the newly elected judge. These challenges allowed me to experience the peace of God and to share my story with others.

Recently, I shared this story with a young woman who had been elected to a county legislative seat on her first attempt. She was facing resentment from those she had defeated and their supporters. My advice to her was one of reconciliation and building peace with those who disagreed with her. By sharing our story with others, we allow God’s peace to enter into the world. My charge to this newly elected legislator was to share her story with other young people so that they too can experience the peace of God.

In my other role as a community leader, I have presided over several organizations that are devoted to improving the lives of young people and the less fortunate. One example is the Racial Equity Roundtable (RER), an initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo. The RER has racial equity goals that involve individuals, organizations and businesses. Success for the RER relies on finding common ground!

As we contemplate the beginning of a new year, let us continue to offer peace and reconciliation to others as we strive to find common ground.

The Hon. Rose H. Sconiers is a deputy from the Diocese of Western New York.