Message from Bishop Wallace-Padgett: The Right and Responsibility to Vote


Dear Friends,

As the November 3 Election Day approaches I am reminded of an experience my Mom had as a teenager. A voracious reader who loved history and politics, at the age of thirteen she was told by an influential adult in her life, “Idella, women do not need to vote. Politics are for men.” Needless to say, she rejected this theory. Indeed, it has inspired her to vote in every election for the past sixty-plus years. She even did so four years ago from a hospital bed, aided by my 83-year-old Dad who brought an absentee ballot for her to complete and then hurried to deliver it at the appropriate drop-off location in time for her vote to be counted.

My Mom has not always voted for the candidate of my choice. (Sometimes our voting aligns — and on other occasions we cancel out each other’s votes). Who one votes for is not my point at all. Rather I am blogging about this to remind each of us that every eligible U.S. citizen over 18 — whatever their gender, age, race, ethnicity, theological bent or political inclination — has the right and responsibility to vote and to ensure that others have the freedom to do the same.

Paragraph 164 of The 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline describes the importance of voting in two statements.

Political Responsibility: “The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust . . .” Paragraph 164B

Basic Freedoms and Human Rights: “We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to free and fair elections . . . The form and the leaders of all governments should be determined by exercise of the right to vote guaranteed to all adult citizens.” Paragraph 164A

The theology behind these statements is rooted in a deep commitment by United Methodists of the significance of every person in God’s eyes. It also affirms the collective discernment of the whole community as opposed to only a segment of society. This aspect of our Wesleyan heritage is held in common with many denominations and religions in the United States and other parts of the world.

During these days leading up to the 2020 elections I encourage each of us to: 1) prayerfully discern which candidates for public office to support . . . 2) vote . . . and 3) do all in our power to ensure that every eligible U.S. citizen has accessibility to voter registration, mail-in ballots and convenient polling sites. The actions of voting and ensuring that others have the freedom to do the same are expressions of our faith and witness.

My Mom has voted in every election since 1956 and is set to do so again on November 3. So am I. After all, it is my right and responsibility to vote and to work to make it possible for every eligible U.S. citizen to have that same opportunity.

As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.

Debra Wallace-Padgett
Resident Bishop
North Alabama Conference

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