“I am trying to sort of stand where I think Jesus wants a public church to stand”

Dean Gary Hall of Washington National Cathedral continues to fascinate the media in the nation’s capital. This week he is featured on the website of the National Journal. Courtney McBride writes:

In his first year, Hall has delivered fiery sermons on gun violence, taken part in press conferences urging lawmakers to pass new firearms regulations, and rallied outside the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage. He took part in the interfaith service at Shiloh Baptist Church commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He plans to direct the cathedral in an examination of issues of race in the United States, paying particular attention to the “long history of institutional racism” in the Episcopal Church. Farther afield, Hall aims to engage faith leaders in advocacy for LGBT rights around the world.

Hall does not view himself as courting controversy. “The positions that I’ve spoken out on—race, sexuality, and gun violence—are not morally ambiguous for Christian people,” he said. To his surprise, there has been no significant backlash for advocacy for LGBT equality. The cathedral has only begun to delve into issues of race, but Hall says that “everybody is at least notionally supportive right now.”

By contrast, there has been blowback from his outspokenness on gun violence. In the weeks following the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., Hall said, there was a sense of “shared purpose,” but the involvement of the National Rifle Association ultimately “politicized” the issue.

“I’m not trying to really rock the boat,” Hall said, “but I am trying to sort of stand where I think Jesus wants a public church to stand.” He is careful to contextualize his advocacy efforts, explaining that there are many other issues on which he has declined to preach. “I’ve spoken about what I would call public theology issues, but I would make a distinction between that and what I would call just reflexively political issues.

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