Bishops United Against Gun Violence calls church to pray, elected leaders to act

'One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.'

Posted Nov 6, 2017

Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group of more than 70 Episcopal bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, released the following statement on the shootings on Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Texas:

In the wake of the heartbreaking shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, we find ourselves both calling people to prayer, and wishing that the word did not come so readily to the lips of elected leaders who are quick to speak, but take no action on behalf of public safety.

In prayer, Christians commend the souls of the faithful departed to the mercy and love of God. We beseech our Creator to comfort the grieving and shield the vulnerable. Prayer is not an offering of vague good wishes. It is not a spiritual exercise that successfully completed exempts one from focusing on urgent issues of common concern. Prayer is not a dodge. In prayer we examine our own hearts and our own deeds to determine whether we are complicit in the evils we deplore. And if we are, we resolve to take action; we resolve to amend our lives.

As a nation, we must acknowledge that we idolize violence, and we must make amends. Violence of all kinds denigrates humankind; it stands against the will of God and the way of Jesus the Christ. The shooting in Sutherland Springs brings the issue of domestic violence, a common thread in many mass killings, into sharp relief. It is not only essential that we keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, but that we, as a society, reject ideologies of male dominance that permeate our culture and the history of our churches.

Each of us has a role to play in our repentance. Elected representatives bear the responsibility of passing legislation that protects our citizenry. If our representatives are not up to this responsibility, we must replace them.

In the meantime, however, we ask that in honor of our many murdered dead, elected leaders who behave as though successive episode of mass slaughter are simply the price our nation pays for freedom stop the reflexive and corrosive repetition of the phrase “thoughts and prayers.”

One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.



Comments (7)

  1. Richard Garber says:

    Bless the voice and witness of Bishops United Against Gun Violence. AR-15’s are designed for the mass killing of human beings and have no other legitimate purpose. They are weapons of war. They have no other purpose except profit.

  2. The Rev Ann Van Dervoort says:

    Thank you for your prayer and statement. I am in complete agreement. So, what are the bishops planning to do, and how can I and others help?

  3. Fr. carlton Kelley says:

    This will form part of my sermon for Sunday. I was taken aback by one news commentator who introduced his coverage of this horror by saying this was the deadliest mass shooting in 35 days. They have become so common place that we now number them between days of occurrence – not years, not months, but days. Our guns and the lobbies that support them are clearly idols. And, of course, we all know – or should know – that idols only give death. Those protecting this violence, for that is what they are doing, must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

  4. Frank Bergen says:

    I would urge this statement be read in all our churches next Sunday, and most certainly in every church whose bishop is one of the Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

  5. Doug Desper says:

    The Texas church shooter was dismissed from the Air Force for issues including domestic abuse. Because he was dismissed the Air Force was required to file the dismissal with the national gun registry, which would have prevented him from purchasing guns. They neglected to do so and the shooter purchased guns in 2 states. We have strict gun laws that begin with the need to report. It has been found that there is a terrible under-reporting to the national gun registry — which is a weak point. Secondly, people need to speak up and use common sense. In many of the past acts of gun violence there were massively disturbed people who were known in their families and friend circles. Had these people been reported for deteriorated mental health — and people kept their guns locked away — there would have been a more positive difference rather than the carnage. Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary shooter, was on the autism spectrum and was battling mental health issues and his mother decided it would be good to teach him to use a gun! Nancy Lanza took him to a gun range regularly, but worse, she didn’t secure weapons at home. She paid for that with her life as Adam shot and killed her and then went on to kill 20 students and then himself. People need to use common sense! Close the gaps by reporting to the gun registry those persons disallowed under the law to buy a gun, and secondly have eyes wide open on people in families and friend circles who are mentally challenged or exhibit violent behavior. The government can’t do that for us. We have to do that.

  6. P.J. Cabbiness says:

    Our post modern, derivative theology prevalent in the church today fails to recognize the presence of evil. There is no legislation that can prevent the ultimate, violent expression of a deranged mind and a corrupt soul that is being influenced and manipulated by a truly diabolical force. There are dozens of laws already in place that theoretically should have prevented this massacre. They had no effect. This isn’t to say that we do not need to reform and correct deficiencies in our gun laws, clearly we do. Common sense gun control is essential. The types of weapons being legally sold in our country is absurd and have no justifiable connection to hunting, sport shooting or personal defense. However, the core issue is one of good vs. evil, light vs. darkness. We have allowed our culture to embrace violence, cynicism, sexual harassment and abuse, cruelty, etc. Our video games, movies, TV shows, comedy acts, Facebook interactions, Twitter posts, current political interactions, etc. contribute to this and we just go along with it. We must stop. The Bishops were right in many respects. The male dominated, machismo, multiple gun purchasing, domestically violent young male demographic is a harmful twisted misinterpretation of Christian manhood. I am saddened, angered and frustrated. I think we all realize that we have to do something to stop this.

  7. Sherri Frances says:

    Kudos to the comment to “Stop using the phrase thoughts and prayers without taking action”
    Every time our officials say they ( the survivors)have our thoughts and prayers I just cringe Those words are so hollow without any follow up with action against violence—

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