[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Worshipers at Episcopal Churches in middle and north Georgia on Sunday will be asked to join Episcopalians nationwide in working to reverse the country’s culture of violence.
The Rt. Rev. Rob Wright, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, on Tuesday issued a letter to clergy and parishes asking that they sign a petition urging elected leaders to enact significant gun control after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Bishop Wright’s letter included the following petition:
“The killing of the Holy Innocents’ of Newtown, Conn., has moved our nation and our state to tears. Now it must move us to action. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we must confront our nation’s addiction to violence and guns.
“We therefore call upon our elected leaders to move immediately to enact significant gun control that honors liberty but establishes new protections for the citizens of our nation. We believe both goals can be achieved. We pledge our support and our prayers to help make this happen.”
The national Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations issued its own call to action Wednesday.
The announcement asked all Episcopal churches to commemorate the deaths in Newtown on Dec. 28, which is the annual commemoration of the Holy Innocents murdered by Herod, who ordered that all male children two and younger be killed in an effort to kill the infant Jesus.
“As our hearts and minds struggle to comprehend the tragedy of young lives cut short, Holy Innocents Day this year offers an opportunity for grace, hope, and inspiration for the days ahead,” the national church office said.
“It offers an opportunity ‘to awaken us’ as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her message immediate after the shootings, ‘to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day’ and challenge us ‘to work toward a different future.’”
Episcopal clergy nationwide are also being asked to call upon members of their congregation to “hold our nation’s leaders accountable for creating public policies that address this cycle of violence.”
The Episcopal Church has, for many years, called for policies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals (and to make certain assault weapons impossible to own), as well as to promote better availability of mental-health care and other measures designed to address the causes and effects of violence in our communities. Most have not become law because of a culture in Washington that has allowed these policies to become politicized or driven by partisan rhetoric.
In these difficult days after the Sandy Hook shooting, there are some encouraging signs that this gridlock in Washington is abating. We’ve seen this before in the wake of tragedy, however. Ultimate change will require building an immense advocacy network, creating a comprehensive strategy to address the problem from many angles, and bringing together people of many different viewpoints. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is working to create such a comprehensive advocacy strategy, as well as a nationwide network of advocates.
Locally, Wright has provided a voice of Christian response since the tragedy of the shootings Dec. 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Immediately after hearing of the attack Wright offered the following prayer for the 20 children and six educators killed, for their families and friends, the people of Newtown and all affected by the tragedy:
“Merciful God, whose own innocent Son was murdered, comfort the families of all those who were killed today in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Assure us through your Spirit that they are in peace and joy now with You in that place where there is no sorrow or sighing. But, not only that gracious God, give us the will and the courage to confront our addiction to violence and guns.
“Help our President and every elected official to find the resolve necessary to pass legislation that will make our nation great in safety and in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In addition, Wright provided a document from the National Association of School Psychologists on how to talk with children about safety and violence.
Wright offered additional prayers for the victims and the perpetrator of the crime during the ordination on Saturday of new deacons in the Episcopal Church at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta.
On Tuesday, Wright spoke on the CNN Newsroom program about the need for people of faith to pray for those directly affected by this tragedy and for those who have been touched by the horror inflicted by this violent act.
Wright is the 10th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. He leads a diocese founded in 1907 that includes most of middle and north Georgia. With some 56,000 members it is the 9th largest Episcopal Diocese. It is comprised of 96 parishes plus campus ministries at nine Georgia colleges and universities.