Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Ever since learning of the tragic attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando this past Sunday, in which 49 people were brutally murdered and 53 others were critically injured, I have been praying about what to say to the people of this Diocese and the wider community. What do you say in the midst of such horror, tragic loss, sorrow, and pain?
All those who were killed and injured, their families and friends, and all who have been traumatized by this senseless act of violence have been and continue to be on my heart and mind, and in my prayers. I encourage you to keep them all in your prayers as well.
The Orlando Massacre – clearly directed against the LGBT community – is one more tragic incident in a growing number of horrific attacks on various individuals and groups, in our own country and around the world, by people filled with hate and a total disregard for human life. It was exactly one year ago this week that our nation was stunned by the hate-filled and racially motivated slaughter of nine African-American Christian men and women in Charleston, South Carolina who were attending a prayer service. Last August, ISIS militants executed 12 Syrian Christians, including a 12-year-old boy. Some were beheaded, others were crucified. The women were raped before being killed. Twenty-one Egyptian Christians suffered a similar fate when they were beheaded on the beach along the southern Mediterranean Coast in February of 2015.
From the very beginning, when evil entered the world and corrupted the human race, Satan has tricked people into using race, religion, ethnic backgrounds, nationality, social and economic status, political views, sexual orientation, and gender to divide us from each other and to justify prejudice and intolerance for those who are different. Whatever form it might take, each is symptomatic of a hardened and unforgiving heart. If the insanity of the Orlando Massacre, the Emanuel AME Church killings, the barbaric slaughter of Syrian and Egyptian Christians, and the countless other acts of prejudicial hate-filled violence are ever to come to an end, the hardened and unforgiving hearts of the perpetrators will have to be dealt with. The only known antidote for a hardened and unforgiving heart is the love of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is calling us, as His disciples and ambassadors, to speak His truth in love and to be a channel of His love, mercy and healing grace, even in the midst of our own times of sorrow, suffering and loss. We can’t do so in our own power, but we can do so through the power and presence of His Holy Spirit who lives and dwells within us. Jesus has promised to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
There is no power greater or more effective than God’s love in dealing with the hatred and prejudicial forces that threaten to divide us and destroy the world. Jesus came to save the world not through violence, but through love – His perfect unconditional all-sacrificial love as displayed on the cross.
May our Lord Jesus Christ give us the grace and desire to love one another as He loves us (even amongst our differences), to see one another as He sees us (each created in the image and likeness of God), and to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. God Bless You! Amen!
In Christ’s Love
The Rt. Rev. William H. Love
Ninth Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Albany