To the faithful in Europe, and all people of good will,
Before becoming Bishop, I was rector in a parish in Fort Pierce, in the Diocese of Central Florida, whose see city is Orlando. The killer came from Fort Pierce, where he had worked as a guard at the courthouse across the street from our church. So I feel even more deeply shocked by this bloody act.
As with us in Paris last year, and Brussels more recently, the killer, Omar Mateen, was a home-grown terrorist, born and bred in the United States. He had found a way to channel his mental problems into the caricature of Islam promoted by ISIS. That group has been very successful in preying upon disturbed and immature people with their propaganda. What we can do is first, to pray for the spiritual resources to confront their lies, second, to help those people who are learning how to counter their manipulations, and third, to support local efforts to join with Muslims in condemning terror and promoting peace in the name of God.
It is ever more vital for us to maintain and make known our welcome of all people: God’s love makes no exceptions. No religion can ever justify marginalizing God’s beloved, let alone murder, and that includes LGBT people. My heart goes out to all those whose fears of being attacked for who they are have reawakened, thanks to this heinous act.
I am a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a large group of Episcopal bishops who are working to raise awareness of ways to stem the bloody tide of gun violence. While it is principally concerned with the United States, we in Europe know about gun violence as well. Everyone knows that American laws must be changed, so that people like Mateen cannot legally buy assault weapons ever again.
None of us should fear getting shot as we go about our everyday lives, but the reality of the recent shootings causes us all to consider our own safety and the safety of our loved ones. The wider culture, that too often promotes gunfire as a solution to problems, must be transformed, and we must all share responsibility for helping to initiate this work.
We in Paris are grateful to the soldiers who shield us from harm at church. But Episcopalians everywhere, including us, must hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches: end gun violence, in the name of the Prince of Peace.
May the souls of the departed find rest in Christ; may the wounded and all who care for them know the balm of God’s healing love; and may the Holy Spirit inspire and direct us to the work of making lasting peace. Amen.