NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
To: People of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan
Statement from Bishops Against Gun Violence
October 2, 2017
We share in the grief and horror of people across our country and, indeed, around the world in the wake of last night's mass shooting in Las Vegas. We have spoken with our Bishops United Against Gun Violence colleague and brother in Christ, Bishop Dan Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, and we have offered him and the people of Nevada our prayers and promises of assistance. We stand in solidarity with the diocese and the people of Nevada as they cope with this massacre.
It has become clichéd at moments such as these to offer thoughts and prayers. But as Christians, we must reflect upon the mass killings that unfold with such regularity in our country. And we must pray: for the victims, for their loved ones, for all who attended to the victims in the immediacy of the shooting, for the first responders who do so much to mitigate the awful effects of these shootings, and for the medical personnel who will labor for many days to save the wounded. We must also enter into the sorrow of those who are most deeply affected by our country's cripplingly frequent outbursts of lethal gun violence. We must look into our own hearts and examine the ways in which we are culpable or complicit in the gun violence that surrounds us every day.
And then, having looked, we must act. As Christians, we are called to engage in the debates that shape how Americans live and die, especially when they die due to violence or neglect. Yet a probing conversation on issues of gun violence continues to elude us as a nation, and this failure is cause for repentance and for shame. It is entirely reasonable in the wake of mass killings perpetrated by murderers with assault weapons to ask lawmakers to remove such weapons from civilian hands. It is imperative to ask why, as early as this very week, Congress is likely to pass a bill making it easier to buy silencers, a piece of equipment that make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to detect gunfire as shootings are unfolding.
Even as we hold our lawmakers accountable, though, we must acknowledge that a comprehensive solution to gun violence, whether it comes in the form of mass shootings, street violence, domestic violence or suicide, will not simply be a matter of changing laws, but of changing lives. Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness. From the White House to the halls of Congress to our own towns and perhaps at our own tables, we nurse grudges and resentments rather than cultivating the respect, concern and affection that each of us owes to the other. The leaders who should be speaking to us of reconciliation and the justice that must precede it too often instead stoke flames of division and mistrust. We must, as a nation, embrace prayerful resistance before our worse impulses consume us.
We join with the people of God in fervent prayer that our country will honor those murdered and wounded in Las Vegas by joining in acts of repentance, healing, and public conversation about the gun violence that has ripped us apart, yet again.
On Tuesday, October 3 at 9 a.m. Pacific time, churches across the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada will toll their bells in mourning for the victims of the shooting in Las Vegas. Bishops United Against Gun Violence invites congregations across the country to toll their own bells in solidarity at the same time: 9 am Pacific/10 am Mountain/11 am Central/Noon Eastern. The number of times the bells are rung will be based on the number of dead as reported at that time including the perpetrator of the violence. Watch for updates on the Episcopalians Against Gun Violence Facebook page.
A Word to the Church from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops
Gathered in Fairbanks, Alaska, September 21-26, 2017
The bishops of The Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness. We came because:
• “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). God is the Lord of all the earth and of all people; we are one family, the family of God.
• “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are … members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The residents of interior Alaska whom we met are not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.
• People have “become hard of hearing, and shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15). We are blind and deaf to the groaning of the earth and its peoples; we are learning the art of prayerful listening.
What does listening to the earth and its people mean? For us bishops, it meant:
• Getting out and walking the land, standing beside the rivers, sitting beside people whose livelihood depends on that land. We had to slow down and live at the pace of the stories we heard. We had to trust that listening is prayer.
• Recognizing that struggles for justice are connected. Racism, the economy, violence of every kind, and the environment are interrelated. We have seen this reality not only in the Arctic, but also at Standing Rock in the Dakotas, in the recent hurricanes, in Flint, Michigan, Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the violence perpetuated against people of color and vulnerable populations anywhere.
• Understanding that listening is deeply connected to healing. In many healing stories in the gospels, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” That is, he listened first and then acted.
What did we hear?
• “The weather is really different today,” one leader told us. “Now spring comes earlier, and fall lasts longer. This is threatening our lives because the permafrost is melting and destabilizing the rivers. We depend on the rivers.”
• The land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the caribou birth their calves is called the “sacred place where life begins,” so sacred the Gwich’in People do not set foot there. “Drilling here,” people said, “is like digging beneath the National Cathedral.”
• After shopping together, a native Episcopalian told one of us how hard it is to even secure food. “We can’t get good food here. We have to drive to Fairbanks. It is a two-hour trip each way.”
What we bishops saw and heard in Alaska is dramatic, but it is not unique. Stories like these can be heard in each of the nations where The Episcopal Church is present. They can be heard in our own communities. We invite you to join us, your bishops, and those people already engaged in this work, in taking time to listen to people in your dioceses and neighborhoods. Look for the connections among race, violence of every kind, economic disparity, and the environment. Then, after reflecting in prayer and engaging with scripture, partner with people in common commitment to the healing of God’s world.
God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.
A Prayer for Our Time and for the Earth
Dear God, Creator of the earth, this sacred home we share;
Give us new eyes to see the beauty all around and to protect the wonders of creation.
Give us new arms to embrace the strangers among us and to know them as family.
Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land
and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.
Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities
and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people
and to shape beloved community.
For you are the One who seeks the lost,
binds our wounds and sets us free,
and it is in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.
Greetings, Sisters and Brothers in Christ.
Hurricane Maria’s path over the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean is expected to bring significant hardship to those already affected by Hurricane Irma.
Episcopal Relief & Development is working closely with our partners in the region to reach the most vulnerable. We have created a new bulletin insert so that you can share information and an opportunity for compassionate response with members of your congregation.
Please continue to pray for all those impacted by hurricanes, for first responders who are conducting rescue operations and for church communities who are reaching out to care for their most vulnerable members and neighbors.
Contributions to the Hurricane Relief Fund will help Episcopal Relief & Development support Church and other local partners as they provide critical emergency assistance to those most in need.
Wishing you peace,
Senior Director, Engagement
Episcopal Relief & Development