Bishop Crist, Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Words From the Bishop - Good is stronger than Evil, Love is Stronger than Hate.
Will the ELCA Bishops make a statement on the Orlando massacre? Yes. We already have. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre several years ago, the bishops adopted a statement abhorring violence. In the years since then we have experienced more and more mass shootings--in a theater, in a community center, in a church, on campuses. A year ago we watched with horror the race-related Mother Emmanuel shootings. And now Orlando, motivated by hatred of LGBTQ people. We are a society of laws, designed to protect people. We welcome diverse opinions. But we do not tolerate mass murder. As Christians we reject violence and hatred. Please read the words of the ELCA Bishops below:
A Pastoral Letter on Violence adopted by the ELCA
Conference of Bishops, March 4, 2013
"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
Jeremiah 31.15 and Matthew 2: 18
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Every faithful caregiver who sits with victims of violence knows what we know - as God's
church, we are called to reduce violence and should, in most cases, restrain ourselves from using violence. Whether or not statistics show that overall violence has declined in recent years, every person wounded or killed is a precious child of God.
As bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we lament the tragedy of gun violence in our country. We are grieved by the way violence threatens and destroys life. We affirm the current soul searching and shared striving to find a way to a better future.
While the church grapples with this call to reduce violence and make our communities safer, we recognize that before God we are neither more righteous because we have guns nor are we more righteous when we favor significant restrictions. Brokenness and sin are not somehow outside of us. Even the best of us are capable of great evil. As people of God we begin by confessing our own brokenness - revealed in both our actions and our failure to act. We trust that God will set us free and renew us in our life's work to love our neighbors.
In this time of public attention to gun violence, local communities of faith have a unique opportunity to engage this work. As bishops, we were thankful to recognize the many resources our church has already developed (see below). We begin by listening: listening to God, to Scripture, and to each other. Providing a safe place for people to share their own stories, together we discern courses of action. Together we act. And together we return to listening - to assess the effectiveness of our efforts to reduce violence.
In the Large Catechism Luther says, "We must not kill, either by hand, heart, or word, by signs or gestures, or by aiding and abetting." Violence begins in the human heart. Words can harm or heal. To focus only on guns is to miss the depth of our vocation. Yet, guns and access are keys to the challenges we face.
We recognize that we serve in different contexts and have different perspectives regarding what
can and should be done. But as we live out our common vocations, knowing that the work will take many forms, we are committed to the work of reducing and restraining violence. This shared work is a sign of our unity in Christ.
We invite you, our sisters and brothers, to join us
in this work:
*The work of lament - creating safe space for naming, praying, grieving, caring for one another, and sharing the hope in God's promise of faithfulness
*The work of moral formation and discernment - listening to scripture, repenting, modeling conflict resolution in daily life, addressing bullying, conducting respectful conversations, and discerning constructive strategies to reduce violence.
*The work of advocacy - acting to address the causes and effects of violence. Knowing that we are not saved by this work, we undertake it trusting in Christ Jesus, who laid down his life for the world and who calls us to be peacemakers, to pursue justice, and to protect the vulnerable.
In this, as in all things, Christ is with us. Thanks be to God.
*Video: "We have Work to Do" by Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-Service/News/Releases.aspx?a=527
* "Community Violence" a social message, http://www.elca.org/socialissues
* "The Body of Christ and Mental Illness" a social message, http://www.elca.org/socialissues
* "Hearing the Cries: Faith and Criminal Justice,"a proposed social statement
* "Peace: God's Gift, Our Calling," a 1995 social statement.
* "Ban of Military-Style Semi-Automatic Weapons," 1989 social policy resolution,http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Resolutions/Search-by-Topic.aspx#guncontrol (both social policy resolutions are at address)
* "Community Violence - Gun Control," 1993 social policy resolution
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Regional Minister Rev. Fletcher, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Montana
Dear Montana Disciples,
Please find below information from Florida Regional Minister Juan Rodriguez outlining some of the ways Disciples are responding to the recent shooting in Orlando Florida. I hope you will lift up in prayer all these folks serving on the front lines of this tragedy. .
On Saturday, I will be walking in solidarity with the gay, lesbian, transgender community of Montana in the Pride Parade held in Great Falls because I believe the United States must be a safe place for the diversity of our human family. I'd be happy to have you join me.
From Pastor Juan...
The impact of this tragedy on our Disciples of Christ congregations has been as responders serving the victims and their families and the broader community. Many Florida Disciples work and serve as fire fighters, police officers, nurses, doctors, medical technicians, and others who are offering care in the aftermath of the attack.
Our clergy who serve as chaplains have been extending care including Rev. Dierdre Jarrett, full time chaplain with Orlando Health and member at Pershing Avenue Christian Church; Rev. Leslie McCarrick, pastor at Winter Park Christian Church and on-call chaplain with Orlando Health. Rev. Lori Lynn Wachter, Associate Regional Minister and Part-Time Chaplain with Orlando Health, will work a hospital staff support event on Tuesday.
Our congregations are working to assist in providing care:
Rev. Melinda Keenan Wood and the Pershing Avenue congregation have opened their church building as a staging area for NPR as it offers coverage to the nation and the world.
A family therapist, from our Iglesia Cristiana Hispana del Norte in Casselberry (where Rev. Hector Santiago is pastor) and her entire staff, have been present with the loved ones of the deceased and the injured, free of charge.
Rev. Dr. Betsy Goehrig, pastor of Blessing Christian Church in Tallahassee, is working as a Chaplain with the Salvation Army in Orlando.
Our pastor at Ocoee Christian Church, Rev. Margaret Marquis, as Police Chaplain, is ready to support the police officers of Ocoee as they take on added responsibilities.
Orlando Central Christian Church, where Rev. Tuck Norvell is pastor and Rev. Jenn Norvell serves, is creating care packets for first responders and caregivers, and is offering space for prayer and support.
First Christian Church of DeLand, where Rev. Linda Kemp-Baird is pastor, is opening their sanctuary for a service of prayer tonight for the whole community.
St. Nicholas Park Christian Church in Jacksonville, were David Fox serves as Interim Pastor, is leading a community walk tonight at 6:00pm, from Hamburger Mary's to their sanctuary where there will be a service of prayer and support along with singing by the Jacksonville Men's Chorus.
Bishop Brookhart, Episcopal Diocese of Montana
Thoughts on the Events in Orlando
When I awoke in my hotel room on Sunday morning a friend had sent me a message telling me to watch the news. I was shocked and sickened by the slaughter of men and women in Orlando.
This sort of ugly event calls us to examine our hearts and minds in the presence of God.
I lay before you three questions that may help you as you seek to pray and act in light of the murder of many innocent people.
First, we are we such a violent people? Why are we surrounded by so much savage brutality? In part we have to remember that we are country founded in violence, even if it was for a righteous cause. But we are at the center of our beings Christians. We serve as Lord the one for whom peace is a sign of his presence, one who sought to end conflict and division.
Second, why the anti-gay feelings and actions? Certainly fear and misunderstanding are part of the reason, but it is clearly a distortion of our relationship with Christ to indulge in judgment, condemnation, and violence against people who are gay by reason of birth. In the end, judgment belongs to God, not us.
Third, why the defensiveness about guns? I do not want to press that hot button about a proper understanding of the second amendment, but surely we need a way to cope with the excess of firearms and the ease of buying them. To me it is clear that guns play an inordinately large role in our society. Again, our Lord asks us to be agents of peace and compassion, not violence and division.
In the days ahead I pledge to continue in honest prayer and examination of my heart in light of the terrors in Orlando. I invite you to do the same.
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