To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men. Abraham Lincoln
As we had yet another week of gun violence in the United States, the words of Abraham Lincoln ring a resounding truth. Following each shooting, I pray this is the one that will unite our Country with the common mission to end the carnage.
However, after a few days of buzz, not much changes and soon another shooting occurs, with more lives lost. Our denomination is not shrouded in cowardice and has taken a clear stand on gun violence. The United Methodist Church, in the 2016 Book of Resolutions, provides direction for churches to address the situation.
As followers of Jesus, called to live into the reality of God’s dream of shalom as described by Micah, we must address the epidemic of gun violence so “that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in God’s paths.” Therefore, we call upon United Methodists to prayerfully address gun violence in their local context. Some of the ways in which to prevent gun violence include the following:
- For congregations to make preventing gun violence a regular part of our conversations and prayer times. Gun violence must be worshipfully and theologically reflected on, and we encourage United Methodist churches to frame conversations theologically by utilizing resources such as “Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities: Reflections on Gun Violence from Micah 4:1-4” produced by the General Board of Church and Society.
- For congregations to assist those affected by gun violence through prayer, pastoral care, creating space, and encouraging survivors to share their stories, financial assistance, and through identifying other resources in their communities as victims of gun violence and their families walk through the process of grieving and healing.
- For individual United Methodists who own guns as hunters or collectors to safely and securely store their guns and to teach the importance of practicing gun safety.
- For United Methodist congregations that have not experienced gun violence to form ecumenical and interfaith partnerships with faith communities that have experienced gun violence in order to support them and learn from their experiences.
- For United Methodist congregations to lead or join in ecumenical or interfaith gatherings for public prayer at sites where gun violence has occurred and partner with law enforcement to help prevent gun violence.
- For United Methodist congregations to partner with local law-enforcement agencies and community groups to identify gun retailers that engage in retail practices designed to circumvent laws on gun sales and ownership, encourage full legal compliance, and to work with groups like Heeding God’s Call that organize faith-based campaigns to encourage gun retailers to gain full legal compliance with appropriate standards and laws.
- For United Methodist congregations to display signs that prohibit carrying guns onto church property.
- For United Methodist congregations to advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence. Some of
- Universal background checks on all gun purchases
- Ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty
- Ensuring all guns are sold through licensed gun retailers
- Prohibiting all individuals convicted of violent crimes from purchasing a gun for a fixed time period
- Prohibiting all individuals under restraining order due to
threatof violence from purchasing a gun
- Prohibiting persons with serious mental illness, who pose a danger to themselves and their communities, from purchasing a gun
- Ensuring greater access to services for those suffering from mental illness
- Establishing a minimum age of 21 years for a gun purchase or possession
- Banning large-capacity ammunition magazines and weapons designed to fire multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled
- Promoting new technologies to aid law-enforcement agencies to trace crime guns and promote public safety.
Prayer is always the proper Christian response, but God also calls us to act. Silence regarding gun violence is not appropriate. We have been provided the blueprint for action by our local churches, please pray and respond accordingly.
Chair of Justice and Advocacy
The West Virginia Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is sponsoring the following opportunities to put our faith into action, all are invited to participate:
Saturday August 24, 10am Planning meeting at Panera Bread, Town Center Mall, Charleston – writing care cards for victims of gun violence.
Saturday September 8, 3:30pm planning meeting and preparation of letters to elected representatives, Room 1 Cabell County Public Library.