Pastoral Letter Regarding Gun Violence | March 25, 2021
Dearest friends in Christ,
It has been hard for me to find words to address the recent gun violence in Atlanta and Boulder. I have expressed to God my anger, deep sadness, cries for help and boldness to speak God’s truth. Working through my emotions and grief is a personal matter, one which translated to silence this last week on such public matters. I have wanted to weigh my words carefully and faithfully. It will be impossible for me to share all the words I wish to say in this one letter. However, I will begin here, and continue to share in days/weeks/months to come.
First, I wish to start by pointing us to our United Methodist heritage, doctrine and values. The following statements are excerpts from our Book of Resolutions: Our Call to End Gun Violence (you can read the full statement here - the statement offers practical steps for discussion and action. I strongly urge you to read this well researched information):
Jesus' call to his followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) is tied to intimate relationship with God, and echoes God's dreams for peace for all of creation as expressed in Micah 4:1-4…
The stunning imagery of Micah's dream is the transformation of weapons into instruments of harvesting food that occurs after the judgments are handed down to the nations. The transformation is not complete until the nations participate in their own transformation. The work that went into creating the weapons will be matched by the human effort it will take to transform those weapons into peaceful instruments. God does not collect or hide the weapons from the nations, nor does God transform the weapons outside of human effort. The text states that the nations themselves, "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks."...
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.
The second thing I want to share with you is my deep concern of the undercurrents at play in each of the recent shootings, which we fail to talk about fully in the church: Mental health and the view of women from societal perspective. I do not discount the role of racism and/or white supremacy also at play. Again, I cannot in this one letter express everything I understand about these issues, however I am asking this congregation to take a journey of learning and conversing about these justice issues in the months to come.
Lastly, I wish to encourage all of us to resist the temptations to 1) ignore the deep feelings we should have when loss of life affects a community and 2) wait to act until the pandemic is behind us. If we look back on the past year which has brought to light a sense of apathy towards death - whether from a virus killing nearly 546,000 (as reported on March 25), brutality by members of law enforcement agencies against people of color, gun violence against persons of color and women, and suicide plaguing our young and elder neighbors - we should once again feel the urgency to address with boldness and peace that which keeps God’s children from living whole and vibrant lives. This is our call as followers of Jesus and as members of God’s extended family.
Take heart, good people of SonRise Church! God continues to be with us and will give us everything we need to do the work of bringing peace, equity and hope to our community. God has placed within our hearts the ethical and moral imperatives that align with God’s will, giving us all the tools and knowledge to help bring about the change needed in this world. Whatever has been left undone in the past can now be worked out as we move forward. We are loved into the work of peace, we are loved through the acts of confession and repentance we must take, and we are loved into new life - all of this embodied in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus the Christ!
I can’t wait to “see” you all in the coming weeks as we return to worship in and around our physical church building. What joy we have even in the midst of sorrow!
With Shalom and Love,