On Monday, March 25, the bishops of the Diocese of Connecticut will lead those gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square, near the White House, in walking the way of the cross between the White House and the Capitol as a way to stand witness to the spread of gun violence. They say:
We are taking our witness to our nation’s capital to say to our political leaders and to our country that we will no longer be silent while violence permeates our world, our society, our Church, our homes and ourselves.
Our faith calls us to be ministers of reconciliation, to give voice to the voiceless and to strive for justice in the name of our Lord. The horrific slaughter of children and adults in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown in our home state, and the day-to-day shootings and deaths of our children and young people in cities and towns across our nation, call us to prayer and action and to work for peace. [more]
For those who are unable to journey to Washington to take part in the walk, the Diocese of Connecticut has made the Holy Week Witness liturgy to be used on the walk available to all.
Below please find Bishop Stephen T. Lane’s letter to the Maine Congressional delegation. The Episcopal House of Bishop’s recent word to the Church on gun violence is available here.
An Open Letter to Members of the Maine Congressional Delegation on Preventing Gun Violence
Last week, at the spring meeting of The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, I was deeply affected by Bishop Laura Ahrens of the Diocese of Connecticut speaking of her experience as a pastor and church leader in the days following the tragic shootings in Newtown. “There’s no one to impress when your heart is broken,” she said.
While The Episcopal Church has, beginning in 1976, repeatedly lobbied for the strengthening of laws related to selling and licensing firearms, I believe that it is now time for people of all faiths to raise our voices in the public square. With thousands of other faith leaders across the U.S., I contend that “to refuse to take the steps we know would reduce harm is a violation of religious values so severe that we are compelled to speak out.” [www.faithsagainstgunviolence.org]
I recognize that Maine has a long tradition of hunting and responsible gun ownership, and I firmly believe that legislation requiring universal background checks, limiting high capacity magazines, and placing restrictions on certain types of military-style weapons will not impinge on the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners. Our greater responsibility, however, as people entrusted with the common good, is to protect the innocent from gun violence – whether it stems from the domestic violence that too often plagues communities across Maine or from the horrific acts of a rampage shooter.
I commend the recent bill passed by the Senate and co-sponsored by Senator Collins that tightens gun trafficking and, if also passed in the House, will go a long way to keep guns purchased in Maine from being transported and resold across state lines. I further urge you to support Senator Schumer’s bill requiring universal background checks on nearly all purchases and requiring states to improve reporting of felons and those with major mental health issues to a national database.
This week the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, released a statement wherein we “particularly grieve those killed by senseless gun violence in the many contexts from which we come. We lament and have cried over the widely reported mass shootings in this country, recalling tragedies like Aurora, Oak Creek and Newtown. We are outraged by the too often unseen and unacknowledged daily massacre of our young people in cities such as Chicago, Newark, Baltimore, Port-au-Prince, and Tegucigalpa. This carnage must stop.”
As a leader of the faith community in Maine, I commit to beginning conversations in our communities, in collaboration with other denominations. I envision conversations that would allow us to openly discuss how we as Mainers wish to live the balance between protecting our neighbors and children from needless violence and honoring the traditions and rights of all people. That’s my job, and I will do it. I urge you, as Maine’s elected leaders, to put your whole hearts and minds to the task of creating and supporting legislation that promotes communities where all people can live in safety, security, and peace; a country where, as the prophet Zechariah dreams, “old men and women shall again sit in the streets…And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing.” Together, let us make it so.
Thank you for your close attention to this critical issue. I would welcome opportunities for further conversation.
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine