As details about the alleged shooter, his motivation for the shooting and those affected by Sunday's mass shooting - the deadliest history for the state of Texas - continue to unfold, Bishop Lowry and local church leaders are calling on the people of the Central Texas Conference to pray. According to authorities, the mass shooting at a Baptist Church in the rural Texas town of Sutherland Springs, which claimed the lives of 26 people (age 18-months to 77) was neither racially nor religiously motivated; however law enforcement has noted that there was a "domestic situation" within the suspect's family.
After learning of the shooting, Bishop Lowry, who is currently attending the fall meeting of the UMC Council of Bishops, called on the people and churches of the CTC to be in persistent prayer for the victims, their families, the first responders and all involved in another horrific, deadly and senseless mass shooting. He "We must continue to be a people of faith, hope and love - a people who offer support and care to all, but especially those affected by Sunday's shooting in Sutherland Springs."
Bishop Lowry also reminded that as the grace-filled followers of Jesus Christ, we must continue to reject the forces of hatred, fear, violence and anger, focus on the fruits of the Spirit such as love, patience, kindness and peace [Galatians 5:22-23] and resist the temptation to give into fear. "The house of the Lord remains a place of safety and refuge," he said. "Remember the words of Jesus from the 14th chapter of John's Gospel: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don't be troubled or afraid.' [John 14:1,27 CEB]."
Please watch ctcumc.org for more information on ways to help those directly affected by this shooting. The following are some resources (gleaned from a very quick search on umc.org and other UMC General Board and Commission websites) on how people of faith can best respond to tragedy.
If you are wondering what the official UMC position is on gun violence, you need look no further than The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church
, which contains the official UMC positions on many issues, including gun violence. Resolution 3428 in the 2016 Book of Resolutions, “Our Call to End Gun Violence,” calls upon The United Methodist Church to do several things - here are some highlights provided by umc.org. Read the resolution in its entirety here.
Conversations and prayer
The Book of Resolutions
calls congregations “to make preventing gun violence a regular part of our conversations and prayer times.” In order to be part of the solution, we need to talk and pray. Congregations are encouraged to use resources such as Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities
, a free, downloadable resource from United Methodist Church and Society
Assist those affected
Congregations are also called 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.” Together and individually, we walk with others through the processes of grief and healing.
Promote gun safety
United Methodist gun owners are called upon to help prevent gun violence by safely storing and securing guns, and by teaching and practicing gun safety.
United Methodist congregations that have not experienced gun violence are called to join with communities of other denominations and faiths who have experienced gun violence “in order to support them and learn from their experiences.”
All United Methodist congregations are also called upon to lead or join “gatherings for public prayer at sites where gun violence has occurred and partner with law enforcement to help prevent gun violence.”
Encourage legal sales
The Book of Resolutions suggests United Methodists “partner with law-enforcement and community groups” to encourage “full legal compliance with appropriate standards and laws” to the sale and ownership of guns.
Prohibit guns on church property
To help prevent gun violence United Methodist congregations are “to display signs that prohibit carrying guns onto church property.”
Advocate for regulation
Finally, we are called “to advocate at the local and national levels for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence.” Some of these measures include:
Universal background checks on all gun purchases, ensuring that all guns are sold through licensed retailers, and establishing a minimum age of 21 years for a gun purchase or possession.
Ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty.
Prohibiting those convicted of violent crimes, those under restraining order due to the threat of violence, and those with serious mental illness that may be a danger to themselves or others from purchasing a gun.
Ensuring greater access to services for those suffering from mental illness.
Banning magazine and weapons designed to fire multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled.
Promoting technologies that help law-enforcement agencies trace crime guns and promote public safety.