In the pastoral response that was emailed to you, I said that first, we must love unconditionally; second, we must pray; and third, we must act. Then I referred you to this post:
We must act, first, by asking, Why was the shooter allowed to purchase an automatic assault rifle in the first place–a weapon designed solely for use in war by the military to inflict a maximum number of casualties? Surely, the Second Amendment was not intended to grant us the right to bear weapons of mass destruction. An automatic assault rifle cannot be justified as a reasonable method of self-defense. The Book of Resolutions, adopted by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church, calls for reasonable gun control legislation to be enacted:
- support federal legislation in the US Congress to regulate the importation, manufacturing, sale, and possession of guns and ammunition by the general public. Such legislation should include provisions for the registration and licensing of gun purchasers and owners, appropriate background investigation and waiting periods prior to gun purchase, and regulation of subsequent sale;
- call upon all governments of the world in which there is a United Methodist presence to establish national bans on ownership by the general public of handguns, assault weapons, automatic weapon conversion kits, and weapons that cannot be detected by traditionally used metal-detection devices; [adopted in 2000, revised and readopted in 2008].
It’s high time that we call on our state and federal legislators to prohibit the purchase of automatic assault rifles by the general public. Consider signing this letter by Coalition to Reduce Gun Violence.
Second, we must act by confessing our own complicity, as Christians in general and as United Methodists in particular, in so many hate crimes against LGBTQ persons. The Orlando massacre provoked my colleague, the Rev. Paul Escamilla, pastor of Saint John’s UMC here in Austin, to post the following reflection:
It pains me… that the lovely, lumbering church to which I am so gratefully tethered is complicit in cultivating the fear and hatred brought to expression in hurtful and heinous acts against [LGBTQ]human beings, a group we [United Methodists] have officially ostracized. I have come to consider this to be the most profound ethical crisis of our denomination in our time.
“Incompatible” [referring to the Book of Discipline’s pronouncement on homosexuality] means, literally, not sharing another’s suffering. I cannot think of a worse breech of humanity than to script, and then maintain, a policy of not sharing the suffering of a specific group of people—left-handers, say; or women, or Jews, or Asians, or gays and lesbians. But with a single word, and a half a century of privileging that word, we have done so.
“People know what they do,” Michel Foucalt once wrote. “And they frequently know why they do what they do.” Both are certainly true regarding this specific, inhumane theological policy of our beloved church. We have a condemnatory paradigm, and can certainly say why: Many of us used to believe these things, we say. Some of us still do, we say. The politics of altering institutional theology is formidable, we say. We know what we do, and why.
But what we don’t know, Foucalt asserts, “is what ‘what we do’ does.” But now we know, if we didn’t before. Now we know that making official the prohibition against sharing the suffering of specific people not only creates greater suffering for those people, but dehumanizes us all.
We must act to counteract every expression of homophobia and every act of discrimination against LGBT people, both in society in general and in Christian churches in specific, and most specifically in our United Methodist Church. See Bishop Minerva Carcano’s Letter.