“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those whose spirits is crushed.” Psalm 34:18:
Yesterday, faithful Jewish worshippers gathered at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh for a service to celebrate the joy of the Sabbath and to welcome a new child into the community. While they prayed, a man armed with a semi-automatic rifle and handguns entered their holy place shouting anti-Semitic declarations. The suspect killed 11 people and wounded six others, including three police officers.
It is too easy for us to become immune to the horrific reports of mass shootings and hate crimes that flood our airwaves. But let us not fall prey to that temptation. Let us hold the depth of this news in our hearts. A purportedly Christian man, reportedly a denizen of white supremacist websites and social media, stands accused of gathering an arsenal of weapons for the express purpose of ending the lives of people whose religion is different from his.
Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of more than eighty bishops in the Episcopal Church, is resolute that we will not remain silent while violence permeates our nation. Mass murder cannot be tolerated or normalized. Guns cannot be readily available to extremists who espouse hateful violence. Religious diversity cannot fall victim to extremists.
We commit to empowering Episcopalians across the country to end the scourge of gun violence in our nation through education, advocacy, and public witness. We call upon people of all backgrounds, religions, and political affiliations to advocate for local, state and federal legislation that will stop this carnage in our communities.
The use of Christian scripture and beliefs to justify hate and anti-Semitism is a gross abuse of the Gospel. We call on our dioceses, churches, and faithful, and all people of goodwill, to decry and work to eradicate racist hatred, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and vilification of the “other” that perpetuates violence. If you have not already been in contact with leaders in the Jewish community in your dioceses and neighborhoods, we urge you to reach out to the leaders and members of those communities as soon as possible. If Jewish leaders or interfaith organizations are organizing vigils or other actions, we urge you to participate.
And once again, we call the church to join us in recommitting to the way of peace, justice, and life that our God calls us to. We have been in contact with and offer particular prayers for Bishop Dorsey McConnell and the Diocese of Pittsburgh as they seek to support their local Jewish community in its grief and pain. Most of all, we offer ourselves, our ministry, and our own prayerful witness to those who have endured the horror of gun violence in all of our communities so that together, we can drive away the specter of hate with light and life.