In a holy sanctuary, less than five hours from our beloved diocese, families walked into the Tree of Life synagogue for a Shabbat service. Women, men and children beginning their sacred service with prayers of gratitude for life. A man filled with hate and rage, encouraged by a society that seems to worship at the altar of hate and violence, walked in and proceeded to slay the innocent. As he shouted, “all Jews must die,” eleven beautiful children of a loving God were slaughtered because of hate. Many others, including first responders, were also grievously injured in this attack. Do not be misled, this is hate.
As a culture we normalize violence, we rationalize explanations, we chant political slogans, and we then forget that these words have repercussions. Pray, we must, but we cannot proclaim the resolve of our prayers or the determination of our efforts if we are not willing to live the same.
We must tire of being tired; we must transform anger that merely manifests itself on social media. Our Lord is all-powerful, and yet we cannot turn away our sight or our lives to avoid the sight of the slaughter.
We must address this in our own diocese.
There is a sickness that is overtaking our society. And we know that only by standing by the foot of the cross can we see the hope of the resurrection. My brothers and sisters, the blood of Christ is falling upon our heads. We can no longer sit idly nor give in to rage. After our tears have been expended, let us rise to action.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called his followers to a different kind of life. A life that understands that the condition of the heart is a precursor to our actions in this world. Just as we can borrow one another’s faith and bear one another’s burdens, we can seek change and “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Outrage at the sin of others not followed by action in our own lives is the counterfeit gospel of our modern time. Let us cry out to God to stir up within us amendment of life, energy for holy action, and the courage to make a difference. The courage to risk at the cost of our own lives.
I invite each of our 134 churches in the Diocese of Pennsylvania to devote the first Sunday in November to preaching, teaching, and sharing on the violence in the community. This includes congregational discussions on methods to address violence through the lens of Jesus Christ.
I ask that over the next two months, each congregation invite leaders of either the Jewish and Muslim communities to address hate within their own specific context. More importantly, how we as members of the three Abrahamic faith traditions collectively join to address the sin of violence.
I will ask that our Diocesan Convention prioritize by resolution the resolve of this Diocese to fund anti-violence initiatives for congregations within our Diocese of Pennsylvania.
At the same convention, I ask for a resolution designating the Diocese of Pennsylvania as a place of peace. For those seeking peace within our community, they will find a place of solace and safety within all our congregations without regard of religion, status, or affiliation.
To the Jewish communities across the world – we share your pain, and we offer our love. To all those who suffer from violence around the world – in Jewish communities, Muslim communities, minority communities, we will carry your pain with you. Today, be it known that death will no longer reign supreme – let our lives and life in Jesus Christ show the way.
I close from a reading from Daniel:
“Listen as I plead for your desolate sanctuary. Lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair as our city lies in ruins. We make this plea not because we deserve help but because of your mercy. O Lord, hear, forgive and act. For your own sake, do not delay.” (9-10)
Let our church be the voice, the hands, and the feet of Jesus Christ.
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania