We must speak and act against gun violence (8/7/19)

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

A statement from the Anti-Gun Violence Commission of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania


So far, in 2019, there have been over 200 mass shootings in the United States. Over 200 communities have experienced the shock and painful aftermath that comes with these senseless tragedies. Those communities include our loved ones and our friends. They include strangers who we have never met, but who, like us, live(d) with dreams and families and bad hair days; people who, above all, are like us because they are also dearly beloved by God.


God does not wish for any of us to experience gun violence. And yet, in 2019, there have been 33,499 gun violence incidents. These tragedies operate on an individual level while also creating a communal wound in our country. A wound that, for some people, cannot heal before it is reopened again. For others, they refuse to recognize this wound, and so it is festering, infecting and worsening.


So much of Jesus’ ministry centered on healing. Yes, healing visible wounds, like leprosy, but also invisible, systemic wounds that perpetuate a society where harm and violence not only continue but are accepted as a norm. Jesus Christ came to reconcile us to God and usher in God’s peace. Our current epidemic of gun violence pulls us apart from one another and brings reckless unrest, regardless of race, class, region, age, or political party.


We mourn the senseless deaths of God’s children, of our siblings. We mourn with their family, their friends. We mourn for our country. We mourn the continuation of gun violence that stands against God’s dream for our world. Mourning is an ancient and important practice in our religious tradition. When we mourn, we recognize things are not as they should be and we call on God to do something. That usually leads to God calling us to do something too, to speak out and stand up. Just like Joseph, Moses, Esther, Jeremiah, Mary, and Paul.


In our own time, God calls us to speak and act decisively against gun violence. So we offer our prayers and we call for action, from ourselves and all of you.


Many of you know the Diocesan AGV Commission leads a program called A Year of Faithful Witness, a year-long program to raise awareness about gun violence across our diocese by working with congregations to host the Memorial to the Lost as well as a community event about gun violence.


We chose the name “faithful witness” because we believe bearing witness is the oldest tradition in Christianity. When the disciples came to the empty tomb, they did not know what had happened to Jesus. They did not know what to do about it. But they knew they had to bear witness. They had to talk about what they’d seen, and they had to figure out how God was calling them to respond. Christians have been bearing witness ever since.


And we must bear witness now. We must bear witness to the violence happening in our human family. We must bear witness to the intentional and systemic ways this violence is reinforced. We must bear witness to God’s work of reconciliation that is possible when we mourn...and then when we act.


For more information about the AGV Commission, contact The Reverend Canon Sarah Hedgis at shedgis@philadelphiacathedral.org