Where do I begin today? I promised to highlight the June 20th observance of World Refugee Day and I will keep that promise by supplying you with links to resources but, right now, my heart is so very heavy with the events of this past Sunday. By the time most of you will read this, the majority of vigils and local services of remembrance will be over and soon some other news headline will take the place of the extensive coverage of the Orlando shooting that we’ve had this week. Yet, we must not move on so soon. If we don’t stop now and make our voices heard for tighter gun control, appropriate mental health resources, extensive background checks, consistent correlation between no-fly lists and gun purchases, and addressing the culture of violence in our nation, the tragic loss of life will continue.
Church Publishing has just released a new book, Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence, and they have provided for us a preview chapter written by the Rev. Gary Hall, former Dean of the National Cathedral and former rector of our own Christ Church Cranbrook. Rev. Hall’s chapter was written following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School which took the lives of 20 children and six staff members – an event which had our nation shouting “Enough. No more!” That happened in December, 2012, and look where we are today. What has changed?
As Christians, many of us may cringe at combining religion and politics but Jesus did not call us to hide away with our faith. The Rev. Hall writes:
Instead of being preoccupied with the individualistic moral problems that dominate our contemporary thought, the Bible is overwhelmingly concerned with public—not private—morality. The big problems for the Bible’s voices (the prophets and Jesus) are social issues: economic justice, relief for widows and orphans, fair treatment of those who live at life’s margins. For every admonition about personal behavior, the Bible probably has five exhortations toward social compassion and justice. The pervasive individualism of American culture tends to read the Bible though the lens of its own preoccupations and so to cast morality as primarily a personal or private affair. But morality for the Bible is primarily a public business.
This Sunday, we’ll hear the story from I Kings of Elijah running in fear after Jezebel threatens his life. When he finally makes it to Mount Horeb, God asks him: “What are you doing, Elijah?” If we keep silent and hide away in our fear of mixing religion and politics, will God also be asking us: “What are you doing, Church?” I am certainly not at all suggesting we go out and respond in violence as we read in so much of the Old Testament but I am asking if we are following the call that God has given us and that we promise in our Baptismal Covenant. Are we “seeking and serving Christ in all persons” and “loving our neighbor as ourselves” if we accept the status quo? We cannot remain comfortable with our quiet, uninvolved, personal faith. Here’s the link to Rev. Hall’s full chapter, “Why Gun Violence is a Religious Problem”- https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/reclaiming-the-gospel-of-peace/reclaiming-the-gospel-of-peace_chapter4.pdf
Action, for many of us, will mean contacting our legislators and speaking out for reform. Here’s the link for finding contact information so that your voice may be heard – https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Just a couple of weeks ago, I reported on our Diocese’s prohibition on firearms in our churches and organizations. If you haven’t heard anything else about this in your congregation, speak with your rector. Engage in the dialogue with your congregation. Remember, for those that see any gun reform as an attempt to abolish the Second Amendment and take away their guns, complete confiscation is not the issue at all. Protecting the innocent, the marginalized, the targets of hatred and injustice is the issue. Here’s the link to the previous blog with our diocesan policy – https://edomiresolutions.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/action-not-just-talk-is-needed-to-counter-threat-of-gun-violence/
If you are reading this in the Friday Morning Grind, remember that there is the Interfaith Service at the Cathedral church of St Paul, 4800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, today (Friday, June 17th) from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. http://www.edomi.org/cathedral-to-host-interfaith-service-friday-other-local-events-scheduled/
In case you missed it, Bishop Gibbs shared his words with us earlier this week which bear repeating:
“How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?”
How long, indeed! Senseless violence has once again shattered lives. This time, 49 dead, 53 wounded, countless traumatized. And, once again, the perpetrator is also dead and thus, questions of “why” may never fully be answered. ENOUGH! How long will we as a nation continue allow innocents to be murdered and not take action? How long will a rhetoric that promotes hate, division and distrust of diversity capture our national dialogue? How long until the Gospel command to “love one another” finally captures the human heart?
I have not responded before now because it was difficult to speak from a broken heart. Today I speak out to remind us that God’s love is for all people. God calls all people to love as God loves: unconditionally. In the end it is God’s love that will win. Meanwhile, we must live as witnesses to that love, continually embracing each other and that peace which passes all understanding.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
Sisters and brothers, the senseless violence must stop. As witnesses to the Gospel of love, we must do our part to influence public policy, dialogue and action to make it so.
May those who have died in this latest tragedy rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
The Rt. Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr.
10th Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
You can also watch our Presiding Bishop’s statement and prayer for Orlando here.
The Episcopal News Service has also provided a Litany for Orlando to use in Sunday services – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/06/14/litany-for-gun-violence-prevention-offered-for-use-in-sunday-services/
There’s so much more I’d like to say but I think it’s time to share some resources for World Refugee Day. In 2000, the United Nations set June 20th apart as World Refugee Day to provide an “opportunity to celebrate the resilience and success of the former refugees who bless our communities with their wisdom and irrepressible spirit and to examine the root causes of violence and persecution that force people to flee at an alarming rate” (Episcopal News Service). Presiding Bishop Michael Curry shared a statement for World Refugee Day 2016:
In the late 1930s the world found itself on the verge of what became a terrible war. The Second World War. Millions of refugees were fleeing from Europe and fleeing around the world seeking asylum and safe haven.
In 1938 The Episcopal Church published this poster with the depiction of Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus, and it read, “In the name of these refugees,” referring to Mary, Joseph and Jesus, “Aid all refugees.”
The United Nations is now asking the peoples of the Earth, of all religious stripes and types, to once again come to the aid of those who are refugees.
I’m standing in front of the Isaiah Wall, based on the prophecy of the words of Isaiah, in the Second Chapter of his book, where the word says that one day, people will come to Mount Zion from all over the Earth, and they will hear God’s law, God’s way, and when people hear God’s way for life,
It is then that they will beat their swords into plowshares.
Their spears into pruning hooks.
It is then that the nations of the Earth will learn war no more.
Indeed, we must find a way to end war, but we must find a way to end the suffering of human beings who are forced from their homes. So I encourage you to support United Nations World Refugee Day. And do anything that you can do to bring an end to the unhappy lot for many so that they may find life as Jesus said, and have it more abundantly.
God bless you, God keep you, and you keep the faith.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church has provided suggestions for how we might participate in celebrating this day this year – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/world-refugee-day
In addition, Episcopal Migration Ministries is hosting a webinar on June 20th at 7 pm Eastern time: “Sponsored by Episcopal Migration Ministries and Episcopal Public Policy Network, the one-hour seminar will present and discuss the global refugee crisis, the contributions refugees bring to our communities, and ways that Episcopalians can support refugee resettlement.” I have found their seminars to both engaging and motivating so I encourage all to participate. You can register for the webinar here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5632999653670900482
Blessings to you all, dear friends, as we work together to bring about change to create a society where all feel safe and all are respected.
Let us pray –
Loving God, Jesus gathered your children in his arms and blessed them. Wrap your arms of love around those who mourn for the victims in Orlando, slaughtered by the violence of our fallen world. Be with us as we struggle with the mysteries of life and death; in our pain, bring your comfort, and in our sorrow, bring your hope and your promise of new life. May we follow in Jesus’ steps to bring healing and wholeness to our hurting nation and may we act in such ways as to prevent further tragedy, in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen.
~ The Rev Deacon Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee