Yet again!

As has happened too many times before, the Body of Christ weeps over another evil act that has taken the lives of 20 souls in yet another mass shooting. This time in El Paso, Texas. The impact is felt across our churches, schools, and workplaces. The shockwaves have been felt around the World, as the global community grieves the loss of so many lives.

To those lives lost, may God grant them eternal rest. To their families, we mourn with you and pray for your well-being. We also extend our compassion and prayers to the family of the assailant, for they are suffering too. We are deeply grateful for the police officers, first responders, medical care personnel, pastors and chaplains who are providing aid and assistance to victims and their families and friends.

In an unwavering voice, we must call out to all our elected officials, once again, to enact sensible gun control laws in light of several high-profile shootings. During the seven-day period of the El-Paso Wal-Mart massacre, beginning, there were four other mass shootings in America.

It is not enough to decry violence. The Church must take action, not only through its leadership but at all levels, including the pulpits and the pews of our local congregations. That action must take several forms, including but not limited to, direct contact with elected officials, educating local communities and congregations on gun safety and gun control legislation, pastoral care for those who have been victimized by gun violence, and allaying the fears that such violence brings to our communities.

Previous mass shootings have resulted in mere talk about gun control legislation but have yielded little to nothing being done to keep guns out of the hands of those who turn to such acts as witnessed this week. We can all offer a collective voice loud enough for Congress, gun manufacturers, gun retailers, and gun owners to hear. That unified voice should be saying “Enough is enough.”

Our social justice arms of our churches should make resources available to the local churches to use in educating our pastors, staff, congregants, and communities about the sin of remaining silent in the face of the evil of gun violence. Our middle judicatory leaders MUST take up the issues of gun violence and gun control in an effort to provide support, as well as a platform, to those in our communities speaking out on issues involving gun violence.

Additionally, one cannot separate the issue of gun violence from the issue of mental health care. The abysmal state of mental health care in this country has a direct correlation to gun violence. We must encourage those in our pews who recognize those around them who suffer mental health issues to seek mental health care. Additionally, we should not fear to recommend that family members remove access to weapons from those who suffer severe mental health issues. Where the laws of our country have failed the church must step in and encourage the followers of Christ to do what is right.

As I have stated before and reiterate today, we must pledge our houses of worship as spaces in which comfort for the grieving and spiritual and moral support can be found where the rhetoric of hate has no place. We also recommit ourselves to ministries of reconciliation and justice in our city streets – for we believe that “God is in the midst of the city” (Psalm 46:5a).

May it be so.

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About Vince Gonzales

United Methodist Laity, married to a recent Seminary graduate seeking ordination. Active at all levels of the Church, I sit on the Board of The General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church, one of our 13 UMC Agencies. I also am the Chair of the Racial and Social Justice Task Force of Churches Uniting in Christ, an ecumenical group of communions, dedicated to the reconciliation of ministries and fighting racism, as well as representing the UMC at Christian Churches Together's Hispanic/Latinx Ministry Gatherings. Additionally, I am one of two committee members from the South Central Jurisdiction serving on the DisAbility Ministries Committee of the UMC. My polity pendulum often swings to both extremes so one never knows what they might find on this page!
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