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Bishops begin to consider their response to gun violence

Bishops begin to consider their response to gun violence

The Office of Public Affairs has released an account of yesterday’s proceedings in the House of Bishops which focused on how the Episcopal Church should respond to gun violence. The bishops meet again today at the Kanuga Conference Center in western North Carolina. An excerpt:

The theme for the spring retreat meeting of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops is Godly Leadership in the Midst of Loss. The schedule calls for prayer-filled sessions, and bishops participate in daily Bible study, reflection and worship.

Morning Prayer included a reflection on Godly Leadership in the Midst of Acute Loss, presented by Bishop Laura Ahrens, Diocese of Connecticut. Bishop Ahrens spoke powerfully of her experience as a pastor and church leader in the days following the tragic shootings in Newtown. “There’s no one to impress when your heart is broken,” she said. “The cross reveals violence and speaks forgiveness offering new life. The love revealed in the life and witness of Jesus speaks to a peace.”

The emcee for the day was Bishop Dean Wolfe, Diocese of Kansas.

The afternoon was devoted to a presentation and panel discussion on Gun Violence. Vincent DeMarco of Johns Hopkins University and national coordinator of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence made a presentation. DeMarco invited the bishops to bear witness to the need to confront violence in our society. He listed four characteristics of the church which contribute to the power of its voice: moral authority, grass roots presence, diversity of its membership, and the media pays attention to religious voices.

The participants in the panel discussion had a variety of experiences but a common commitment to ending violence. The panelists were: Bishop Mark Beckwith, Diocese of Newark; Bishop Mariann Budde, Diocese of Washington; Bishop Ian Douglas, Diocese of Connecticut; Bishop Ed Konienczny, Diocese of Oklahoma; Bishop Jeff Lee, Diocese of Chicago, and Bishop Eugene Sutton, Diocese of Maryland.

The panelists shared personal stories and pastoral observations on various aspects of guns and issues that are associated with them. Following the presentations, the bishops engaged in table talk focusing on three questions: What might we do together as bishops of The Episcopal Church to challenge gun violence? Short term? Long term?

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