|A Lenten Call to Action on Gun Violence
March 1, 2018
Beloveds, I have written more sermons about gun violence than I ever imagined I would have to preach.
We could recite a litany of places around this nation which have been made known to us because a human being chose to commit gun-assisted murder there. And from those places, too many sacrificed to our obsession with guns: schoolchildren, worshipers, revelers celebrating life and relationship, people simply trying to shop, get to work, get home.
It is past time for us to move beyond prayers of lament, and ask the Spirit to equip us to act.
The Ash Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
must be the end of privileging gun rights over gospel values.
We can no longer remain silent.
In some churches, gun violence has already been a topic of much discussion. In other places, it has been a challenge to address gun violence, with division among the body about how to proceed. We have been asked for resources, and are gathering materials to help churches have faithful conversations which prepare people for action rooted in Gospel values.
We believe it is possible to address the scourge of gun violence
as a people of faith, not fear.
We believe our faith compels us to act in this moment, standing with the traumatized,
aligning ourselves with the hope of transformation and new life.
On behalf of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, I urge you and your faith community to take concrete action to change the status quo on gun violence. There are two paths forward which we strongly recommend to our members:
1) Support youth in your community. Let their voices be central. Offer them a platform in church to speak their truth about gun violence. Provide visible, vocal support. Attend student-led events as an ally, and consider if you have logistical or financial support that would be helpful.
We draw to your particular attention to three upcoming grassroots, student-organized events:
- March 14 National School Walkout, 10 am. Teachers, students, administrators, parents, and allies are encouraged to walk out for 17 minutes, one for every person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Ash Wednesday.
Let your students know you support their participation, encourage school administrations to support this event, and show up to support students with your presence.
These actions are in alignment with Christian traditions of nonviolent civil disobedience, a creative public witness on behalf of social change.
2) Ask Governor Walker to call a special session of the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass common sense gun reforms.
Without a special session, the opportunity to act will be delayed until the legislature comes back into session in 2019.
Tell the Governor
that the moral obligation to end the cycle of violence supersedes the normal legislative cycle.
There are items on which there is substantial public agreement, supported by solid research, that will make our communities safer. Should a special session be called, we will mobilize our grassroots network to advocate for these.
Addressing gun violence has been one of the Council's public policy priorities, with deep connections to community health and racial equity. We are heeding the call of the youth in our midst to make confronting gun violence a more urgent matter in this extraordinary moment - and invite you to do the same.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Peter preaching from Joel: "God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams." (Acts 2:17 CEB)
Our youth have seized the moment, speaking and acting as prophetic leaders. They are speaking without fear, naming difficult truths, and advocating for change, believing that transformation is possible. They are confronting the powers of death with holy imagination. May we sense the Spirit's movement, and have the courage to join them.
Rev. Kerri Parker
Wisconsin Council of Churches