Ohio Council of Churches Pastoral Letter
Regarding the Mass Shootings in El Paso, Texas
and Dayton, Ohio
As women and men who give leadership to and with Christian denominations from across the state of Ohio, we write to express our collective sorrow and outrage over the mass shootings in both El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. With hearts enlarged by sadness, we grieve the deaths of the 31 human beings who were killed and the many others who were injured by misguided men who somehow were guided toward assault rifles.
There is a pervasive belief among many in our culture that suggests that God is the mastermind of all deaths and that even mass killings are somehow reflective of God’s plan. We beg to differ. While we do not claim to understand the mysteries of life and death, we do believe that horrific mass shootings and the death and carnage they produce are not part of God’s will. In fact, we believe that such acts have no legitimate place in our world, and are offensive to God and are contrary to God’s vision of love, peace, and wholeness for all of humanity as modeled by Jesus Christ our Savior.
As much as we all love our country, we must admit that our land is visibly and gravely flawed. It concerns us that untold numbers of our fellow citizens, even those with histories of hate and violence, have in their possession advanced weaponry designed only for the destruction of human lives. We are also disturbed over the ways unfiltered racism and unfounded fear, increasingly verbalized and accepted by people in responsible public positions, have seeded societal clouds that produce downpours of mass violence, political humiliation, and social indifference.
At a time when our nation finds itself at the intersection of civility and mutuality which nurture true community, or hostility and viciousness which spark contempt, we are convinced that our society has the capacity to resist the fraudulent promises of hate, fear and violence, and has the ability to invest itself in peace and the common good.
Motivated by God’s vision and sparked by commitment to the common good, we call on our church bodies as well as public institutions, elected officials and their political parties, and everyday citizens to offer leadership and service that not only reflect life the way it is, as thermometers, but boldly and constructively articulate a vision of life the way it should be, as thermostats.
As increasing numbers of us commit to living as thermostats for the common good, we will be able to demand that our elected officials enact common sense gun laws. As thermostats for the common good, we will swiftly and decisively resist and denounce racism, white nationalism, and any other form of weaponized hate, regardless of its source, that confers human dignity on some while withholding it from others. As thermostats for the common good, we will live in solidarity with families and communities ambushed by violence and help them experience restoration.
Now is the time for people of faith to live as thermostats for the common good. As we do this, we will live out the theological affirmation that echoes across our land and reverberates around the world as affixed to our currency: In God We Trust. If God is love, then in love we must trust. If God inspires peace, in peace we must trust. If God gives hope, in hope we must trust.
The Rev. Abraham D. Allende
Bishop, Northeastern Ohio Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Revered Father Demetrios Gardikes
Dean of the Cathedral
The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Bishop Tracy S. Malone
Ohio East Episcopal Area
United Methodist Church
Wilmington Yearly Meeting Coordinator
Columbus Metropolitan Church Council
The Rt. Rev. Marvin Frank Thomas, Sr.
Second Episcopal District
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church;
President, OCC Governing Board
The Rev. Deb Oskin
Living Peace Church of the Brethren, Columbus, Ohio
Secretary, OCC Governing Board
The Rev. Dave Long-Higgins
Transitional Conference Minister
Serving the United Church of Christ in
Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and West Virginia;
Vice President, OCC Governing Board
The Rev. Adam Sornchai
St. John Lutheran Church (Windfall)
Treasurer, OCC Governing Board
Brandi N. Slaughter, JD
Associate for Public Policy
Ohio Council of Churches
The Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr.
Ohio Council Churches