We have watched with horror the news from Orlando regarding the largest mass shooting in U.S. history at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL. While we prayed for the victims and their families last Sunday, at that point we didn’t know the full scope of the story. However, by Monday morning, all of us gathered for the Tennessee Annual Conference meeting at Brentwood United Methodist Church were beginning to come to grips with the tragedy.
Bishop William McAlilly opened the conference with this statement, which stated clearly the United Methodist Church’s stance on gun violence and our call to love all people, believing that all are of “sacred worth.”:
This week, Bishop Bruce Ough, the president of the Council of Bishops, released the following statement:
United Methodists across the world are horrified by the despicable act of terrorism in Orlando, Florida, that took the lives of 49 individuals and wounded 53 others.
We are in shock. We join those who grieve. We pray for the victims, their families, and the LGBTQ community targeted by this hateful attack. We stand against all forms of violence, committed anywhere in the world by anyone.
We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters who have condemned this heinous act. We pledge to work together to overcome evil with good, terrorism with peace, hatred with love, and inequity with justice.
We commend the Florida Annual Conference as they gather this week in Orlando. They, along with Bishop Ken Carter, are our connectional presence in the midst of this tragedy. We pray that God will work through them to be a source of Christ’s witness, reconciliation and healing to the brokenness of an entire community.
As the people called United Methodist, let us not lose heart, but redouble our commitment and efforts to fulfill God’s vision of the Beloved Community throughout the world. As we combat evil, let us not let evil fill our hearts. As we struggle to end violence, let us not let violence become our way of life. As we battle terrorism, let us not become terrorists in the process. As we seek to be vigilant, let us not let fear curtail our hospitality. As we pray for peace, let it begin within our own spirits.
In the peace of the Lord,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough
President, United Methodist Council of Bishops.
As we have learned more throughout the week, it is becoming clear that this was another troubled young man who wrapped his hatred in the language of religion to justify a horrendous action. There are no easy answers, and in all honesty there is no way in a free society to ever totally minimize the risk of an armed loner walking into any place where people are gathered and bringing forth chaos and death. What we CAN do is to continue to remember that Christ’s love is never compatible with fear, and that we are called to proclaim the grace of a God who always brings forth redemption, even in the midst of tragedy. We have seen the people of Orlando bond together, to give blood and offer support to one another. We too can join with them by supporting those in our community who walk in the fear that they too will be attacked, and by doing things like giving blood. Most of all we can pray that God’s light breaks forth and that love will ultimately reign supreme.
May God be with all in Orlando who are grieving and recovering this day.
May God be with the troubled loners in our world, and bring forth the mental health and other resources that will keep them from doing similar actions.
May God open our eyes to find the balance between freedom and security, and give us the wisdom to recognize that decisions made in fear are often flawed.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.