Offered by Bob Lotz, Episcopal Peace Fellowship Gun Violence Prevention Action Group Convener and Secretary to the National Executive Committee
In April, 2019, I was with Episcopal Peace Fellowship in Denver to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Columbine killings. At the events over that weekend, I heard from many advocates against gun violence, including the newly-elected Episcopal Bishop of Colorado, and Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was a victim of the massacre. He still wears his son’s sneakers when he advocates, so he is literally walking in Daniel’s shoes. Another event featured a Lutheran minister who, after the murders, was asked by two members of his congregation to officiate a funeral for their son, who was one of the killers. He did, and for this he was dismissed from his pulpit. I was deeply moved by all of the testimony, and by the solemn memorial in the park behind the school.
Two months later, on Wear Orange Sabbath Weekend, I attended worship service in an Episcopal church near my home. I was one of only two people wearing orange, so at the passing of the peace I shook hands with the other man in an orange shirt and thanked him for wearing it. He asked me what I was talking about, and then yelled at me that he never would have worn that shirt if he had known -- he wanted nothing to do with “you gun grabbers!” He wouldn’t bring his family to church if he couldn’t carry his gun.
Even in the Episcopal Church one finds polar opposite views on how to address the epidemic of gun violence. This is what makes the Rev. Rosalind Hughes’ new book, Whom Shall I Fear, so urgent. It is not prescriptive, but rather, as it is subtitled, offers “Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence.” This is not a book to describe the best ways to keep safe from shooters in church, or to prevent such crises. With humanity and humility, Rev. Hughes describes the trauma she has witnessed and absorbed as a pastor, and challenges she and fellow clergy have faced. She takes us through scripture as well as current events and poses questions that help us to draw on our faith and to understand how the Gospel calls us.
Several Episcopal dioceses have adopted EPF’s “No Guns In God’s House” door signs, or produced their own. However, local churches around the country have often declined to post them, and have not had the difficult conversations they require. This book is a great study guide for churches wanting to face the issue openly, compassionately and with grace.