Episcopalians, others send prayers for Colorado after shootings

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jul 20, 2012

Yellow markers sit next to evidence, including a gas mask, as police investigate the scene outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo. on July 20. A gunman in a gas mask barged into a crowded Denver-area theater during a midnight showing of the Batman movie, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians and others are reacting to what one called the “empty evil” of the mass shootings in a Denver-area movie theater just after midnight July 20.

The Rev. Gary R. Brower, an Episcopal priest and university chaplain at the University of Denver, told Episcopal News Service via e-mail June 20 that “given the deep wounds of Columbine, this particular tragedy hits us all pretty hard. And, of course, we’ve been reeling from the loss of hundreds of homes in recent forest fires. This has been a difficult summer.”

Brower was referring to the mass shooting April 20, 1999, at a high school in Columbine, Colorado, about 17 miles southwest of Aurora where the latest shooting took place. At Columbine two students killed two classmates and one teacher and wounded another 21 students before committing suicide.

Brower, who lives several miles from the movie theater, said he is not sure yet if anyone his family knows or anyone connected with the university was affected by the shootings. However, “given the number of faculty, staff and students who live in Aurora, I can’t imagine that ‘six degrees of separation’ will describe the impact,” he said.

A gunman in a gas mask barged into the crowded theater during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie Friday, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, the Associated Press reported.

When the smoke began to spread, some moviegoers thought it was a stunt that was part of the “The Dark Knight Rises,” one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer, according to the AP. They saw a silhouette of a person in the haze near the screen, pointing a gun at the crowd and then shooting.

James Holmes, 24, was taken into custody near a car behind the 16-screen theater. Holmes was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver, university spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said, adding that he enrolled a year ago and was in the process of withdrawing at the time of the shootings.

“At times like these, our emotions come swirling to the surface, with all our questions: shock, anger, grief, wonderment; why did this happen? How could it have been prevented? What does it mean? Where was God?” St. John’s Cathedral, the Episcopal Church cathedral in Denver, said in a statement on its home page.

“There are no easy answers. This shooting is a terrible tragedy, and it is a great loss that senseless killing has become a part of our national life in recent decades. Yet this is not an occasion to abandon hope,” the statement said. “It is not an occasion to break faith. It is rather an occasion to renew our commitment to love: to love our neighbors, both close and distant, who are suffering; to love our enemies, who have wounded us so grievously; and to love God, who does not abandon us in tragedy, but chose to enter death itself, that life might be wrested from bondage in the tomb.”

The Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade, interim dean of Washington National Cathedral, said that “the people of Colorado continue to be on our minds following the recent shooting in Aurora.”

“This empty evil adds to a series of violent acts that weigh heavily on the national consciousness, acts that must surely occasion focused discussion on the interplay of violence and the availability of guns,” he said. “This moment also calls for prayer. Our prayers at the National Cathedral today will mourn the fallen — and we will continue to remember those injured, along with their communities, as we renew our calls for healing and peace.”

Meanwhile, Kathryn Lohre, the president of the National Council of Churches, said Christians across the nation are “surrounding the community of Aurora, Colorado” in prayer.

She also called upon elected officials at every level of government to “seek policies that will foster greater peace in our communities and throughout this country.”

“May God bring comfort and healing to all, including the families of those who have been injured and killed,” Lohre said, “and also to the alleged gunman and his family.”

At its recently concluded 77th General Convention, the Episcopal Church continued its opposition to gun violence by approving Resolution D003, which “requests every parish and every diocesan place of work to declare their establishments as Gun Free Zones.”

The resolution’s explanation notes that some states allow people to bring weapons into churches under varying conditions, while others have outlawed the practice.

“Laws vary from state to state, but posting Gun Free Zone decals is one way for parishes and dioceses to exercise private property rights on behalf of community safety,” the explanation said.
“Posting of this status shall be easily visible for parishioners, staff and visitors to see as they enter the building.”

The church’s stance dates to at least 1976 when General Convention called on Congress to adopt effective hand gun legislation “as promptly as possible.”

In 2000 the convention passed Resolution D004, which expressed its “deep concern about the repeated use of easily available hand guns and assault weapons by and against children.” The resolution called upon Episcopalians to “seek ways to develop community strategies and create sanctuaries for our children, so that all may come to identify and value themselves and others as the precious children of God that they are, and that they may come to know peace in their lives and to create peace for future generations.”

Also in 2000 the convention passed a resolution (B007) that called upon all members of the church to “work intentionally in their several committees, legislatures, and institutions toward the removal of handguns and assault weapons from our homes, other residential communities, and vehicles.”

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (8)

  1. Jeffrey Knox says:

    In response to this good article on gun control let us continue to pray prayer 47 For Young Persons as a part of our daily prayers on page 829 of the Prayer Book:

    Almighty God, heavenly Father, we see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure , not as a matter of their worth but as a chance for anew start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and and to keep alive their joy in your creation; though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  2. Graham Priest says:

    We need to confront the gun lobby. Someone please explain to me the purpose of this group and why they are so powerful.

  3. Jessica Dye says:

    This is a terrible tragedy, not a time to conjure political discussion which will only serve to divide during a time when unity is the only constructive way forward. Those who wish to break the law, who wish to cause people harm, need to know they are loved and valued long before their path takes them into the dark. We are failing to catch those who are in emotional pain, to nurture them, to show them Christ’s love. It’s only through love and loving actions we can prevent these kinds of tragedies. May God help us to see those who walk in the dark so we may show them that in them is the light.

    1. Paul Garrett says:

      I (almost) completely agree with you. The fragmentation of our society, the “Army of One” perspective that has been inculcated in our country has led to the horrible psychological and social isolation to a greater or lesser degree of all of us but especially our most vulnerable and fragile who so deeply need to know the love of Christ and the church.

      However, we are preyed upon by those selling a “United we Fall” ethic that vilifies as “Socialist” those who speak of coming together and accomplishing anything for the common good vs. for private profit. The gospel of Christ stands a witness against all of this and those who foster this society of “each at war with all” for certain people’s profit. And is at this point we have failed Christ and those whom he came to save.

      We have failed to proclaim as simply and plainly evil the NRA and weapons manufacturers/dealers who have flooded our country with weapons of mass murder under a warped interpretation of the 2nd amendment. Since 1980 more than 4000 Americans have been victims of mass murder. (Precisely the point when arms manufacturers began funding the NRA and flooding the US with first cheap guns and then more and more powerful weaponry for profit.) Who needs an assault rifle? Who needs 40 caliber antiaircraft machine guns? NO ONE. But weapons manufacturers need us to buy them need us to live in fear of each other possessing them so we have to buy more of them to feel secure. This is light-years from the faith of Christ and faith in Christ.

      The faith of Remington, Colt and Glock says we must hate and fear one another and be prepared to lay down one someone else’s life. The faith of Remington, Colt and Glock also says that weapons are our salvation. This is idolatry, this is evil. Pure and simple you cannot serve the NRA and Remington et al. and serve Christ at the same time. As long as we give ourselves a pass to attempt to do so the church will not only have failed Christ we will nothing credible to say in the face of endless repetitions of Aurora Theater and Columbine High and Tucson and Virginia Tech and Nickel Mines and…

      1. Jason Matthew says:

        This post is so full of nonsense, where does one begin? What you are doing is taking the blame off of crazy people and criminals laying the blame at the foot of a gun (an object). Also, please provide evidence that increasing gun control and decreasing the amount of guns in circulation will decrease violence and gun crime. Ask the city of Chicago how their gun control is working for them. I have a feeling I’ll be waiting a long time for a coherent or even a logical response to any of these … only more rambling and far-left talking points. Tell me, if it wasn’t a gun that was bought legally what would have stopped this man from buying a gun off the black market? Perhaps he would have bought a fully automatic weapon instead and killed a lot more people. Perhaps instead of guns, he would have used explosives instead and leveled half the theater. America glorifies violence, this is the problem. Crazy people will find ways to kill mass amounts of people no matter what weapons you “control.” After all, the theater was a gun free zone and that didn’t seem to stop him did it? Everyone has the moral right to self defense and the moral right to protect themselves and their families, regardless of your religious beliefs.

        Further, instead of blaming objects how about we blame a society (America) that lavishes and worships violence? Cars kill far more people than guns, should we start banning them or “controlling” them as well? The media makes mass murderers famous and gives them the fame that they desire in the first place.

        As someone who is educated in American history, would you care to explain to me how gun lobbies and about 85 million gun owning citizens have misread and twisted the 2nd Amendment? I won’t hold my breath here either.

        Basically, I’m tired of people, like you, who take a tragedy and try to politicize it to take away people’s rights. You are no different than the far right loons who implemented the Patriot Act.

        1. Kris Johnson says:

          Mr. Matthews:
          On three points you err:
          First, strict(er) gun control is not about elimination of gun violence. Sadly, the perversity of our race in a liberal society such as ours will most likely never achieve that desirable goal. However, we can minimize such violence. The basic function of law in any society is to effect persons’ behavior either proscriptively or after the fact. Understanding this, then, gun control law(s) are not about controlling guns but about controlling access to and use of guns, thereby molding behaviors in such a way that gun-perpetrated violence would be minimized.
          Secondly, although you’re right that violence is a systemic problem in our society which the church, synagogue, mosque and temple must continually and forcibly address, the type of violence we’re dealing with here – mass murder – is easily facilitated by the easy availability of weapons of mass murder, most especially automatic or semi-automatic, high-capacity firearms. If this were not so, then our local and state law-enforcement agencies would not be pushing to bring them under stricter control. And, although what you say regarding other means of mass murder is somewhat correct, it is utterly beside the point. The undeniable fact is that these mass murders were – and will probably continue to be – facilitated through the acquisition of high-capacity, auto- or semi-automatic firearms. Which brings us to the question of the NRA.
          The NRA is the principal advocate for such ease of availability and use (after all, why insist upon the easy, ready availability of such weapons if one then disallows the use of them? The NRA is NOT a gun-collectors’ lobby; it is a gun users’ lobby.) As such, it must be held accountable for facilitating the perpetration of these mass murders.
          Next, on your point re. cars. In fact, our acquiring and operating cars IS controlled. One must first reach the legally-allowed age, then go through drivers’ ed., pass a driver’s test, get a license. Then, one must register ones vehicle with the local DMV or equivalent agency. Then, one must get regular smog tests to continue to legally operate one’s car. Finally, when driving, one must use a seat belt and obey posted speed limits.
          And, to wrap this up (although more could be said about this), YES 85 million people can be mistaken in their reading of the 2nd Amendment – largely by ignoring the opening clause of that text (‘A well regulated militia,’) then by fatuously equating control of a right with abrogation or infringement of that right (remember that, although the 1st Amendment assures the right of free speech, one is not unconditionally protected by this right to cry ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.)
          As a postscript: You write “…would you care to explain to me how gun lobbies and about 85 million gun owning citizens have misread and twisted the 2nd Amendment? I won’t hold my breath… Let me ask you: Would you care to explain to me how you, as a disciple of Christ, can have misread and twisted the Gospel such as to justify your fervent attachment to firearms?

  4. Megan Friesen says:

    Re Paul:

    I enjoyed your post as it reminded me of a book that I haven’t picked up again for a while, Engaging the Powers. Its focus, if I can sum up a good book that I haven’t read for a while in a few words, is to encourage people to trust in God – that combating violence with violence not only puts us in the judgement seat but also shackles us with a terrible burden (potentially taking someone’s life). It is our faith in God that we should rely on, not (as you put it) our faith in Remington et al. I think I’ll pick that book up again.

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