Michigan: Two Episcopal bishops join call for action against domestic abuse and gun violence

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Sep 18, 2023

Retired Indianapolis Bishop Cate Waynick, center, speaks about the impact of domestic abuse and gun violence during a news conference Sept. 18 at St. John’s in Royal Oak, Michigan. Michigan Bishop Bonnie Perry stands behind her (third from right). Photo: Via Facebook livestream

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Cate Waynick, retired bishop of Indianapolis, shared a personal story about her brother who is incarcerated for killing his wife of 42 years last February with a gun.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat this,” Waynick told those attending a news conference Sept. 18 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak, Michigan. “There’s no excuse, no rational explanation for it.

“They were in disagreement. They were both tired. They were sick. She was just hours out of the hospital. And he says she wouldn’t stop talking. So he took the handgun, stored in an unlocked picture frame on the bedroom wall, and shot her. He says he doesn’t remember that part.”

The news conference at St. John’s sponsored by End Gun Violence Michigan was one of seven held statewide that urged passage of bills currently before the state Legislature that would prohibit anyone convicted of felony or misdemeanor domestic violence from purchasing or possessing firearms for eight years after their sentence.

In addition to her 20 years serving the Diocese of Indianapolis, Waynick also was provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan from 2017 to 2019.

She was joined by other speakers in describing how relatives, friends and coworkers who were victims of domestic violence were killed by their abusers with guns, sometimes in front of their children. Kelly Deliha, a member of End Gun Violence Michigan’s steering committee, said that two-thirds of mass shootings involve domestic violence, most often men killing their families, adding, “When women try to leave, that’s often when the violence gets worse.”

Each year in Michigan, on average 50 women and 20 children are killed by their abusers using a firearm, according to information provided in a news release by End Gun Violence Michigan.

The Rt. Rev. Bonnie Perry, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, said that faith communities aren’t immune from the scourge of domestic abuse gun violence. “Last February I got a text from a leader in one of our congregations in Adrian, Michigan, saying, ‘I believe that one of our parishioners just shot his wife.’” She added, “Friends, people in the faith community are not absent here. People in the faith community are suffering, regrettably, with domestic violence.”

Perry is president of End Gun Violence Michigan and a co-convenor of Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow said she was honored to stand alongside faith leaders in calling for passage of needed legislation. “We are called to action,” she said, noting that while thoughts and prayers are not enough, a woman who spoke at a hearing on gun violence bills earlier this year “looked every legislator in the eyes and said, ‘We’ve been praying for you.’”

McMorrow said that the bills for which today’s speakers advocated specifically address keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers, but other companion bills – some already passed and some pending – are aimed at providing other needed protections for victims of domestic violence. She said, “We are not trying to take anybody’s rights away. We are trying to prevent people who should not have access to firearms, who will abuse them, from having access to them.”

The Royal Oak event was livestreamed on the Facebook page of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan and can be viewed on demand.

–Melodie Woerman is a freelance writer and former director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.