Social Justice & US Policy committees hear testimony on gun violence, homelessness, religious nationalism, pacifism and just war

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Apr 12, 2024

General Convention’s Social Justice & U.S. Policy committees heard testimony April 11, 2024, on five proposed resolutions seeking to affirm and, in some cases, broaden The Episcopal Church’s stance on pacifism and just war, gun safety and addressing homelessness. Photo: Screenshot

[Episcopal News Service] General Convention’s Social Justice & U.S. Policy committees heard testimony April 11 on five proposed resolutions seeking to affirm and, in some cases, broaden The Episcopal Church’s stance on pacifism and just war, gun safety and addressing homelessness. 

Forty-six people attended the virtual hearing of the House of Bishops’ and House of Deputies’ committees, which though distinct, typically meet and deliberate together. Once finalized, resolutions will advance to the 81st General Convention, to be held June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. 

All but one person who testified supported the resolutions, with exceptions mostly addressing the resolutions’ wording. The full list of resolutions can be found here

Two of the resolutions, D011 and D014, were proposed by Joe McDaniel, a member of the church’s Executive Council from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. Both address gun violence. D011 calls for General Convention to urge the U.S. Congress to adopt a new ban on the purchase and ownership of all assault, automatic and semi-automatic weapons. 

“These guns are often used in mass shootings and are recovered at crime scenes, but research shows a prohibition on assault weapons can prevent mass shooting fatalities and active shooter events,” McDaniel said during the hearing.

Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime said the resolutions need to be more specific in their language, particularly when distinguishing between rate of fire and velocity of assault weapons.

“It may be nitpicking, but sometimes that’s what some people use to derail any conversation that we might have about this,” he said.

D014 calls for convention to promote legislation aimed at reducing gun violence and to urge U.S. officials to declare gun violence a national health crisis. The resolution also calls for General Convention to urge the reform of the Victims of Crime Act, which was created by Congress in 1984 to provide federal assistance to state and local programs that support crime victims. 

The Diocese of North Carolina proposed resolution C003, which asks General Convention to establish a 13-member task force on affordable housing and homelessness. The task force would investigate and document the engagement of Episcopal dioceses and congregations in the development of affordable housing using best, local practices. The resolution also calls for formulating a standing commission on housing and homelessness to “elevate and empower” Episcopal engagement in addressing what is a racial and economic justice issue. The requested budget to implement C003 is $95,000.

“We found that when we created a focused group of individuals who were involved with and committed to the development of affordable housing, the amount of congregational involvement in affordable housing ballooned,” testified Rebecca Yarbrough, a member of the Diocese of North Carolina’s Bishop’s Committee on Affordable Housing and a deacon at Chapel of Christ the King in Charlotte.

Resolution A081 calls on General Convention to acknowledge and urge The Episcopal Church and its mission-related entities to partner with the Anglican Communion to combat rising religious nationalism. The resolution encourages individuals, congregations, dioceses and other Episcopal affiliates to educate themselves on how religious nationalism harms marginalized groups. The Standing Commission on World Mission proposed A081.

“This is not just Christian nationalism. How does it impact how we are doing mission around the world, and how does it impact who we are as both Episcopalians and Anglicans?” Thomas Diaz, a member of the Standing Commission on World Mission, said during the hearing.

Some hearing participants expressed a need for A081’s language to be clearer with what, exactly, the resolution hopes to accomplish.

“What kind of education action do you want The Episcopal Church to do?” said Ed Sisson, a deputy from the Diocese of Mississippi. “It’s not clear in my mind what it is you want to do. If we pass this resolution, what would the first attempt be in terms of an advocacy and education approach?”

Resolution A018 calls on General Convention to authorize a task force of 12 church leaders to study pacifism and just war. The task force would use the experience and expertise gathered from the Military Chaplains Just War Education Project, which was funded by a 2020-21 Constable Grant. The proposed budget to implement task force duties is $5,000.

“I feel strongly on behalf of the standing commission that this is one of these issues that we have not necessarily delved into as best we can,” said Martha Gardner, the Diocese of Massachusetts’ missioner for networking and formation.

The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. Every three years it meets as a bicameral legislature dividing its authority between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops and composed of members from each diocese. 

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service based in northern Indiana. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.


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