Interfaith Coalition for Gun Safety
By: Ben Rogers, Mission Response Associate
A petition has recently been started by Ad Hoc Committee Members of an Interfaith Coalition for Gun Safety, many of which are Clergy and Lay members of churches within the Western NC Conference.
In 2015 a group from Myers Park UMC began meeting to educate themselves on racial issues and promote anti-racism in their congregation. Over the years, they have engaged in discourse on topics with Harvey Gant, Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and many others. Following the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, the group felt called to focus on these and other senseless killings. Various individuals from churches, temples, and other organizations responded to a call from Myers Park UMC Pastor Rev James Howell to help translate the concerns into action; those individuals make up the Ad Hoc Committee proposing the petition.
John Clarkson from Myers Park UMC conveyed that a desired outcome of the petition is to “objectively document broad-based support for meaningful gun safety reform to local, state, and federal elected officials.” The reach of the petition is already happening as the coalition just had a meeting with Senator Jeff Jackson on Friday, July 15. During that meeting, Senator Jackson commended the interfaith effort while emphasizing that continued public pressure is the key to convincing elected officials to change their positions.
When asked what pushed Rev Otto Harris of St Marks UMC in Charlotte to be involved in the coalition, he pointed to Matthew 5:9, in which Jesus pronounces a blessing upon peacemakers. Rev Harris states, “The Church has been strangely silent on this issue. We have an opportunity to contribute to the conversation and lead the community in making peace.” This verse in Matthew is also referenced in the 2016 United Methodist Book of Resolution #3428, “Our Call to End Gun Violence.”
This petition leans on the call “to go far beyond ‘thoughts and prayers to work for systematic changes to improve gun safety.” The coalition recognizes that the recent bipartisan legislation containing gun and school safety measures is encouraging. However, there are still many measures left unaddressed. John Clarkson believes that this petition will prompt gun safety conversations within each connected organization and encourage involvement within their larger communities.
Rev Nathan Arledge, Pastor of Missions and Community Engagement at Myers Park UMC, provided this statement, “The sacredness of life, the God-given breathed and deemed very good life, is worth cherishing. And I believe that lives become buried bodies when we allow the idolatry of fear, violence, and weapons to cloud our vision of the aforementioned reality. Due to this, it is essential for the faith community to raise a collective voice and call for reform and direct action from our elected officials, local, state, and national. We came together as a coalition to name the abundant Love that is God. The love of God has the transformational power to release the captive - from the idolatry of guns, violence, and fear - and to reclaim the narrative of grace, compassion, tenderness, and hope. We found this a common hope for all speaking into these common sense gun law petitions. “
You can read more and sign the petition HERE, and consider these thoughts Rev Harris provided when asked “What’s next?” 1) Sign the petition, 2) Invite other to sign the petition, 3) If there are concerns or additional ideas, contact the drafters of the petition, 4) Encourage conversations in your congregations, family, and community.
Read this ARTICLE written by Rev. Dr. Sean Turner published in the UM News titled "Don't Just Stand There. Do Something!".
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