Open Letter to Clergy and Church Leaders Following Las Vegas Shooting From Bishop Leeland

October 3, 2017

An Open Letter to Clergy and Church Leaders of the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

This week many of our congregations will be expressing grief and dismay at the newest assault on the sacredness of human life and Christian values following a violent attack on innocent individuals attending a concert in Las Vegas, NV, last night.  At the time of this writing, CNN News reports more than 58 people killed and 500 plus have been injured in the attack.

Many in our church will be engaged with leaders representing various faith traditions expressing sympathy, solidarity, and hope in the midst of violence.  Some congregations will gather together to offer prayer services; others will ring church bells in memory of those who have been killed and injured; some will assemble in community gatherings for shared prayers and sacred readings; and others will initiate support for memorials.  I encourage all of these measures of appealing to our neighbors as a way of inviting them to turn toward the God of all creation; recognizing our dependence on the One who created us and the One for whom we were created (Colossians 1:16).

In our Judeo-Christian tradition we recognize the importance and presence of the prophetic voice which not only pointed to social injustices, evil, and wrongs, but always called the people back to God.  This is always the work of a true prophet, to call others back to God.  This is our work also, for we too have received the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

This Sunday as you lead our congregations in worship, I offer the following prayer.  Please use this if helpful in its entirety, or amend it in whatever way is appropriate for your church family:

“God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home”: 

Receive and heal the sorrow of our hearts for the continuous stream of grief and loss we have felt this week.

May we understand the voice of Jesus who said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

Lord, it is difficult to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and we need the assurance of your Divine Presence to encourage us in these difficult moments.  We thank you, God, for assisting and purifying our lives as we come “asking, and seeking and knocking” to share the depth of our prayers which desire that all who are under the influence of anger, violence or hatred might be converted to respect the dignity of all human life and experience your love. 

Allow us to enter into your peace with a craving to serve and love you, and to love our neighbor with a renewed grace and responsibility worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.