Bishop's Letter on Ash Wednesday shootings
Dear Friends in Christ,
Friday, I did something I rarely do. I opened a conversation on Facebook by making this statement.
They’re called assault rifles. What does that tell us? I thought assault was a crime. Is our failure to get these weapons banned a sign of our complicity? #enough
A young woman who grew up in a parish I served said she thought it was but feared that evil would always find a way. Another, a high school classmate shared that she owned one, which led a pastor friend of mine to ask her to explain why she felt she needed one to be safe. (The post thread was later removed). A number of others commented as well. I am glad I started the conversation.
Lent 2018 will forever be for me marked by this tragedy not only because it occurred on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, but also because one of those killed was a member of our faith community. Her name was Carmen Schentrup a young woman who was a leader in the youth group at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church. I ask you to join me when you remember all the victims of this tragedy, the living and the dead, the physically and the spiritually wounded, in praying especially for Carmen, her family, and the people of St. Mary Magdalene Church
On Ash Wednesday we prayed these words, “Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty.” Hearing these words in the context of the events of the day is for me a call to action.
Lent is the season in which we prepare to reaffirm our baptismal vows and identity. At baptism, we renounced the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. We will reaffirm that identity at the Great Vigil of Easter.
I believe I cannot be faithful to that promise unless I stand up to the growing gun culture in our society and those who perpetuate it. My baptismal identity requires me to confront those evil powers and ask others to join me in calling them to account. My citizenship in Jesus’ kingdom requires that I make that way of living the model for life here on earth. If God’s will is life, not death, and we desire that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven, how can there be a place for weapons in everyday life? I think the only thing God wants us to be armed with is his word, his righteousness, and his salvation.
Please join me in working to reduce gun violence by working to make it harder to commit.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller, Bishop of Milwaukee