Bishop Hagiya’s 2017 Thanksgiving Message

There is some relief, even joy, as I write this message to our California-Pacific Conference. You see, I am not writing in the midst of the latest world catastrophe, responding to some act of mindless violence, or grieving over the latest injustice. It seems like much of my recent correspondence to you has been in reaction to a tragedy or horrific event.

On the contrary, I am writing simply to say thank you, and to share my deep gratitude in the midst of this season of Thanksgiving. Like you, I have so much to be thankful for: a loving family, good friends, a passionate vocation, and the feeling that I am making a difference in our challenging world. Most of all, I am thankful for my faith, and the God who gives me everything – absolutely everything in the gift of life itself. Each moment that we are alive, we share in this gift of life from God who provides it merely because God loves us that much. We do not deserve this gift, but it is given anyway simply because God cares about us as God’s creatures.

So, my message is just to convey this deep thanksgiving in my heart and to remind you to thank God for all that is given us.  I hope and pray that I do not have to write my next message asking for prayers over the latest tragedy, even though this is not within our control.  Those messages are inevitable because life is fragile and uncertain.  And yet, there is something truly joyous about being able to share with you a simple thanksgiving for the gift of life.  Let us be reminded that we should always start with such gratitude, even in the midst of a world with pain and suffering.

Thanks be to God, always and everywhere!

Be the Hope,

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church

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A Pastoral Letter on Gun Violence

In the Wake of the Mass Shooting in Las Vegas

To the beloved community of God’s People at Echo Park UMC: 

Grace and peace in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ: 

Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8 (CEB)

We awoke on Monday morning to news of one more mass shooting in the United States… this time in Las Vegas, Nevada. We don’t know much about the shooter or why he did what we did. All that we know for sure was that he killed 59 people, and wounded 528 others, some of them very seriously. 

Our hearts are broken! How could it be otherwise? As followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we know that this act of violence stands in stark contrast to God’s good and loving will for humanity. God has called us to build communities where all can dwell together in compassion, abundance, and security. But, we have instead created a world that is dominated by suspicion, scarcity, and fear. Mass murders like those that have recently taken place in Las Vegas, Orlando, Charlotte, and Sandy Hook point to the brokenness of our society and underscore our need for real healing and transformation. 

Of course, major mass shootings with high casualty counts are just the tip of our gun-violence iceberg in the United States. A mass shooting (defined as an event in which more than four people are shot) happens every day. Hundreds die each year in these mass-shooting episodes and thousands more are left with debilitating injuries. At the same time, tens of thousands more die or are wounded by guns each year through suicides, homicides and accidents. 

The time has come to realize that more is needed than just anguished prayers. As Jesus’ followers, we need become actively involved in working to end the epidemic of gun violence that is eating away at our nation’s soul. This may compel some to engage in political advocacy for common-sense gun control. It may call others to do intensive work to mend the fabric of our fractured communities through efforts at re-building neighborliness and re-establishing trust. It may push others to address the root causes of our national addiction to violence. It will include all of us in a vast and powerful movement to build a world where authentic justice is done, where prosperity is shared, where fear is swallowed up in love, and where peace becomes a reality. 

In his pastoral letter to the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, United Methodist Bishop Robert Hoshibata has offered several resources that we can use as we seek to respond to the violence in Las Vegas and to address issues of gun violence more broadly. I invite you to read Bishop Hoshibata’s letter and to make use of the resources he recommends:

Bishop Hoshibata’s Pastoral Letter:

https://dscumc.org/2017/10/responding-las-vegas-shooting/

United Methodist Resources on Gun Violence Prevention:

https://www.umcjustice.org/what-we-care-about/peace-with-justice/gun-violence-prevention

What United Methodists Believe about Gun Violence: 

www.umc.org/what-we-believe/ways-united-methodists-can-take-a-stand-against-gun-violence

United Methodist Resources on Caring for People after Traumatic Events:

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/after-traumatic-events-listen 

I also commend to you, our own Bishop Grant Hagiya’s Call to Prayer, which has already been posted on our Echo Park UMC website and Facebook page. 

Finally, I invite all of us to be in prayer for Caroline Luat-Young’s friend, Cathy G., who was present at the concert in Las Vegas and was among the wounded. She is currently in ICU with a bullet lodged in her arm. 

May God bless you now and always,

Pastor Frank

CALL TO PRAYER ON THE LAS VEGAS SHOOTING

 BishopGrantHagiya  Bishop Grant Hagiya

California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  — 1 Corinthians 13:1 (New International Version)

I know that God is in agony over the nearly 60 lives lost and those hundreds of people fighting for their lives because of the shooting that occurred this past weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The many victims of what is now considered the deadliest mass shooting in the United States in recent history include the colleagues, neighbors, and loved ones of many of us here in the California-Pacific Conference region.

We have been left with trying to make sense of a totally senseless act of violence. Not only will we continue to ask the questions of how and why, what and where, for ourselves, we will have to guide our children and young people through such tough questions as well.

As a United Methodist follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that our words alone will not be enough in bringing about genuine healing in times such as these. What we must rely upon is the transformative love of God to be the true balm that will ultimately bring about peace in ourselves and in our society.

We, the California-Pacific Conference, can love transformatively as we embrace in prayer all those directly affected by the violence, as we stay connected with Bishop Robert Hoshibata and our sister conference, the Desert Southwest Conference, which includes Las Vegas, Nevada, as we open our church sanctuaries for spiritual centering and comfort, and as we support and participate in the work of our Cal-Pac Peace with Justice and the General Board of Church and Society to end gun violence.

The California-Pacific Conference is, unfortunately, no stranger to such incidents of mass violence.  But, let us step forward in courage and faith once again so that all may experience God’s life-giving and transformative love.

Be the Hope,

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya

Los Angeles Episcopal Area

The United Methodist Church