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

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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

 

A CALL TO ACTION TO THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCHES IN THE U.S.

From the United Methodist Immigration Task Force

September 4, 2017

We have learned that President Trump is considering rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which presently provides undocumented immigrant young people employment authorization.*  Under DACA young people are able to obtain social security cards, work and go to school.

Since DACA’s inception in June 2012, almost 800,000 young people have received its benefits.  Many other young people who qualified for DACA did not come forth for a number of reasons.  Some did not trust that they would be safe if they came forward to request DACA, fearing deportation.  Others did not have the funds to pay for the fees or the legal help they needed to apply.  Some simply did not have the support systems to help them take the steps to apply for DACA.

DACA recipients have been able to work and support themselves and their families.  Economic studies have clearly shown that they have significantly contributed to the economy of the country. They have been able to go to school and prepare for their future, futures that have the potential of strengthening the well-being of the many communities where they live.   As DACA young people will share, they received hope and the opportunity to be useful and productive.

In the last few months, however, these same young people have gone from hope to hopelessness.   The uncertainty they have faced over the majority of their lives has caused them profound physical and emotional trauma.  We are consistently moved by the fact that so many of these young people do not lose their confidence in God and continue to find strength in their faith.

In walking with undocumented young people from all over the world and their families, we have learned that the US has immigration policies that are broken and antiquated affecting not only immigrants, but the needs of the country’s economy.  Refugee and asylum policies fail to take into consideration that the world has changed becoming even more violent, and causing greater migration.   The inability of the US Congress to address these realities as they affect the country and its lack of global leadership in these matters that affect the US and the world, causes us much concern.

While we continue to encourage President Trump and the US Congress to do the right thing, we know that our strong voices demanding justice for immigrant young people and their families are needed.   As the Church, we must stand with and for immigrant families in this hour, and especially with and for undocumented young people, sons and daughters of our Creator God, our brothers and sisters.

DACA young people and other undocumented young people need the support of the Church.  We ask that all United Methodist churches take action to stand with them.  Here are some ways we would recommend:

  • Engage in conversations with immigrants in your community as you go about your day.  Offer them a listening ear, a word of comfort and pray with them;
  • Create safe space in your church for immigrant young people and their families to gather and share what they are experiencing.  Seek to learn from them about their circumstances.  Offer them hospitality through food and other expressions of care;
  • Connect with campus ministries in your community and partner with them to reach out to DACA students and other immigrant young people with love and support;
  • Reach out to your congressional leaders and let them know that as people of Christian faith we support DACA and humane immigration policies;
  • Gather church members to study what the Bible teaches us about how the church is to respond to the immigrant.  Our United Methodist Social Principles and Book of Resolutions offer important resources, as do the web pages of our General Boards of Church and Society, Global Ministries, and Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Women and the General Commission on Religion and Race;
  • Pray, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you and your local church in responding to the needs of immigrant young people and their families.

We believe that the next 6 months will be critical for the well-being of immigrant young people and their families.  We enter a season when we are called to be the Church in clear, compassionate, courageous and prophetic ways.  May God be our help.

The United Methodist Immigration Task Force,

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling

Bishop Julius Trimble

Bishop Elías Galván

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner

Jeania Ree Moore, General Board of Church and Society

Rebecca Cole, General Board of Church and Society

Thomas Kemper, General Board of Global Ministries

Rob Rutland Brown, Justice for Our Neighbors

Gustavo Vasquez, United Methodist Communications

Erin Hawkins, General Commission on Religion and Race

Giovanni Arroyo, General Commission on Religion and Race

Marisa Villarreal, United Methodist Women

Hortense Tyrell, United Methodist Women

Francisco Cañas, National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries

Jacob Dharmaraj, National Federation of Asian America United Methodists

Monalisa Tui’tahi, Pacific Islander National Caucus of The United Methodist Church

Youngsook Kang, Western Jurisdiction Immigration Task Force

Jeanne Roe Smith, Wesley Foundation serving UCLA

 

* Since this Call to Action was originally published, the President has decided to end DACA in six months, giving Congress a chance to act to save the program. However, no new DACA applications will be accepted during this time.