Day of Prayer in our Churches – A message from our bishops

Hi Everyone,

Below is an email from our Bishops Andy, Allen, and Mary. Please read their letter and The Statement of The House of Bishops.

As your rector, my role is to feed all of Christ’s sheep at Good Shepherd, not just those who agree with my own theological, political, or social views. I take that charge very seriously. Thus, I want our activities to always allow for one of the great strengths of our parish — our diversity — to flourish. This means using our personal relationships with Christ and one another to inform our understandings of different points of view. We are better humans, citizens, and Christians as a result of listening to and considering points of view sometimes very different from our own. I agree, for example, with the bishops’ email when they say, “We know that there are people in the farther and more rural parts of our diocese who live all year on the meat they harvest in hunting season. Who also keep guns for protection against dangerous people and wild or diseased animals. We know that for many people guns are necessary tools more than they are weapons.” That’s us. The urban realities are also very different from our own. We should listen to the experience of these citizens, Christians, and Episcopal brothers and sisters, as well.

Besides our points of view, the Bishops, of course, have a right — as our religious leaders — to offer spiritual reflections and diocesan policy, and they have done so on these issues. Again, please read below. It is our individual job now to prayerfully decide what our own personal stance will be, and why. I encourage you to again give your position deep prayer and reflection and to act out of your relationship with Christ. Wherever you stand on this issue, I support you to engage politically, openly, and publicly to move our country forward. I also fully support each one of us — including me, as a citizen, Christian, and priest in this diocese! — to follow Christ in the public squares as we feel called on this important issue.

We shall honor all the Bishops’ requests at Good Shepherd.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3). “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart. I have overcome the world.” Jesus (John 16:23b)

Faithfully,

Fr. Hal

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March 13, 2018

Our Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We your bishops returned this weekend from the Spring Meeting of the House of Bishops in Camp Allen, Texas. While the theme, and the learnings, of this meeting were centered on resources for the Evangelism by the church, we also spent time in discussion of and prayer regarding critical issues which are demanding the attention of our country and our church. One of those issues has to do with the epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings in America, with a particular response to the killing of seventeen high school students in Parkland, Florida last month. From those discussions, a statement was drafted and placed before the House, and then accepted as reflecting the mind of the House and published. We fully support this statement (included below), while recognizing that it is, finally, rather modest under the circumstances of the public urgency from which it arose.

ON GUN VIOLENCE

We know the diocese we serve. We know that there are people in the farther and more rural parts of our diocese who live all year on the meat they harvest in hunting season. Who also keep guns for protection against dangerous people and wild or diseased animals. We know that for many people guns are necessary tools more than they are weapons. But we do not forget the urban centers of our diocese, where mothers lie awake at night worrying for their children on violent streets. We have joined the Mothers’ March in the South Bronx, with that multitude of women carrying the pictures of their lost children. The possession and use of guns exists on a spectrum across our diocese just as it does across our country, and we believe that the inability of people of good will to talk to each other across those cultures has created much of the paralysis in our national debate about gun ownership and gun violence.

Then came Parkland. The eloquence, through tears, of the young people of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has commanded the attention of America, as they have called for legislators to enact common sense gun laws to reduce the likelihood of the kind of mass shooting they experienced. And they are changing the national debate. In the words of these young people we have heard their great sense of betrayal in the larger society which has utterly failed to protect our own communities and our own children in the face of shooting after shooting after shooting. “We are going to have to be the adults in this situation,” one young person said. “Our generation will fix this problem.” And they have called for a mass gathering on March 24 to bring this movement into the light and demonstrate solidarity for one another and give voice to this pain and these losses and these demands.

March 14 and March 24

We are on their side. We are asking our parishes tomorrow to keep their churches open for prayer, to make special intention at our altars for the victims of gun violence, and at noon, where possible, to toll bells for each of the seventeen victims of the Parkland shooting. And we are inviting everyone to participate in the March For Our Lives gatherings on March 24. We intend to make it possible for all young people in the Diocese of New York who wish to join in the public demonstration on that day to do so. It will be a very large gathering in Washington, DC. We also expect there to be a sizeable gathering in New York City. Buses to Washington, DC are being organized by Trinity Parish Wall Street with a priority for transporting young people. Those who want to be part of that trip are asked to contact Trinity directly. When we have further information about the details of a New York City demonstration, and meeting points for Episcopalians, we will post that on the Diocesan website. We very much encourage you to join us.

But while these young people are rightfully deserving of our admiration, no less so are the young African Americans who have, through the Black Lives Matter Movement, laid before us the account of lives lived in the constant fear of violence, and of the many young black lives that have been lost to random, criminal or institutional gun violence. Their voices are not forgotten by the House of Bishops or our church, and we are determined that their pain must not be lost, but by the grace of God, there may now be a chorus of a million young people joined across race and community and culture that will finally awaken our nation to the terrible cost of all this shooting, and to the hopes and lives of all of God’s people.

The Book of Lamentations begins with the prophet sitting above the ruined city of Jerusalem and asking the plaintive question, “Is it nothing to you, all ye who pass by?” May we on March 24, who follow our Lord in the way of life, demonstrate that it is not nothing to us. It is everything.

Below you will find the statement of the House of Bishops.

Tomorrow you will receive a second letter from us, regarding the House of Bishops statement on the #MeToo Movement, especially as regards the life and polity of our diocese.

The Right Reverend Andrew ML Dietsche
Bishop of New York

The Right Reverend Allen K Shin
Bishop Suffragan of New York

The Right Reverend Mary D Glasspool
Bishop Assistant of New York

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STATEMENT OF THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS

Episcopal Church House of Bishops
Advocacy to End Gun Violence
March 7, 2018

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

At this critical moment young people of the United States are inviting us to turn away from the nightmare of gun violence to the dream of choosing life. The young people of Parkland, Florida are calling for elected officials to:
• ban the sale of assault weapons
• prohibit the sale of high capacity magazines
• close loopholes in background checks
Others are seeking to:
• ban the sale of bump stocks
• raise the age to 21 years to purchase firearms
• challenge the National Rifle Association to support safe gun legislation.
We, the bishops of The Episcopal Church, wholeheartedly support and join with the youth in this call to action.

At the same time, we acknowledge that black and brown youth have continuously challenged the United States to address the gun violence that they and their communities are experiencing. We repent that, as bishops, we have failed to heed their call.

As bishops we commit to following the youth of the United States in their prophetic leadership. To that end we will observe a day of Lament and Action on March 14, one month to the day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We pledge ourselves, and we invite our dioceses, to participate in the “March for our Lives” on March 24 in Washington DC and in cities and towns across the United States. We recognize the urgency of this moment and we recommit to working for safe gun legislation as our church has called for in multiple General Convention resolutions. In addition, we pledge ourselves to bring the values of the gospel to bear on a society that increasingly glorifies violence and trivializes the sacredness of every human life.

We will walk with the youth of the United States today and into the future in choosing life.