In the Aftermath of a Massacre

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program responds to gun violence

July 20, 2012


We are deeply saddened and grieved by news today of the massacre at a movie theater premiere in Aurora, Colorado, a tragedy that has violently and senselessly taken the lives of many and injured countless other moviegoers.  Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those whose lives were ended in this horrifying act.   Our prayers remain with those who are injured and struggling for their lives.  We give thanks for the first-responders, courageous theater employees, and skilled medical personnel who are caring for the victims.  We uplift and accompany the people of Aurora, the next in a litany of communities caught in the crosshairs of gun violence in our country.

This attack, along with the mass shooting earlier this week in Tuscaloosa, AL in which a military style assault weapon was used, reawakens us as a church, a nation, and as people of faith to the immense and ongoing epidemic of gun violence in our country.

In 2010, the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) commended to the church a bold and timely resolution: “Gun Violence, Gospel Values - Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call.”  This prophetic call sounds an alarm for the church to awaken to the faith dimensions of this on-going human-made disaster, to resist and oppose the powers that perpetuate it, and to mobilize to end gun violence in our communities. In the words of the report, we “encourage the church at every level…to become informed and active in preventing gun violence, to provide pastoral care for victims of gun violence, and to seek a spiritual response of grief and repentance, grace and courage to resist that violence and celebrate the Lord and Giver of Life.” Once again, as bullets are fired into crowds and innocent lives are lost, we commend this wise and important document to the church for its immediate use.

Presbyterians are already involved in the response to this massacre through gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering and the work of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).  PDA has been in touch with presbytery representatives and a response team is on its way to assist the presbytery.

Sisters and brothers, in the aftermath of another massacre among us, we invite you to pray, use litanies and hymns in worship, act in your church and community to help end gun violence. Resources for congregations seeking to respond to the massacre may be found here

One such resource is a hymn text by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, “God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us,” a portion of which we share with you here:

God, we pray for those who suffer when this world seems so unfair;
May your church be quick to offer loving comfort, gentle care.
And we pray:  Amid the violence, may we speak your truth, O Lord!
Give us strength to break the silence, saying, “This can be no more!”

God, renew our faith and vision; make us those who boldly lead!
May we work for just decisions that bring true security.
Help us change this violent culture based on idols, built on fear.
Help us build a peaceful future with your world of people here.

  1. After yet another act of senseless violence in our country, I was touched and comforted by the response of my denomination. I join the multitudes of people of faith who pray for the victims and their families and friends. What struck me about the response of the PCUSA was the next step it took to call for action concerning gun violence. I am proud to be a Presbyterian!

    by Mary Beth Dowden

    July 23, 2012

  2. God is good and faithful. People are NOT good. The big mistake we are making is not to talk about personal sin and the evil of the world, not just institutional evil. There is nothing in the OT that would make this seem too shocking because the OT acknowledges the real sin of humanity. To pretend that we are gods is a huge mistake; these horrible acts of violence will not end until Christ returns to bring in a new earth and a new heaven. In the meantime, we DO oppose the horror, yet we really cannot contain it. It is a reality of people who know they are depraved.

    by Anne Emery

    July 21, 2012

  3. My heart is saddened! I like your suggested prayer. Thank you for sending. June

    by June Dougherty

    July 21, 2012

  4. James Holmes, until recently, was a college student at CU-Denver Medical School and previously at UC-Riverside. As you may have read, the media has brought into the discussion that the Holmes family are very active in their San Diego Presbyterian congregation (I do not yet know what church it is). As the Presbyterian campus minister at Texas A&M, I join in prayer for the victims, their families, and the Aurora/Denver community. I also wish to lift up the Holmes family. This cannot become a criminal/victim conversation any longer that is full of scape goats and revenge. We need to look at the problems of mental illness and obsession with weapons in our society. That's not a political statement. It is reality. It is time to be emotionally present with the community, the victims families and the Holmes family. At the same time, it is important that this time around we do something different than we have in the past and get beyond emotions, reject the natural inertia of denial, and solve the problem.

    by Kyle Walker

    July 21, 2012