Stated Clerk issues statement on Texas church mass shootings

Nelson: “Our prayers and our condolences are not enough.”

November 8, 2017

Stated Clerk, Rev. Dr.  J. Herbert Nelson, II Preaching

Stated Clerk, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II Preaching —Randy Hobson


Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II, issued the following statement today (November 8) on the mass murder of twenty-six worshipers at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, November 5:

Solidarity statement on the mass shooting at First Baptist Church
of Sutherland Springs, Texas, November 5, 2017

 This past Sunday, November 5, the Church celebrated the Feast of All Saints, a day to commemorate those “saints” of our lives whose lives on earth have ended, but whose loss is still felt and whose memory is a blessing and an inspiration to us. This All Saints’ Sunday, twenty-six saints, ranging from a few months to seventy-two years of age, were unexpectedly and violently robbed of their lives when a gunman opened fire in the midst of worship at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The small congregation has lost a significant number of its members, including the pastor’s fourteen-year-old daughter and multiple generations of one family, who lost eight members to the violence. The small, peaceful community of Sutherland Springs, in a matter of seconds, lost 4 percent of its population, and no one in that town was untouched by the gunman’s malice. Nearby congregations and communities have extended their care and support to Sutherland Springs, including the leadership of the Presbytery of Mission.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) extends its deepest condolences, its prayers, and its support to the congregation, its families, and the community of Sutherland Springs as it begins to grapple with the enormity of the evil committed in their midst.

But our prayers and our condolences are not enough. As the prophet Jeremiah noted: “they have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14, NRSV). There are no words or prayers eloquent enough to describe the horror and outrage this atrocity evokes. The PC(USA) notes that this is the second largest modern-day mass shooting in U.S. history; and further notes that the largest, which took fifty-nine lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, was a mere five weeks ago. The president of the United States, in expressing condolences following the Las Vegas shooting, said though it was not appropriate in the wake of tragedy for a national conversation on the prevention of gun violence, there should be a conversation in the near future. Five weeks later, we are no closer to such a conversation and twenty-six more people are dead in a mass shooting, and countless more in smaller acts of violence throughout the U.S.

Quoting from Gun Violence, Gospel Values ( PC(USA) and its predecessor bodies have addressed gun violence through the actions of [many] General Assemblies in the last [fifty] years” (p. 7). Beginning in the late 1960s, in response to the assassinations of public leaders, the General Assembly called for “… control [of] the sale and possession of firearms of all kinds.” Similar resolutions were passed again in 1976, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1996, and 1998. Each resolution reflected a sense of moral urgency in response to rising gun violence and the cultural trends that contributed to it. These resolutions have called on the church to be involved in education and advocacy at the federal, state, and community level to prevent gun violence. The 219th and 221st General Assemblies (2012) and (2014) reiterated and intensified this call, urging the church at every level—local, regional, and national—to participate in gun violence prevention, to provide pastoral and spiritual support to victims and survivors, and to engage in acts of public witness and policy advocacy to enact stronger legislation to systematically address the complex causes and work to reduce and eliminate the scourge of gun violence in our neighborhoods and nation.

It is long past time for such a national conversation to commence. Too many lives have been shattered, too few efforts have been made, and the laws that regulate gun acquisition, gun shops, and shows, and the types of weapons available for persons intending violence, are entirely inadequate. The time to reason together is now. The time to act is now. The vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1), a holy city where “no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it” (Isa. 65:19) is not just a hope for God’s kindom, but also a compelling moral and ethical imperative that demands the action and engagement of people of faith.

In the faith we share,

The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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  1. Am proud of this statement of my heritage of faith church, Presbyterian, which joined other denominations to form the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in 1948. Thank you for joining in our struggle against killing of innocent lives, and advocating gun-control in the USA. Let us continue working in the hearts and minds of people, turning them to faith in Jesus Christ away from the works of the "thief that comes to kill, steal, and destroy..." (John 10:10a) Am sad to inform you that our church have been infiltrated by communism, corruption, and immorality led by our illegally elected General Secretary Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, now the leader of this communist group inside our church. He has encouraged communist rebellion in the Philippines, kept national church money, kept international calamity aid in millions, arbitrarily closing our medical ministry in Leyte Island, sold our land in Tacloban City to Gaisano Commercial in 2014, and now is selling another of our mission lot here in Malate, Manila, Philippines to VISTA LAND Corporation. He violates our Church Constitution, laws, and General Assembly actions. We need your prayers and help. In 1989, one of our village congregations in Digos City, Davao, Philippines was wiped out, massacred by the Communist New People's Army while on Sunday Worship. Our UCCP National Leadership, with communist influence, tried to cover up putting the blame on our government security forces, at first calling it "extra-judicial killing." Our Philippine Church did not issue a condemnatory statement like what was issued by the Presbyterian Church USA now. Congratulations and God bless you more! Please be informed about a Reverend Rebecca Lawson who was sent by Presbyterian Church USA as mission co-worker in the Philippines for sometime until 2016. She worked for the Communist Party of the Philippines, encouraging our pastors and members to participate in anti-government activities. She never spoke against corruption in our church and church institutions. We hope Rev. Lawson will not be assigned to the Philippines again. God bless the Presbyterian Church USA, a founding Church of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) without whom this writer could not have entered the Chaplain Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and is now a retiree with a handsome pension. Praise God in Jesus Christ!

    by Reuben V. Espartinez

    November 16, 2017

  2. We need to take action ourselves, in our local churches, to protect our members while in our houses of worship. It is fine to talk about the "powers that be" to do something about guns and violence, but we all know that this has been going on for years without any real action.

    by Jim Slaughter

    November 10, 2017

  3. Automatic weapons have no place in our lives. No hunter I know has ever used an automatic weapon to hunt. Stop the sales of equipment to make guns automatic fireing.. save our children.

    by Frances

    November 9, 2017

  4. wake up people, be proactive! "when you see anti-social behavior, report it to local authorities" "see something? say something"

    by td

    November 9, 2017

  5. Do these fine and touching and faith filled statements ever get sent directly to the President? I think he needs to read some of them. He needs a moral compass. Thanks for your letter.

    by Donald B. Register

    November 8, 2017

  6. Thank you for your principled and moral call for action. I appreciate your leadership of our reformed & ever reforming church. I'm heartened when I see my church working to walk the talk of our scriptual heritage. Again, thank you.

    by Rodema Ashby

    November 8, 2017

  7. How long? How Long? Justin Michael Ferrari, shot and killed 5 1/2 years ago by a gang member on a sunny afternoon on Martin Luther King Way In Seattle. His children have watched our feeble attempts at protest and heard our prayers for gun law change and know we are ineffective. Thank you, our church and our God, because change is coming now.

    by Merry Lee Hooks

    November 8, 2017

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