United Methodists Across the state are encouraged to support efforts to stop gun violence in Michigan. Resources and advocacy opportunities here.
ALICE FLEMING TOWNLEY
Mission and Justice Coordinator, Michigan Conference
My heart shuddered when I heard of the tragedy at Oxford High School on November 30, and even more so as I listened to colleagues, friends, and churches impacted. The Greater Lansing area, where I live, has experienced a rise in gun violence since the pandemic. “2021 was Lansing’s most violent year on record’. . . Rep. Sarah Anthony reflected, ‘We are in a moment of crisis.” Lansing State Journal article.
Recently I talked about gun violence with a neighbor who asked, “Do United Methodists believe anything about that?”
I had to do a little research, but yes indeed, the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church passed a resolution called, “Our Call to End Gun Violence.” It states, “As followers of Jesus, called to live into the reality of God’s dream of shalom as described by Micah 4:1-4, we must address the epidemic of gun violence . . .we call upon United Methodists to address gun violence in their local context.” The resolution includes several ways to prevent gun violence including prayers, theological reflection, care for those affected, workshops on safe storage, networking with community and interfaith leaders, and advocacy at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence.
Moved by the increase of violence involving guns, faith and community leaders around Michigan are asking what they believe and what we might do together. On February 14, the anniversary of the tragedy at the high school in Parkland, FL; Bishop David Bard and Conference leaders, including myself, attended a virtual press conference hosted by Bishop Bonnie Perry of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.
We heard Kiley Myrand, an Oxford High School student, share her experience. She recalled the relief of hearing from her younger brother, a freshmen, and the heartbreak of not hearing back from her friend Tate Myre, one of four who died. “No one my age should experience losing a friend, especially losing a friend in this way,” Myrand said. We heard Sherri Scott whose daughter Francesca Marks died of gun violence at a Detroit park in August of 2019 when a brawl broke out between groups at the park. She left seven children. “This is a joy taken away from them, something that never should have happened at all,” Scott said.
Bishop Bonnie Perry announced the formation of “End Gun Violence Michigan.” Initial organizing steering committee members include the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, March for our Lives—Michigan, Michigan Unites, Oakland Forward, and Interfaith Action of Southwest Michigan. The group invites us to join together and advocate for policies such as safe gun storage laws, universal background checks, red flag laws for domestic violence or high-risk cases, and bills preventing the carry of guns in the Capitol. Several of these measures have been introduced to the state legislature, but still need to be granted hearings or votes. If legislative action continues to stall, the group will evaluate a 2024 ballot initiative. See the Detroit News story.
May we, as United Methodists join with our neighbors near and far. May we grieve, may we listen, may we pray, may we comfort, may we advocate.
UPCOMING ADVOCACY DAY OPPORTUNITIES
- April 13: Join the End Gun Violence Michigan Lobby Day, Sign up here
- In the morning at the Michigan State Capitol
- Virtual options to participate available
- Training on the evening of April 7
- June 6: Statewide Day of Action to Stop Gun Violence, Sign up here
UNITED METHODIST RESOURCES
- Faith and Facts Card—Gun Violence references from scripture, statistics from the World Health Organization, and the 2016 Book of Resolutions, #3428, “Our Call to End Gun Violence”
- Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities is a three-week Bible study produced by the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. First created in 2014, this edition has been revised and updated by Jeania Ree V. Moore, Director of Civil and Human Rights.
- Gun Violence 101 Cheat Sheet: Responding to the Call to Prevent Gun Violence is full of practical tips for ministry leaders including finding others to network with, practicing self-care, finding common ground to reduce violence, and beginning a relationship with someone who is dealing with gun violence as a daily reality, and supporting community-based intervention programs.