Michigan United Methodists are invited to take the next steps in gun violence prevention by saving the date for Advocacy Day at Central UMC in Lansing on March 22, 2023 and signing up to receive gun violence prevention advocacy alerts.
With the 2022 U.S. elections over, the focus is returning to the gun violence prevention advocacy work started earlier this year within the Michigan Conference. Michigan United Methodists are encouraged to take next steps to build on this momentum.
A simple first step is to sign up to receive updates and alerts on gun violence prevention advocacy happening within the Michigan Conference. Click the button below.
A second step is to save and share the date for Advocacy Day—March 22, 2023—to be held in Lansing at Central United Methodist Church and the state capitol. The Michigan Conference is sponsoring this day for Michigan United Methodists to schedule time with their elected officials to speak on advocacy matters the annual conference voted on this year, including gun violence.
Winds of Change in the UMC
The Michigan Annual Conference was just one of several annual conferences to pass legislation this year calling for action to address the increased gun violence that communities all over the nation have recently experienced. Michiganders are still dealing with the repercussions of the Oxford, Mich., school shooting in November 2021.
At the 2022 Michigan Annual Conference, the delegate body passed a resolution that called for specific actions, including participation in the End Gun Violence Now coalition, contacting legislative leaders regarding enhanced background checks and the reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons, and planning annual justice advocacy days. Soon after the passing of the resolution, Michigan Conference staff created a list of practical resources for congregations and individuals on this topic.
This legislative action was amplified later this summer by a Sept. 1 statement from the Council of Bishops asking United Methodists as people of Christian faith to reject the “idolatry of guns and the distorted attachments to our right to own guns without safeguards for the communities of the world.” In that letter, the bishops called all United Methodists to pray and act to end the scourge of gun violence, including contacting their elected officials.
Gun Violence Prevention in Michigan
The Michigan Conference voted to join End Gun Violence Now Michigan. This nonpartisan coalition of community, faith, and public health partners is collaborating to pass reforms to protect the 1,000 Michiganders killed by firearms each year. According to official statements, they are “working to make sure that our [Michigan] legislature enacts the common sense laws, like universal background checks and safe storage requirements, that are already supported by the vast majority of voters in our state.”
Rev. Heather McDougall-Walsh is a member of the End Gun Violence Now Michigan coalition’s steering committee. She is also convener of a separate coalition of United Methodists meeting monthly to work together on gun violence prevention here in Michigan. As an ordained United Methodist elder in full connection and the Michigan Conference’s liaison with End Gun Violence Now Michigan, McDougall-Walsh believes the momentum is here and this is an Esther moment for the Michigan Conference, putting faith into action by writing and talking with elected officials to turn campaign focus into legislative action with real results.
This coalition’s focus in January will be bringing county prosecutors on board with legislation that attempts to make a difference in violence related to domestic violence and those with personal protection orders. Such items addressed in this legislation include education and resources for safe storage for gun owners, paying attention to boyfriend/girlfriend loopholes, and possibly even raising the age for purchase.
McDougall-Walsh also wants to assure Michigan United Methodists that there is a Wesleyan spirit of “both/and” in this coalition’s mission. She notes, “[We want] to honor the second amendment and the diversity of interpretation on the amendment but encourage those who own guns to have resources for safe storage, while also passing legislation that helps our schools, our children, and our places of worship, bars, parades, and grocery stores to be safer places.”
If individuals or churches have specific questions about the coalition’s work or how they can get involved, contact McDougall-Walsh at [email protected].
Advocacy Day Set for March 22
Another piece of the gun violence legislation approved at the 2022 Michigan Annual Conference—an annual justice advocacy day—is planned for March 22, 2023. All Michigan United Methodists are invited to participate and share the date with others.
The event will be held at Central UMC in Lansing, across the street from the Michigan State Capitol, from 8:30 am to 3 pm. There will be opportunities to meet at the capitol with legislators and talk about gun violence prevention matters along with other justice advocacy items voted on at annual conference.
In preparation for this day, the Michigan Conference will host several virtual trainings beginning in March during Lent. More details on these trainings will be given after the first of the year.
Rev. Alice Fleming Townley, Mission and Justice Coordinator for the Michigan Conference, encourages Michigan United Methodists to save the date and plan on joining others in Lansing. “An important part of advocacy is building relationships and communication,” Townley says. “Now that elections are over, consider whom you might write notes of congratulations, gratitude, and encouragement.”
Also, she notes, “let elected officials know, as applicable, that reducing gun violence matters, and that you will be in Lansing on March 22, 2023, and hope to meet with them as part of Advocacy Day with the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church.”
Last Updated on October 20, 2023