Dear Partners in Mission:
Last Saturday afternoon I began to receive text messages wondering if I had heard the news of yet another mass shooting in our area. This time at a regional mall in Allen, TX, a large suburb north of Dallas where Christ the Servant Lutheran Church is located. Tragically this is not the first but one of several such mass shootings on the territory of NT-NL since I took office as bishop July 1, 2016.
I am deeply grateful for the swift action of the public safety officer who no doubt prevented greater loss of life. We give thanks for all who put themselves in harms way to protect their neighbor. We also grieve the lives lost that day. And we must address the root causes of gun violence.
The reality is gun violence is an epidemic and a public health concern. This is not a new revelation. The Allen shooting was the 199th mass casualty gun violence event already in 2023. Violence, particularly gun violence, is plaguing our communities and has for many years. Almost 30 years ago the ELCA published a social teaching on community violence. In that teaching the church is called, in the face of sin and death, to not only proclaim the hope we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ but also advocate. To work for social action that addresses the roots of this violence including racism and race-based hate.
While we are continuing to learn more about the perpetrator of this horrific act, what we are learning is it is likely he had links or at least was sympathetic to far-right hate groups. We can as a church in no uncertain terms reject and condemn race based hate and particularly the evil that is white supremacy. We also, as I have consistently stated each time such an event is perpetrated, have the right to expect those elected to public office to both pray for the victims of violence and also take substantive steps to preventing future violence. Working for the good of all those they serve is their sworn duty as elected officials and something you are empowered and encouraged to address with your elected officials.
So we pray for the families of those who lost loved ones last Saturday. We also are called to speak to our neighbors about how we as community can take on this challenge and end this plague. God’s peace, that peace that passes all human understanding, be with us all.
In Christ’s peace,