Friday, January 14, 2011

NCC general secretary calls for prayer vigils in response to gun violence.

A letter sent today from National Council of Churches (NCC) general secretary Michael Kinnamon to leaders of member denominations calls on congregations to hold Vigils Against Violence in response to last weekend’s shootings in Tucson, Ariz. He also asked Christian leaders to press for laws aimed at reducing gun violence in the nation.

A Church of the Brethren resolution in support of the NCC’s work on ending gun violence was adopted last July by the Mission and Ministry Board. The Brethren resolution endorses the council’s efforts and encourages church members to call upon legislators to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns, among several other suggestions for church participation. Find the board’s resolution along with a resolution from the NCC at

Jordan Blevins, advocacy officer and ecumenical peace coordinator for the Church of the Brethren and the NCC, reported this morning that vigils "are already happening in communities across the country. The NCC, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Islamic Society of North America, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs are coordinating efforts, and will hold a national vigil next week." He invites Brethren congregations that plan vigils to provide information to him and welcomes requests for help in organizing vigils; contact

Excerpts from Kinnamon’s letter follows:

"I am writing to you in the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Tucson, an event which I am sure we have all named in our personal times of prayer. Here at the NCC offices, we are also collaborating with the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the Islamic Society of North America, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in order to provide materials and encouragement for Vigils Against Violence in communities across the country. Our colleagues in various state and local councils have indicated strong interest in helping to coordinate such vigils; and I hope that many of you will look for opportunities to be involved and to encourage others in your communion to do the same.

"In addition to prayer and calls for civility, I believe this is also the moment to press our long-standing concern as a community of Christian communions for laws aimed at reducing gun violence in America. It is not exploiting tragedy for followers of the Prince of Peace to say, ‘Enough!’ Every serious study on the subject shows that easy access to guns is a menace to our nation's public health....

"When we send letters from the NCC office to Congress and/or the Administration, they are too often dismissed as the message of a single organization instead of the collective witness of a community of communions.

"With this in mind, I strongly urge you to write your own congressional delegates and state governor, letting them know that you, too, are the NCC--and that together we say an emphatic ‘No!’ to laws that allow assault weapons and handguns with oversize magazines to be readily present on our city streets. You may want to include a copy of the NCC resolution, along with similar statements produced by your own communion. And let me encourage you to share this material with friends in non-member churches as a way of inviting them to join us in this vital witness to the gospel of reconciling love.

"I send this letter not only in the aftermath of Tucson but on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. As I see it, the ecumenical movement is a movement for unity, but also a movement for peace--and the two go hand in hand. It is important to advocate for sane gun laws. But our most significant witness for peace in a culture of violence is our ability to live trustfully with differences because of our shared faith in Jesus Christ, the One whose life, death, and resurrection make possible a more excellent way.

"May God strengthen our shared witness for unity and peace in this season of mourning and prayer."

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