AS THE funerals of the 26 young children and teachers murdered
in a school in the United States took place this week, the Bishop
of Connecticut, the Rt Revd Ian Douglas, pledged himself to
fighting for new gun-control measures.
Twenty children, aged six or seven, with six of their teachers,
were shot and killed last Friday by Adam Lanza, who forced his way
into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He fired
hundreds of bullets from a semi-automatic assault rifle, and
carried two handguns.
Bishop Douglas said on Tuesday that he expected faith leaders to
"engage at a significant level" in the debate about tougher gun
laws which the massacre has sparked.
The Episcopal Church in the US has advocated gun control for
many years. The Dean of Washington National Cathedral, the Very
Revd Gary Hall, received applause during a service on Sunday when
he called on people of faith to take the lead on the issue.
"As followers of Jesus, we have the moral obligation to stand
for and with the victims of violence, and to work to end it," he
said. "We have tolerated school shootings, mall shootings, theatre
shootings, sniper shootings, workplace shootings, temple and church
shootings, urban neighbourhood shootings, for far too long."
President Barack Obama, speaking at an interfaith service in
Newtown on Sunday night, promised to use every power of his office
to end such occurences.
A spokesman said later that the President wanted to reinstate a
ban on assault weapons, which lapsed in 2004.
Bishop Douglas said that he and his two suffragans were "very
clear" on the issue, and that now was the time to act. "Our country
is crying out for common-sense gun legislation, including
re-instituting the ban on assault weapons."
Bishop Douglas had travelled to Newtown last Friday, as soon as
he heard of the shootings. The Revd Kathie Adams-Shepherd has been
Vicar of Trinity, Newtown, its largest parish, for 17 years. She
first heard of the incident from her son, a firefighter, and joined
the families of children as they waited for them to come out of
The three Bishops opened Trinity for prayer, and organised a
Taizé-style service and eucharist in the evening. The church
remained open, day and night, throughout the weekend.
Bishop Douglas said: "Kathie is doing what any excellent priest
should be doing. She is very present for her congregation and her
immediate parishioners. Under Kathie's leadership, it is as strong
a Christian community as we have in the diocese." Trinity is
hosting its share of the children's funerals.
In a message on the church's website, Mrs Adams-Shepherd has
written: "We are truly uplifted by the outpouring of prayers and
support being offered from all over the world. We understand that
the world is grieving for those we have lost and all are struggling
to find ways to help."
Bishop Douglas said that prayers and messages of support had
poured in from all over the Anglican Communion.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram to Newtown on Friday, and also
prayed for the families on Sunday. He told a gathering in St
Peter's Square, Rome, of his deep sadness at the news. "I assure
the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of
my closeness in prayer. May the God of consolation touch their
hearts and ease their pain."
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Olav
Tveit, said: "We commend all who stand in vigil with those in pain.
. . And we support and pray for community and national leaders who
are asking hard questions, hoping to prevent future tragedies."