THE Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Episcopalians in the
United States to challenge a culture of violence by being
Speaking at a peace conference in Oklahoma on Thursday of last
week, Archbishop Welby said that the Church should neither pretend
violence was not happening nor be compromised by being drawn into
it. Instead, he proposed a "prophetic response to violence which
accepts the world as it is and seeks to bring redemption and
He told his audience at the Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace
conference, in Oklahoma City, how the Provost of Coventry Cathedral
had begun a reconciliation ministry, after the destruction of the
cathedral and much of the town by German bombing raids during the
Second World War.
Archbishop Welby, who worked as a canon at the cathedral for
five years, said that it was essential to recognise the evil at the
heart of humanity, and the way violence "damages the soul", if the
Church wished to speak out against it.
"Reconciliation and an end to violence is something that can
only be achieved by sacrifice and by a prophetic stand. There are
no shortcuts and no cheap options."
On how the Episcopal Church should respond to violence, the
Archbishop referred to the shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook, when 20
children and six teachers were killed at a primary school; and the
bombing of a US government building in Oklahoma in 1995, in which
168 people died.
He acknowledged that, coming from a different culture in the UK,
it would be "discourteous" for him to tell Americans what to think.
What does [reconciliation] look like in the USA, where there are
people who are faithful Christians on all sides of the debate about
guns?" he asked.
"What it does not mean is to shout louder from your corner in
the conviction that you are right and everyone else is stupid.
Rather, a Church committed to the reclaiming of the gospel of peace
looks like those who join their enemies on their knees.
"Here in the USA you look at questions of gun law and violence.
Perhaps part of the answer is not only advocacy, and that must
happen, but being on knees together with the poorest and the most
vulnerable in your local communities."
The Episcopal Church has been increasingly drawn into the
national debate on guns in the US in recent years. Earlier this
year, the law in the state of Georgia was changed, making it
possible for churchgoers to bring firearms into church for the
Bishops and clerics expressed their discomfort with the idea of
parishioners carrying weapons in the pews. In an open letter
opposing the new law, the Bishops of Atlanta and Georgia, the Rt
Revd Robert C. Wright and the Rt Revd Scott Anson Benhase, remarked
that supporters of the Bill "claim that if only the 'bad guys' have
guns, then the 'good guys' cannot stop them.
"Our Christian faith has a more complex understanding of 'good
guys' and 'bad guys'. Our biblical understanding of human sin
informs us of this universal truth. This Bill . . . only creates
the potential for more gun violence, not less."
Separately, more than 30 Episcopalian bishops have started a
campaign to introduce stricter gun regulation. Their group, Bishops
Against Gun Violence, lobbies for expanding the system of
background checks on those buying firearms, ensuring that guns are
stored safely, and improving access to mental-health care.
The three bishops who convened the group said: "Our faith calls
us to be ministers of reconciliation."