MORE than 70 bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Bishops United Against Gun Violence, have expressed their sorrow and called for action on tackling gun violence, after a shooting at a school in Florida on Thursday of last week.
They said in a statement: “The heart of our nation has been broken yet again by another mass shooting at an American school.”
Seventeen people, students and members of staff, were killed when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. At least 15 more were taken to hospital.
Bishops United offered condolences to the families of the victims, naming a 16-year-old student, Carmen Schentrup, who was a youth-group leader at St Mary Magdalene’s Episcopal Church, Coral Springs, ENS reported.
The coalition called for legislation to be brought forward to restrict the sale of AR-15-style weapons, which were used in this attack, and also by the perpetrator of the shooting last year at a country-music festival in Las Vegas (News, 6 October 2017), after which 58 people were killed.
“We must reflect on and acknowledge our own complicity in the unjust systems that facilitate so many deaths, and, in accordance with the keeping of a holy Lent, repent and make reparations”, the bishops said.
They asked Episcopalians to join in protests to restrict gun sales. “The problem of gun violence is complex, and we must sometimes address it in small pieces if it is not to overwhelm us. So, please, call your members of Congress and insist that your voice be heard above those of the National Rifle Association’s lobbyists”.
Bishops United made similar calls after the gun attack on a Baptist church in Texas in November, in which 26 people were killed (News, 7 November and 28 April 2017), and have said that the “epidemic” of gun violence must be ended.
The diocese of Southeast Florida also released a statement, which said: “There are no words to make sense of what makes no sense, and in the face of such senseless killing we are numbed and rendered speechless. . . But let us stand in solidarity with our people, and proclaim our confidence and hope in the steadfast love of the God, who weeps with us and in whose love is the power to redeem and make us whole.”
The Bishop of Southeast Florida, the Rt Revd Peter Eaton, said that the incident at the school “is not the world as it ought to be, or as it needs to be; and we who follow Jesus accept the responsibility for being partners with God to bridge that gap between what is, and what could and ought to be”.
In a statement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said that two of those killed were Mormons. It said: “To all of the victims and their loved ones, we extend our love. These are hours filled with grief, emptiness, and a terrible sense of loss. We unite our prayers with millions of others who are mourning and praying for them.”
This was the sixth US school shooting to have wounded or killed students this year.