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Pundits politicizing and polarizing instead of praying about Las Vegas tragedy

Pundits politicizing and polarizing instead of praying about Las Vegas tragedy
Washington Bishop says prayer is not enough

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
Oct. 5, 2017

It is so easy to ridicule, demean, and rush to judgment before all the facts are in, so it didn't take long for the pundits to come out of the woodwork to criticize, satirize, or politicize the horrific shooting tragedy in Las Vegas Sunday night, which left 59 dead and hundreds wounded, some still clinging to a thin thread of life in area hospitals. Even the church is not immune to wading into the fray.

An attorney for CBS went to Facebook to post her commentary even as the horrendous situation in Las Vegas was yet unfolding. She was the first to be axed for her early ill-mannered comments: "If they wouldn't do anything when children were murdered I have no hope the Repugs [Republicans] will ever do the right thing," attorney Hayley Geftman-Gold posted. "I'm actually not even sympathetic bc [because] country music fans are often [R]epublican gun toters."

CBS was quick to respond: "This individual [Hayley Geftman-Gold], who was with us for approximately one year, violated the standards of our company and is no longer an employee of CBS," the television network announced in a formal statement. "Her views as expressed on social media are deeply unacceptable to all of us at CBS. Our hearts go out to the victims in Las Vegas and their families."

In the nation's capital city, Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde (IX Washington, DC) declared that prayer was not enough.

"As people of faith and of prayer, we know well -- we know better than anyone -- that thoughts and prayers, while important, are insufficient," she said at Tuesday's outdoor interfaith gathering at the National Cathedral.

For her, the insufficiency of prayer lies in lack of gun control. She is a member of the Episcopal Bishops United Against Gun Violence (EBUAGV) lobby.

"It has become cliched at moments such as these to offer thoughts and prayers. But as Christians, we must reflect upon the mass killings that unfold with such regularity in our country. And we must pray ..." the united Episcopal bishops said in a released statement. "And then, having looked, we must act."

Tuesday, Bishop Budde rang the National Cathedral bells 60 times in remembrance of those who died in Las Vegas. This is not the first time she tolled her cathedral's bells. In 2013, the mourning bell sounded for the students, teachers and staff killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. She again sounded the tolling bell in 2015 for the shooting victims at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Washington bishop rang her bells in solidarity with Bishop Dan Edwards (IV Nevada) who asked his churches to toll their bells for those who died Sunday night. Other Episcopal churches across the United States joined in the tolling of their mourning bells.

"As Christians, we are called to engage in the debates that shape how Americans live and die, especially when they die due to violence or neglect," the EBUAGV statement continues. "It is entirely reasonable in the wake of mass killings perpetrated by murderers with assault weapons to ask lawmakers to remove such weapons from civilian hands."

"In the United States of America, our beloved country, still the world's super power and self-proclaimed moral force for good in the world," Bishop Eugene Sutton (XIV Maryland) thundered Tuesday from his pulpit at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore at the special Service of Lament for Victims of Gun Violence. "Over thirty thousand of our citizens are killed every year by firearms. Another eighty thousand-plus are shot every year, most of whom will carry permanent injuries, and all of whom will carry emotional scars for the rest of their lives."

Bishop Sutton is one of the three Episcopal bishops, along with Bishop Mark Beckwith (X Newark); and Bishop Ian Douglas (XV Connecticut), who founded Bishops United Against Gun Violence in 2013. The group members nearly 70 active and retired Episcopal bishops.

Following the election of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the Episcopal bishops, all decked out in their flowing bright red chimeres and snowy white rochets marched down Salt Lake City, Utah streets during the 2015 General Convention, bringing a focused attention to their united front against gun violence.

"Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness ..." the EBUAGV Las Vegas statement notes. "We must, as a nation, embrace prayerful resistance before our worse impulses consume us."

The Episcopal bishops are also supporters of the annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day in early June. Even though orange is not a liturgial color, the bishops don orange vestments and stoles for the day. They join other faith-based organizations, such as cultural, educational, journalistic, political and athletic groups as well as other community clubs of various sorts to raise awareness of gun violence.

The EBUAGV not only focuses on bloodshed by firearms, but they also highlight what they call the unholy trinity -- racism, poverty, and gun violence.

President Donald Trump called the deadly Las Vegas carnage "an act of pure evil." Evil is defined as: profoundly immoral and malevolent; wickedness and depravity.

The postmodern world has had to deal with various and escalating forms of evil: Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust (1933-1945) ... Idi Amin and ethnic cleansing in Uganda (1971-1979) ... Roe Vs. Wade and lawful abortion that rips out an unborn child from the safely of its mother's womb (1973 - current) ... Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 terrorist attacks (2001) ... the Pakistani Taliban attack on All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar (2013) ... Jihadi John's YouTube videos of ISIS beheadings (2014-2015) ... Dylann Roof and Charleston's Mother Emmanuel AME Church Bible study shootings (2015) ... Stephen Paddock and the Route 91 Harvest country music festival massacre in Las Vegas (2017) ...

Across the Atlantic Ocean, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is attending the 2017 Primates' Gathering, hosted by Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Then tragedy struck in the Diocese of Nevada. The Archbishop of Canterbury reached out to the American presiding bishop to lead the prayer for the victims and those reeling from the shock and devastation left in the wake of Las Vegas carnage.

"Michael Curry, who is a citizen of the United States, was asked by us -- after we had talked with anguish about the events in Las Vegas -- we said: 'Could you lead a prayer as we begin our prayers together at Evensong?'" Archbishop Welby explained.

"Dear Lord," the Presiding Bishop prayed: "... We come to you tonight, Lord, with sorrow in our hearts, for 58 of your children are no longer with us, and some 500 of your children are hurting physically and emotionally, and one of your children took their lives, and they are all our sisters, they are all our brothers, they are all your children ..."

Later, the Archbishop of Canterbury was "taken back" by GAFCON's apparent pushback on the decision to ask the American presiding bishop to pray for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting at the start of Monday's Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral.

By Tuesday afternoon, ACNA Canon Andrew Gross, the Canon for Communications and Media Relations for the Anglican Church in North America, weighed in on the subject.

The Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) reported that Canon Gross "...speaking on behalf of GAFCON, said that the decision to invite Michael Curry to lead the congregation in prayer at the Evensong service 'put the GAFCON primates in a difficult spot.'"

Reportedly, the American canon was speaking at a press conference in a hotel near Canterbury Cathedral. Canon Gross explained that GAFCON primates were "forced to look like they are walking together when they are not walking together."

"People all over the world are praying for Las Vegas," the Archbishop of Canterbury shot back. "I don't think we ought to bring church politics into Las Vegas. I mean, it is the most dreadful, horrendous, appalling event. I suppose that I would be surprised and disappointed by that comment."

The Anglican world has joined in common prayer before. In the Spring of 2014, then Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, called The Episcopal Church into prayer for the violence which was rocking South Sudan.

"Prayer, at the very least, changes our own hearts, it joins us to people who are in the midst of radical suffering," she explained. "Prayer is a reminder that we are all connected. We are all children of the same God."

Then, during Advent 2014, the Presiding Bishop called The Episcopal Church to unified prayer for the Province of West Africa, which was battling the Ebola pandemic, including the hardest hit dioceses of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

"I ask your prayers for the people of West Africa in the midst of this plague," the former Presiding Bishop said. "Today we continue in a covenant relationship of mutual support and fellowship."

By Wednesday, a codicil was added to the ACNS story, attempting to clarify the ACNA-GAFCON connection: "This article was amended on 4 October, to make clear that Canon Gross was not thought to be speaking on behalf of any Anglican primate and that his church, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is not part of the Anglican Communion or involved in the Primates' Meeting."

However, the ACNS story failed to mention that Archbishop Foley Beach (II ACNA) is a member of GAFCON and an active part of the Primates' Council. Canon Gross is Archbishop Beach's go-to media man for ACNA press communications and, as such, the Canon is also very involved in GAFCON public relations.

Archbishop Beach may not be attending the October 2017 Primates' Meeting, but he did attend and was very influential in the January 2016 Primates' Meeting.

Canon Gross has not responded to an inquiry by VOL for further comment about his earlier reported GACFON remark.

Thursday, GAFCON issued a statement entitled: "We Are Not Walking Together."

"The persistent assertions that the Primates of the Anglican Communion are 'walking together' do not reflect the reality," GAFCON's statement begins. "Three of the leading Primates of the Communion are absent on firmly stated principle.

GAFCON Chairman, Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said: "I have concluded that attendance at Canterbury would be to give credibility to a pattern of behavior which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity."

Ugandan Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, GAFCON's vice-chairman, added: "If we are not walking in the same direction, how can we walk together?"

"In no way can these leaders, with the Archbishop of Rwanda [Onesphone Rwaje], be said to be 'walking together,''' the GAFCON statement continues. "They have chosen to witness to the truth by their absence."

"The presence of the Primates from Canada [Fred Hiltz] and the United States [Michael Curry] and the absence of Archbishop Foley Beach, whose Church [Anglican Church in North America], is recognized by Anglicans around the world, is a further testimony to a Communion in which the leaders are not walking together," the GAFCON statement continues. "Several of the other primates who are attending the meeting are equally concerned about the divisions over the authority of Scripture within the Communion, but intend to remain in defense of the Gospel. The Primates are not walking together. At best, they say, 'they are walking at a distance.' At worst, 'they are walking in different directions.'"

Thursday's GAFCON statement concludes: "Surely public statements need to reflect reality rather than mere wishfulness."

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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