Multiple bishops have issued responses to the killing of three men and six women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

From the Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Bishop of Upper South Carolina:

Our hearts are broken. We stand in crushed disbelief at yesterday’s wanton violence in Charleston and the senseless hatred that motivated it. We hold Emanuel Church and all AME brothers and sisters in prayer as the breadth, depth and sheer agony of this tragedy unfold. We call upon God to surround these grieving families, friends and communities with the fullness of his love and compassion, even as we offer our own.

We pray that hearts hardened by anger, hatred and prejudice be turned toward repentance and reconciliation wherever they thrive and persist, especially within ourselves.

We invite all people to self-examination and prayer, to penitence and meditation on the One whose way calls us to lay down all violence and discord.

Trinity Cathedral, across Sumter Street from the State Capitol, is open for vigil and prayer this day. At 5:30 pm, a service of Evening Prayer in memory of the victims will be offered and open to anyone in the community.

Teach us, O Lord, to love one another.

From the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina:

The unimaginable tragedy at Emanuel AME Church calls for prayer, response, and self-examination.

In our prayers, may we remember the victims, their families, the community of faith that is Emanuel, the wider communities of faith in the AME Church, and our society so prone to violence.

As paths of response, may we seek and develop avenues of racial conversation and reconciliation; may we refuse to accept things as they are in our world; and may we strive for the vision of peace offered by Jesus himself.

In terms of self-examination, may we not neglect our own complicity in an environment of polarization and suspicion, and may we respond with sincere and profound confession to God, who loves us all.

I commend these possibilities for prayer, response, and self-examination. An excellent guide on this way is St. Francis, who wrote these words in his familiar prayer (Book of Common Prayer, page 833):

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

From the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina:

I have spoken to the Rev. Jimmy Gallant, one of our black clergyman and a leader in the Charleston community, earlier this morning in the wake of the horrific shooting at Emmanuel AME Church last evening. Unconfirmed reports have nine dead from the shootings including the pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. The African American community in Charleston is crushed. The larger community staggers wondering how to respond. Many priests and lay persons in the diocese and elsewhere have contacted me this morning desiring some way to meaningfully respond.

Frankly, our hearts are crushed by this violent act. Our minds reeling as we consider the pain of our brothers and sisters who have lost loved ones — mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren, family and friends — as well as for those who have lost faith and hope from such a senseless act of hatred and insanity. My heart and thoughts also reach out to all our brothers and sisters in Christ in this diocese, especially those of African American descent, as we grieve in the aftermath of this horrific event and from whatever root causes lie beneath it.

I know some of the priests and lay persons from the diocese are planning to attend the prayer service at Morris Brown AME Church today at noon. I too am planning to attend. I humbly request all the clergy and laity in the area attending the prayer service to join me at the Cathedral afterwards at 2 p.m. We shall seek God’s face on how he will have us respond as a diocese, as congregations, and as individual members of the Body of Christ — ambassadors of reconciliation — in this broken and fallen world for which His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ, has died that He might redeem.

Prayer for all involved would seem the primary thing we can offer at this point:

  • For Emmanuel AME
  • Their members
  • The injured
  • The families and friends of those killed
  • The community, as it responds to this tragedy
  • Law enforcement, for a speedy apprehension of the person responsible
  • Protection from those who would attempt to exploit this crisis
  • Restraint of further violence in response
  • For the Church … to be a witness in the midst of this tragedy … to redeem it

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples and races of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and those who are near: Grant to those who have lost love ones your hope, comfort and peace; grant to those members of Emmanuel AME Church a sense of your presence; look with compassion on the whole human family here in Charleston and across our nation; show us how to respond to one another’s hurt and suffering; shed abroad your Spirit on those who have lost faith, hope and trust in You and one another; break down the walls that we separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that in your good time all peoples and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island:

Prayer. Deep, deep, soul-stirring prayer for the victims, their families, their church community, the city of Charleston, and for this nation!

Words can no longer suffice for the senseless hatred of this sinful act. Prayer and the witness of prayer by God’s people must be our response.

I call upon our Diocese to pray with each other across parish lines, and neighborhood lines, and county lines.

Hold each other in prayer and witness to the unity in Christ we profess.

This is our response to hatred and sin.

From the Rt. Rev. Dan Thomas Edwards, Bishop of Nevada:

It is too small a thing to condemn racism once again. It is too small a thing to condemn gun violence once again. It is unacceptable to attribute the violence against a Black congregation to a deranged lone gunman when systemic racism and systemic violence are pervasive and are being overtly acted out with increasing frequency. We must not “heal our people’s wounds too lightly,” as Jeremiah put it. Nothing short of the gospel can speak for us to this tragedy, a gospel not just proclaimed but acted on to usher in the Kingdom. We need a lot more Kingdom right now — a lot more justice in the distribution of resources and opportunities, a lot less racist blaming of minorities to distract poor whites from the real forces behind their growing numbers and declining quality of life, a lot more curiosity and imagining our way into each others situations, a lot less grudge clinging, a lot more hope for the common good, and a lot less scrambling to get our piece of the action. We need the gospel to infiltrate the real life of the people and make the creation new right now.

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