Adapted from a news release by Beth Felice of the Diocese of Missouri
The Bishop of Missouri has appointed the Rev. Marc D. Smith, a physician and vicar of Church of the Ascension in St. Louis, as his deputy for gun violence prevention.
“People of faith must challenge the tragedy of gun violence and I lend my voice to that challenge,” said the Rt. Rev. Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri. “The devastation and grief that follow mass shootings call for prayer, certainly, but they also require action from us. The gun violence in our region, happening nearly every day, calls for the same.”
Before he was ordained an Episcopal priest in June 2011, Fr. Smith was chief executive officer and president of the Missouri Hospital Association from 1998 to September 2009. He led the association in access to health care services for the poor, and enhanced the transparency of hospital operations, financing, and quality.
“The issue of gun violence is a public health issue,” Fr. Smith said.
Bishop Smith and Fr. Smith identified three goals for the position:
- Gather people of faith and people with expertise in public health. “Many activities are going on in our community around gun violence — in our hospitals and universities, as well as in our faith communities — and all are important,” he said. “Up to this point, collaboration and specific interventions have been limited.”
- Identify specific strategies that show promise in addressing aspects of gun violence. The intention is “not just to do good,” said Fr. Smith, but to document and evaluate the outcomes through rigorous scientific research. “If we can’t learn from experience or replicate results, the benefit of this ministry is really limited.”
- Weave awareness into church life and the community. “To no longer accept gun violence as ‘simply part of the urban landscape,’ we must actively engage in this ministry,” Fr. Smith said.
“Living in St. Louis makes me aware of gun violence and its cost, every day of my life,” Bishop Smith said. “In this context, the tragedy that happened in Orlando provides no new learning for me. But there is learning because this tragedy happened in a gay bar. Dear friends and loved ones in the LGBT community have known what it is to live with the threat of violence, and sometimes violence itself. Orlando has held this reality before all of us, and it has drawn me into a deeper solidarity with a community so often targeted for violence.
“At this raw moment,” the bishop added, “I am very glad that the Diocese of Missouri is poised to take tangible action in response to the epidemic of gun violence. This, I believe, is where God is leading us.”