The House of Bishops agreed to two statements on March 7:
On Gun Violence
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” (Deut. 30:19)
At this critical moment young people of the United States are inviting us to turn away from the nightmare of gun violence to the dream of choosing life. The young people of Parkland, Florida, are calling for elected officials to:
• ban the sale of assault weapons
• prohibit the sale of high capacity magazines
• close loopholes in background checks
Others are seeking to:
• ban the sale of bump stocks
• raise the age to 21 years to purchase firearms
• challenge the National Rifle Association to support safe gun legislation
We, the bishops of the Episcopal Church, wholeheartedly support and join with the youth in this call to action.
At the same time, we acknowledge that black and brown youth have continuously challenged the United States to address the gun violence that they and their communities are experiencing. We repent that, as bishops, we have failed to heed their call.
As bishops we commit to following the youth of the United States in their prophetic leadership. To that end we will observe a day of Lament and Action on March 14, one month to the day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Bishops United Against Gun Violence).
We pledge ourselves, and we invite our dioceses, to participate in the “March for our Lives” on March 24 in Washington, D.C., and in cities and towns across the United States. We recognize the urgency of this moment and we recommit to working for safe gun legislation as our church has called for in multiple General Convention resolutions. In addition, we pledge ourselves to bring the values of the gospel to bear on a society that increasingly glorifies violence and trivializes the sacredness of every human life.
We will walk with the youth of the United States today and into the future in choosing life.
On Sexual Harassment and Gender-based Violence, and Gender Bias and Inequality
This is the first time the House of Bishops has met as a body since the #MeToo movement began last fall, bringing to light the reality of sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and the cultural stronghold of gender bias and inequity. We continue our own work of reconciliation within our branch of God’s Church, honoring what we have learned and accomplished, as well as acknowledging the distance we still must travel. Reconciliation is the long work of healing offered by the Spirit, made possible by grace, which requires our truth-telling and repentance.
Many of us have experienced sexual harassment and perhaps sexual violence. Bishops who are women know the “MeToo” experience. Some bishops who are men know it as well. We live with different experiences of the cultural endowment of power. We know the Church has fallen short of our responsibility to listen and respond. In this time of heightened awareness it is with greater intention that we now invite the church to a deeper examination of what God intends for our relationships.
This work will take courage. As many women and men bravely come forward to speak the truth of their experience, courageous men and women will listen, where appropriate repent, and take an active role in repairing the brokenness, working to change the culture of our church.
We will offer a listening process in an open meeting at General Convention to hear more fully the stories of those who have been victims of sexual harassment and violence in the church. The date and time is July 4, 5:15 to 7 p.m. in the House of Bishops convention meeting space. The design of this process is being developed. Further details will be posted via social media and through Episcopal news outlets.
Together women and men can form partnerships for reconciliation. We seek a more faithful, just and holy life together. We welcome the Spirit’s renewing work among us as we seek faithfully to walk in the way of Jesus.