‘Therefore Choose Life’

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The mass murder of 11 people at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh has prompted several bishops to reflect on anti-Semitism, evil, and violence and to call for a vigorous Christian response.

Excerpts follow.

The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W.M. McConnell
Bishop of Pittsburgh

The newscasts, sickeningly, are referring again and again to this horror as a “tragedy.” It is no such thing. A tragedy is inevitable. This was not. It was murder, murder of a particularly vile and poisonous kind. Human beings have moral agency. Someone chose to hate, and chose to kill. And now we are faced with a choice as well — to do nothing, or to reject this hatred in the strongest possible words and actions, and to refute in every way, in every forum, the philosophical foundations of anti-Semitism wherever they have gained a foothold in our churches and our society.

… This terror is added to the great heap of such crimes we have witnessed in the past. Yet our hope is not dimmed, and our obligation is clear: “Behold, I set before you this day, life and death, blessing and curse: therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) May we especially who bear the name of Christ be fierce in our love and unwavering in our courage, as we mourn with those who mourn, and work with others to lay the foundations for blessing, life and peace for all people.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop

Our Jewish neighbors, our brothers and sisters, are fearful and we must stand with them and provide comfort and support for them and for all. It is reported that the gunman not only ranted anti-Semitic sayings, he has also ranted and spoken against immigrants and refugees and other peoples.

We must pray, we must pray for him, we must pray for the spirit of our nation, that a spirit of love and compassion and goodness and decency would pervade, and that spirits of hatred and bigotry would be cast away. But, above all, at this time, pray for those who have died and for their families and their loved ones. Pray for those who are wounded. Pray for the first responders, pray for our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community. Pray for the Tree of Life synagogue. Pray for the City of Pittsburgh. Pray for America. Pray for us all.

And then, go out and do something. Do something that helps to end the long night and helps to bring in the daylight. Visit a neighbor. Remind our Jewish brothers and sisters that they do not stand alone. Care for someone. Love. Stand for what is right and good. Then pray. And then act.

The Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown
Bishop of Delaware

We grieve, we ache, we cry, and most of all, we pray. I call upon the healing name of God for the assaulted and their families, for the extended Tree of Life community, and for Jews everywhere who feel, yet again, under attack tonight.

To the Tree of Life congregation, please know that you are not alone. We the members and friends of the Episcopal Church in Delaware, stand, weep, and wail alongside you. We call on our creator God to bind up the broken-hearted, to comfort all who mourn, and lead us all steadfastly to peace.

The Rt. Rev. R. William Franklin
Bishop of Western New York

Religious bigotry is by no means unique to the United States. But no other country makes it so easy for a hate-fueled individual to get his hands on weapons such as the AR-15 that was among the arsenal of the gunman at Tree of Life Synagogue today. This is a time to mourn the dead, to pray for and to comfort their survivors and to perform the acts of mercy of which we are capable. But even as we mourn the dead, we must mobilize to work for the common sense reform of the overly permissive gun laws which have such a devastating effect on our country.

Let us be models of love, patience and strength, but let us do our part in spreading light against the darkness.

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez
Bishop of Pennsylvania

Outrage at the sin of others not followed by action in our own lives is the counterfeit gospel of our modern time. Let us cry out to God to stir up within us amendment of life, energy for holy action, and the courage to make a difference. The courage to risk at the cost of our own lives.

I invite each of our 134 churches in the Diocese of Pennsylvania to devote the first Sunday in November to preaching, teaching, and sharing on the violence in the community. This includes congregational discussions on methods to address violence through the lens of Jesus Christ.

I ask that over the next two months, each congregation invite leaders of either the Jewish and Muslim communities to address hate within their own specific context. More importantly, how we as members of the three Abrahamic faith traditions collectively join to address the sin of violence.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth Jr.
Bishop of Ohio

St. Andrew’s Church, Akron, the site of my visitation today, is surrounded by an immigrant community. The congregation has a vibrant ministry mentoring the Bhutanese and Nepalese children of the neighborhood. It felt a particularly poignant place to gather in grief and spiritual solidarity with people around the world trying to come to terms with this profound act of anti-Semitic hatred and violence.

Following the service, I received word that the brother-in-law of a colleague on the Kenyon College Board of Trustees was one of the eleven killed. Such heartbreak is often closer to home than we think.

… Anti-Semitism is anathema to Christian faith. We are disciples of Jesus, a Jewish teacher to whom we refer in our own scripture as rabbi, the Savior who taught the Torah and kept the laws of Moses. We hold fast to the love he demands of each of us — love your neighbor, love your enemy, love one another. And we are empowered by the spirit of holiness to resist evil, not by taking up arms, but by opening our arms.

The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin
Bishop of Western North Carolina

I wonder, in times like these, what would happen if, as we fervently speak out against hatred and violence, we also all humbly worked together each day to practice one small act of connection, of communion. I wonder what would happen if we truly opened ourselves up to the love of God so that the Holy Spirit could move us beyond fear, indifference, distrust and animosity so that we may reach out to our neighbors, especially those who might be different from us, and take one single step toward building a simple bridge of relationship.

As we affirm our faith in the God of all people, may we consider the many ways to raise our hearts in prayer and be filled with God’s love, to foster connections of peace and new life in our neighborhoods and around the world.

The Rt. Rev. Kevin Nichols
Bishop of Bethlehem

This type of hate-inspired act is unfortunately all too common in our country. Though this terrible event took place 250 miles away, know that the hatred that led to it exists within our own communities. A few weeks ago, a rabbi at a synagogue in the Bethlehem area shared with me that his own congregation hired added security shortly after the events in Charlottesville, VA. His fear of such an event happening at his own synagogue was palpable. This forewarning haunts me. Let me be clear — the only way to “tone down” hate is to love with the totality of our being.

The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel
Bishop of Olympia

There is absolutely no place for violence in our discourse. The attack on that synagogue is an attack on all people of faith. It cannot be accepted and it should not become common place, or even tolerated. We cannot become numb to this reality. If the rhetoric and tenor of our collective life keeps heading the direction it is now, similar horrors will come to all our doorsteps.

Ironically, just a few days ago, Rabbi Daniel Wiener of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, sent out this Civic Covenant: Principles to Unite Us for Change from Faith United. I hope you will read it. We need it now more than ever.

The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe
Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania

My friends in Christ, we are in the grip of a spiritual sickness. This illness manifests itself in our debased civil discourse, which is rife with charge and countercharge but lacks individuals willing to take responsibility for the violence their rhetoric spawns. …

In circumstances such as these the church has a mission: to comfort the afflicted, to sow seeds of peace, and to advocate for justice. In prayerful humility, let us be about it.


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