Last night a gunman entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine people. Authorities have since apprehended the assailant after an intensive 14-hour search. Photos on the killer’s Facebook page indicate that he espoused a white supremacist ideology.
Hatred and violence anywhere and at any time are repugnant. But the slaughter of faithful people gathered in their house of worship is especially shocking.
Please join me in praying for what some are now calling the Charleston martyrs. Pray that those who died may rest in peace and rise in glory. Pray that those left bereaved and in shock may know comfort and consolation. Pray for the city of Charleston.
Prayers for the victims come most naturally to us. And yet the Christ to whom these martyrs devoted themselves is the Prince of Peace. He calls us to do what does not come naturally. To pray for the perpetrator.
Pray that the shooter may know contrition and conversion of heart. Pray that his tortured soul may be restored and that he may be reconciled to those he chose to name his enemies and to the God whose love can redeem him.
Finally, let’s take a moment to reflect upon and to pray for our common life as Americans. Hate, contempt, and violence occur so frequently in our land that they threaten to deform our national soul.
While wrongdoers should be held accountable for their behavior, we can all take responsibility for the kind of society we create with our attitudes and our actions. Peace and justice will remain abstractions unless they arise from the daily efforts of each of us to uphold the dignity of every human being in even our most routine interactions.
Many of my colleagues in the House of Bishop have written wise words on this sorrowful day. Here are some links:
Bishop Nick Knisely of Rhode Island: Let our response go beyond our expression of empathy and grief. Let us recommit ourselves to the hard work of racial reconciliation and building communities of safety and love.
Bishop Dan Edwards of Nevada: 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.