For more than 50 years, Metropolitan Community Churches have believed that the right to live fully and without fear is worth the journey of social transformation. Our guiding vision of an equitable and peaceful kingdom, as taught by Jesus of Nazareth, has inspired us to see beyond current realities and effect change. We have been instrumental in creating cultural, spiritual, and legal advances for TLGBQIA+ people, and were early adopters of gender-inclusive and non-binary liturgical language and the ordination of women and transgender clergy. Our churches have faced the HIV/AIDS pandemic with care and leadership, wading into fearful and unsettled waters to learn, educate, and create possibilities where there had been few to none before. We have imagined a kinder world and worked hard to co-create it with the loving Spirit of God.
That is why we are reaching out to you today to encourage the same commitment around the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing apart communities in portions of our Fellowship. The Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando’s Latinx community and the tragic murder statistics for transgender women of color are stark reminders that all around the world, gun violence is a queer intersectional issue. And while it is true that guns in themselves don’t kill people, we know that people with guns easily available are shooting thousands of people, young and old, for a thousand different reasons each year. These statistics are amplified by technologies designed for military combat yet marketed to private citizens. Within a matter of minutes, entire communities have been traumatized forever. Our silence on this issue is complicity; our inaction is enabling; and our reluctance to engage gun violence together because of differences is creating a deadly chasm. Our towns and cities need us to be prophetic in our acts of embodied peace in order to disrupt the fearful and violent zeitgeist of this age. It is time to be a Light; it is time to have no fear in Love once again.
We encourage you to engage the issue of gun violence with the awareness that there are varying beliefs and practices among us. For instance, we know that gender often informs motivations to carry or not-carry firearms. It is also true that as an international denomination, our local communities view firearm purchase, ownership, and public carrying within the context of widely divergent laws, moralities, cultures, and frequency of gun violence. The intention of this communication is not to shame or blame anyone, but rather to offer encouragement that we can walk through this epidemic together with openness, compassion, and active awareness. One thing is certain: we cannot expect the suffering to end unless we create change.
Jesus had an unwavering belief that small groups of disciples would be able to do seemingly impossible things through the power of God’s love. We do, too. We believe our local churches can make a positive difference. By engaging one another and our wider communities with deep listening and respect, we can begin to uncover the fears and hopes that drive our choices to carry or not carry weapons. Pastors and facilitators can help us construct new communal ethics and personal practices that better align with the peaceful world we are longing to create. We can model peacemaking by deciding together that our churches will be no-carry, gun-free sanctuaries, with the exception of trained and designated security personnel for those congregations who feel the need for this. We can sponsor and partner with gun buy-back initiatives to lessen the number and proximity of weapons in our neighborhoods. By engaging in civic and political action, we can reduce the availability of high-capacity and rapid-fire weaponry while instituting thorough background checks for all firearm sales. And we can have the compassion and conviction to transform the fear, rage, abuse, racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, nationalism and economic frustration in ourselves and our communities from which much gun violence stems.
Metropolitan Community Churches can also take steps to create a culture of disarmament together, where we normalize the personal and communal consideration to disarm ourselves at no-carry denominational gatherings. As an international fellowship, there is much that we can learn from each other about alternative ethics and cultures around issues of security. We can become peacemakers and repairers of the breach, joining faithful people throughout history who have chosen non-violence even when facing great oppression and risk. To voluntarily become gun-free in our gatherings is to remember who and whose we are. We are a rainbow people, a sign throughout the earth of the goodness and sufficiency of the God of unlimited love. Therein lies our witness, therein lies our security.
We acknowledge that there are local MCCs who have already had dialogue and made courageous decisions, and there are those who haven’t been able to broach discussions yet. It can be intimidating to take a countercultural stance as a church, as it has been with any social issue during the heart of the struggle for compassionate change. We acknowledge that at a denominational level we have equivocated on the issue of gun violence and weaponized culture, reserving statements primarily to incidences of mass shootings, especially in the United States. In the meantime, you in local communities have done the best you can to absorb and respond to the trauma of gun violence with faith, care, and courage. We see the pain among us on this issue and hold each one of us with our various histories of gun violence in Love’s Light for healing.
Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
So, it is without doubt that we believe in and encourage our Fellowship and local communities to keep heart, and engage the forces driving gun violence with courage, compassion and an active resolve to change. Together, we will find a way forward and embody the way of peace.
MCC Council of Elders
Rev. Elder Cecilia Eggleston, Moderator
Rev. Elder Pat Bumgardner, Convener
Rev. Elder Ines-Paul Baumann
Rev. Elder Tony Freeman
Rev. Elder Héctor Gutiérrez
Rev. Elder Dwayne Johnson
Elder Nancy Maxwell
Rev. Elder Margarita Sánchez DeLeón
Rev. Elder Mona West, PhD