Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray has issued the following letter to the Church of the Brethren, following the shootings in Orlando, Fla., and in advance of the denomination’s annual meeting on June 29-July 3 in Greensboro, N.C. It was first shared in an e-mail to delegates and others who are registered to attend the Conference:
14 June 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My last note to you came with a lighter heart. Today, as I mourn with our country over the Orlando tragedy I want to share once more, now with a sadness and urgency prompted by our national remorse.
It is probably not necessary for me to add to the speculation over what we need to do as a country. I want to speak to what we can do as a Church, especially as we anticipate gathering in Greensboro.
We can each examine our own thoughts, words and actions to look for any evidence that might lead others to think that hatred can be consistent with our faith. We can be clear and public in our insistence that no matter where we stand on gender identity or whether or not we approve of particular “lifestyles,” we reject any discourse that justifies, or any silence that ignores, either the pain of this moment or the daily afflictions visited on L.G.B.T. people in the name of religion.
We can testify in our congregations and in our communities that any religious expression that encourages, condones, or excuses the kind of festering hate that infects a soul to such unthinkable ends is not consistent with our understanding of the New Testament. We can speak as a people that have suffered for our beliefs, especially in our witness for peace, that any religious expression that dehumanizes or objectifies another person does not reflect the face of God that we see in the face of Jesus.
We can make sure that our words; our actions and our very demeanor at our coming gathering reassure all brothers and sisters who assemble, that the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference is a safe and protected place. We can affirm that beyond what may be deep differences in our understandings of the relationship of faith to gender, we firmly, resolutely and unwaveringly reject any behavior that would create a sense of physical insecurity among those gathered to worship and do the business of the Church.
We can recommit ourselves to a piety that expresses itself in kindness and rebuffs self-righteousness. We can recommit ourselves to nonviolence and the concept of no force in religion – a fundamental cornerstone that our ancestors laid for what is now the Church of the Brethren.
This, I believe, is how we can best minister to the grieving folk of Orlando.
— For more about the 2016 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren go to www.brethren.org/ac .