The following statement was issued by Bishop Gerald Barnes on August 19.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our nation and our world continue to be plagued by violent hostility and a tragic disregard for the precious life that God has given all of His children.
Just this week, we have witnessed an act of terror in Spain that claimed 13 lives and injured hundreds, and the terrible display of hatred and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to one death and injury to others.
Let us pray for the eternal rest of those who lost their lives and for the loved ones they left behind. And let us petition the Holy Spirit to calm this storm.
These events may invoke despair or anger. Many of us are deeply saddened by the polarized state of our society that these days and events seem to illustrate. We must acknowledge this pain and walk through it together.
At the same time, as people of faith we cannot be paralyzed by our personal feelings about these events. We are called more than ever to follow the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who faced the scorn and violence of His own passion with a message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. We must be prophets of this message today; advocating for the human dignity of all, giving of ourselves for our brother and sister and, importantly, refusing to be pulled to one side or another of the angry divide. At the same time, we must be firm against any group that promotes hatred toward any other group of people. All races, all creeds, all peoples are to be respected as children of God. Those who promote hate are to be denounced.
We are all part of God’s human family yet, in our fear and sinfulness, in our ignorance and misguidedness, we sow seeds of division, we erect artificial barriers and we demonize those who don’t appear to be like us. This is not what our God intends for His children.
I ask you to continue to pray for peace and to reflect on the events of these days not through the lens of your political affiliation, your socio-economic status or your ethnicity. Please look at this and respond first as a disciple of Jesus Christ. As the popular hymn goes, “and they will know we are Christians by our love...”
May God bless our world and our nation. And let us live together in peace.