The Tucson shootings
January 8, 2011
What are your thoughts about this event?
I don't know what adjective to use in that line ... awful, tragic,
revelatory, or what? Anyway, we'd like to hear your thoughts,
so just send
to be shared here.
First response in Tucson
response team is first to assist after shooting spree
by Jerry L. Van
Marter, Presbyterian News Service [1-26-11]
Three members of the National Response Team (NRT) of
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance arrived in Tucson, Ariz.,
within 48 hours of the Jan. 8 shootings there that killed six
and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
PDA’s NRT trio
was the only national religious community responder to serve in
Tucson in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
“We can be
grateful to a denomination with the vision to equip, train and
deploy faith leaders into arenas of human-caused violence,” said
the Rev. Laurie Kraus, pastor of Riviera Presbyterian Church in
Miami, FL. Kraus has served on PDA’s NRT since its inception in
She was joined in
Tucson by fellow NRT members Rick Turner, a member of John Knox
Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C., and the Rev. David
Holyan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood, Mo. —
who at the invitation of Presbytery de Cristo began immediately
to offer support and encouragement to pastors, congregations and
the presbytery as they responded to the crisis. ...
morning (Jan. 9) as I listened to sermons by colleagues in
Tucson reflecting on the aftermath of the tragedy and the
commemorations of MLK weekend, I was struck as I always am, by
the integrity, authenticity and vulnerability of faith leaders
who step into the pain and chaos of a human caused disaster with
words of honesty and calls for the church’s meaningful
participation in the healing of the community,” Kraus wrote.
Faith leaders to Congress: ‘soul searching’ needed about
toxic rhetoric [1-17-11]
PC(USA)’s Gradye Parsons joins 50 others in
JANUARY 13, 2011
Faith in Public Life, by Kristin Ford
In an open letter to Congress published today
(Jan. 13) as a full-page advertisement in Roll Call newspaper,
faith leaders are calling for national “soul searching” and
praying for Members of Congress after Saturday’s shooting spree
in Arizona, which left six people dead and Congresswoman
Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, critically injured.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly
Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons is among the 50 prominent national
religious leaders who signed the open letter. The signers
include heads of mainline Protestant, Catholic, evangelical,
Jewish and Muslim denominations, congregations, and
The signers urge Members of Congress to reject
vitriolic and rancorous rhetoric, consider the consequences of
their words, and engage political adversaries in a spirit of
shared American values of civility and cooperation.
Other signatories, in addition to Parsons,
include megachurch pastors Bishop T.D. Jakes and Rev. Joel
Hunter; the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Nathan J. Diament,
the Director of Public Policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish
Congregations of America; and Rabbi David Saperstein of the
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the
National Council of Churches and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon,
general secretary of the NCC, which represents 45 million people
and 100,000 congregations in the U.S., and Rev. Sam Rodriguez,
president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership
Conference, which serves 15 million Hispanic Christians, also
signed the letter.
The full text of the letter, which is also
available online with a complete list of signatories:
Dear Members of Congress,
As Americans and members of the human
family, we are grieved by the recent tragedy in Tucson,
Arizona. As Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, we pray
together for all those wounded, including Congresswoman
Gabrielle Giffords as she fights for her life. Our hearts
break for those lives lost and for the loved ones left
behind. We also stand with you, our elected officials, as
you continue to serve our nation while coping with the
trauma of this senseless attack.
This tragedy has spurred a sorely needed
time of soul searching and national public dialogue about
violent and vitriolic political rhetoric. We strongly
support this reflection, as we are deeply troubled that
rancor, threats and incivility have become commonplace in
our public debates.
We appreciate the sacrifices you make and
risks you incur by accepting a call to public service, and
we urge you to continue to serve as stewards of our
democracy by engaging ideological adversaries not as
enemies, but as fellow Americans.
In our communities and congregations, we
pledge to foster an environment conducive to the important
and difficult debates so crucial to American democracy. In
our churches, mosques and synagogues, we come together not
as members of a certain political ideology or party, but as
children of God and citizens called to build a more perfect
union. We pray that you do the same.
Read this article, with a link to the list of signers of the
‘Civility’ author James Calvin Davis comments on Arizona
shooting, political blame game
A news release from
Westminster John Knox Press begins:
The recent shooting in a Tucson, Arizona
supermarket has saturated the media the past few days, sparking
accusations of political influence from the Tea Party and a
rancorous political climate to explain why the shooter decided
to open fire. Middlebury College professor and ordained
Presbyterian minister James Calvin Davis, author of In
Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven
Moral Issues that Divide Us (Westminster John Knox Press),
commented on the tragedy today, urging for civil discourse in
How did this happen?
Another comment on the
shootings in Tucson:
Where and how did this person get the gun
(and others) used in this heinous crime? Did his parents
know he had this gun (and others) including ammunition? Who
is the owner of the gun(s) and ammunition? Where were these
items purchased? Were they kept in the house where he lived
with his parents? Where did he get the funds to purchase
these item? If the parents knew, did they 'approve'?
The author of this note lives in Atlanta, GA,
where he and his wife attend of the First Presbyterian Church of
Atlanta, and participate in their International Sunday School
People of Tucson show light
in the midst of the darkness
This report came from the Los Angeles
Times on the afternoon of January 11.
Tucson rallies to protect girl's family
Arizona lawmakers moved quickly Tuesday to try
to block protesters from the funeral of 9-year-old shooting
victim Christina Green, passing an emergency measure prohibiting
protests within 300 feet of any funeral services.
In addition to the new law, hundreds of Tucson
residents were making contingency plans to try to protect the
family of the girl who was slain in Saturday's rampage.
The actions were prompted by the Westboro
Baptist Church, a publicity-seeking Kansas congregation [led by
pastor Fred Phelps] known for demonstrating at the funerals of
U.S. soldiers, arguing that their deaths are retribution by God
for America's acceptance of homosexuality. The church announced
it would protest Green's funeral, scheduled for Thursday,
because the family is Catholic.
The protest drew instant and unanimous
condemnation from Arizonans. ...
Tucson residents are preparing to line the
funeral procession for Green, both to show their support of the
family and to block them from seeing the Westboro protest.
"We just want to show the families in Tucson
that we're a community that's bound together, through the good
and the bad," said Janna Zankich, a 46-year-old dance studio
On Tuesday evening, she planned to gather with
dozens of people at Breakout Studios to construct 8- to 10-foot
wings that volunteer "angels" would wear along the funeral
procession to block the family's view of the protesters.
Second Tucson shooting victim with
Presbyterian ties identified
Jerry L. Van Marter reported on Jan. 10
for Presbyterian News Service
Another victim with Presbyterian connections
has been identified as among those who died at the hands of a
lone gunman in Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 8.
Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to U.S. Congresswoman
Gabrielle Giffords — who was apparently the main target of Jared
Loughner, the alleged mass murderer — came from a staunch
Presbyterian family, according to the Rev. John Matthew, a
longtime Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) executive from Boise,
Matthew told the Presbyterian News Service
Jan. 10 that he and his wife, the Rev. Judy McKay, are headed to
Tucson to Tucson for the memorial service for Zimmerman and the
five other victims of the shootings.
Good Friday on Championship Monday?
a PVJ member and Associate Professor of Religion at Wilson
College, Chambersburg, Pa, posted his reflections on Tucson and
football on the blog page of Presbyterian Outlook.
Writing on Jan. 11, he begins:
Watching the college football championship
game being played in Arizona last night, felt strange to me,
sort of like returning to the scene of the crime to throw a
party. There was nothing to be done--or I haven’t thought of
it. We needed a good game, but why did it have to be in
Arizona? It was almost as if the Fates had conspired to make
us endure the tragic comedy in which old people and a little
girl are shot down in cold blood and football players
proudly cant their praise to the god of football. Who can
blame those who curse this god and any and all faith? What
kind of universe would this be if it were true that God was
too busy deciding football games to bother with saving
little girls from crazed gunmen?
PC(USA) member among those killed
in Arizona shootings
express horror and anguish over tragedy
By Sharon Youngs, Communications Coordinator,
Office of the General Assembly [1-10-2011]
Phyllis Schneck, a member of Northminster Presbyterian Church in
Tucson, Ariz., was among those killed in the shootings on
January 8, 2011, that left six people dead and 14 injured.
Schneck’s pastor, the Reverend Andy Ross,
described her as “vibrant, fun, and a devoted woman of faith.
Her smile, her commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ, and
her friendship to so many will long be treasured.”
Ross continued, “From all of us at
Northminster to all of you – we offer our hope and commitment to
live as Christ's disciples, advancing his Kingdom of peace and
healing, hope and salvation, with God's divine help, and with
all of you. God bless you!”
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders issued a
statement today in the wake of the shooting tragedy.
Elder Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th
General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the
Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly,
and Elder Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the General
Assembly Mission Council, expressed anguish over the shootings
and horror over “this kind of assault on public discourse.”
Bolbach, Parsons, and Valentine also encourage
all Presbyterians to join President Obama’s call for a moment of
silence today at 11:00 EST.
The full text of their statement:
We join with millions of people in this
nation and worldwide who are horrified and anguished by the
shootings in Arizona two days ago that resulted in such
critical injuries and loss of life.
We are also horrified by this kind of
assault on public discourse. Freedom of speech and assembly
are foundational to who we are as citizens of this nation.
As people of faith, we condemn violence and hatred and are
committed to respectful civic engagement.
We encourage all Presbyterians to join in
prayer with the President of the United States’ call for a
moment of silence today at 11:00 a.m. EST, “to honor the
innocent victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson,
Arizona, including those still fighting for their lives. It
will be a time for us to come together as a nation in prayer
or reflection, keeping the victims and their families
closely at heart.”
Presbyterians have already been reaching
out in this incident through
Disaster Assistance and
A community worship service is planned
for today in Tucson, and additional assessment and follow-up
will be ongoing.
are the God in whom I take refuge
O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling
you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and
(from Ps. 43)
This report is also posted on the PC(USA) website
Baptism ... and a time for renouncing evil
sermons yesterday (Sunday, January 9, 2011) included some
comments on the tragic killings in Tucson just the day before.
Rev. John Shuck,
pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee,
focused on the baptism of Jesus, with texts from Mark 1:9;
Matthew 3:13; 4:1-11; and Luke 3:21; 4:1-13.
He notes the
stark question put to candidates for baptism and membership in
the church: “Do renounce evil and its power in the world?”
sounds strange, perhaps, to progressive sorts of folks. But
Shuck insists it is very relevant. He continues:
He concludes the
six people were killed and twelve injured by a gunman in
Arizona. One of the injured is congresswoman Gabrielle
Giffords. She is believed to be the target of the attack.
This is evil.
But we need
to say more. What is this evil specifically? What exactly is
the locus of the evil?
Is it the 22
year old who fired the shots?
Is it something within him, some mental illness that wasn’t
Is it some "demon" within not exorcised?
Is it our collective lack of care for our youth and for each
Is it our messed up priorities?
Is it our abuse of creation, each other, and ourselves?
Is it the atmosphere of our nation and world?
Is it the angst about future?
Is it the fear and paranoia and our love affair with weapons
of all kinds?
Is it in our inability to communicate, cooperate, and create
Is it our need to separate us vs. them, good vs. evil, blue
vs. red, either you or me?
Is it the nastiness of our political discourse exemplified
by a politician who creates a map with gun sites targeting
Is this evil a form of terrorism in an attempt to keep
people fearful and silent?
Is it the human condition that we find in Genesis 8: “the
inclination of the human heart is evil from youth?”
And yet that
same book also said that humankind is created in the image
confusing. It is complex.
There is such
a thing as evil. But it is hard to know exactly what it is
and where it is and what we are to do about it. Yet we are
asked: Do you renounce evil and its power in the world?
The answer to
that question is, “Yes, I do.” And the answer needs to be,
“Yes, I do.” And we need to say it clearly and with
conviction and with humility. We need to say it even when we
don’t know the extent of it or have a precise plan of how to
renounce it. Not only do we need to say it, but we need to
In response to
this tragedy and to this evil and to the evil of violence,
we will tap in to resources within. We will discover
creativity and direct it toward compassion. Right now, there
are vigils, there are facebook pages, there are sermons
preached, there are prayers spoken, there are people uniting
to share their grief, to offer love and compassion, and to
imagine a more peaceful, just, and kind world.
That is what
makes us human.
created in the image of goodness, love, and blessing. That
is who we are at our core. We are in turn creative and we
have goodness, love, blessing and healing to share. Evil is
a distortion. It is powerful but not ultimately so.
is love, joy, and compassion.
That is how
we will renounce evil and its power in the world.
question we can respond,
“Yes, we do
and we will!”
For the full sermon >>
An Attack on the Soul of the Nation
Jim Wallis of Sojourners writes on the shooting of
Gabrielle Giffords as one who knows her personally, but offers a
thoughtful faith perspective as well. He begins:
The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, the
young Congresswoman from Arizona, must speak to the soul of
this nation. The shooter raised his gun to her head, and
then he kept shooting until 14 others were wounded and six
people killed, including a district court judge and a
9-year-old girl who was president of her student council.
Gabby, as everyone calls her, is one of the most beloved
political leaders in the Congress and back in her home state
of Arizona. Everyone likes her on both sides of the aisle.
One of her colleagues remarked that if there was a list of
the most vitriolic politicians in the country, Gabby’s name
would be near the very bottom of the list. Gabby is known as
one of the warmest, brightest, most open, and best listening
members of Congress. She was listening to her constituents
Saturday at a shopping center when a young man pointed a gun
at her head and shot her at point-blank range.
Responding to the shooting in Tucson
Hymns that might
help you and your congregation respond to latest American
to Carolyn and Bruce Gillette
Tonight we grieve the deaths
and injuries in Arizona. We don't know if there is a connection
to the political climate of hatred, but there is to insane gun
culture in our nation that makes guns too available and too
Sometimes prayers are all we can
offer, they always need to be the first thing we do before we
take further action.
Carolyn wrote a hymn-prayer
lamenting gun violence ("God
of Mercy, You Have Shown Us") for the Presbyterian
Peacemaking Program in 2009 that is posted here with the music.
Her earlier hymn on the day of
the Columbine shootings is also
Please share them with friends
in your church and online.
January 30th is the beginning
of the lectionary series from the Sermon on the Mount. To
further Jesus' vision to our present times, we hope to have
Carolyn's "The Sermon on the Mount: A Worship Service of Lessons
and Songs" available soon on her web site
http://www.carolynshymns.com/ This service celebrates Jesus'
teachings of love, peace and justice by having the entire Sermon
on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) read in sections in a worship service
that includes four new hymns based on Jesus' teachings. We used
this special service in our church and people found it very
powerful to hear Jesus' whole sermon while singing hymn
responses written to well-known hymn tunes.
Blessings on you and your work
for peace in 2011.
Grace and Peace, Bruce
Bruce & Carolyn Gillette,
Limestone Presbyterian Church, 3201 Limestone Road, Wilmington,
19808-2198 Office Phone: (302)
Home Phone: (302)-994-0220
A turning point in the discourse, but in which direction?
by Matt Bai, revised today from an article
published in the January 9 New York Times [1-8-2011]
The article begins:
Within minutes of the first reports Saturday
Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and a score of
people with her
had been shot in Tucson, pages began disappearing from the
Web. One was
Sarah Palin’s infamous
“cross hairs” map from last year, which showed a series of
contested Congressional districts, including Ms. Giffords’s,
with gun targets trained on them. Another was from
Daily Kos, the liberal
blog, where one of the congresswoman’s apparently liberal
constituents declared her “dead to me” after Ms. Giffords voted
Nancy Pelosi in House leadership elections last week.
The full article >>
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!