Disciples News Service

A word about Sutherland Springs, TX, shootings

From General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens

28 I go about in sunless gloom;
    I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.

31 My lyre is turned to mourning,
    and my pipe to the voice of those who weep. Job 30:28, 31(NRSV)

How long will we allow high capacity guns to slaughter human beings? The lessons of Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine – all are lost on us. And now 26 more people murdered in church on a Sunday morning. And in a quiet, small community of 400 near San Antonio. Mothers, fathers, children.

We don’t yet know why the gunman chose to attack in that place at that time, but we do know he had one thing in common with the shooters in all those other cities and towns that suffered mass casualties. He had access to a high-capacity gun.

At the 2015 General Assembly in Columbus, the Disciples gathered there passed a resolution “call(ing) on members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to demand of their elected officials that gun safety laws be enacted as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, including: an assault weapon ban, the elimination of the gun show and private-party loophole by requiring mandatory background checks and waiting periods before all firearm purchases, a ban on high capacity magazines, and requiring federally enforced safe firearm storage.”

There is a distinction here. These high capacity weapons are not tools for hunting game. These weapons were developed to inflict the greatest damage possible. There is no reason that such guns should be available to civilians.

Church – we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. One way to address the destruction is to find ways to move the conversation forward in our communities and our legislatures. Having those tough conversations about how to keep our children safe is a step toward healing the fragmentation.   As Representative John Lewis said today, it is not enough to mourn and pray.  We must act.

God, may we be agents of healing and carriers of your love and peace.

40 Responses to “A word about Sutherland Springs, TX, shootings”

  1. Thank you Rev. Owens. Our culture of guns and violence has reached a point where we are often immune to the pain of others. High capacity weapons are for one purpose only, to kill people. They have no other use. Yet we haven’t convinced Congress that gun regulation and the banning of such weapons is the right thing to do. If we, as a National and International Christian Community, that advocates for peace and wholeness don’t take a definitive stand how can we expect others to do so. The resolution passed last summer is a good start but unless it leads to communities taking the unpopular stand against the gun lobby and those who insist on carrying those weapons then we have failed in our role as community. Organizing a social media and letter campaigns, promoting gun resistant groups in each region to organize and at as resources for congregation may be some things that could be done. If we are only going to write resolutions and not take action we are not doing what we can to bring peace and wholeness to world.

  2. Julia Haley Hargus:

    It is imperative that we have stricter gun control laws in this country!!!

  3. Beverly Sue Wilson:

    There is a law in place that should have prevented this man from owning a gun.
    He had been given a dishonorable discharge from the airforce for beating his wife and child and his gun rights taken away.
    You can’t keep guns out of the hands of criminals with laws. The problem is not “guns”, the problem is “hate”. Until people quit hating each other these things are going to happen. There are laws against killing people but that doesn’t stop them does it? More gun laws is not the answer. Find a way to enforce the ones we have.

    • Sam Wilson:

      The flaw in your argument Beverly, is that you are only considering the effect additional laws might have on the shooter. What if there were laws restricting the manufacturer and import of the type of guy he used? What if there were better laws requiring the seller to do more rigorous background checks? What if we closed up loopholes on gun show sales? Then, even if this shooter chose to break the law, he might have had a much more difficult time obtaining such a violent and deadly weapon.

    • Beverly Sue Wilson – I don’t think an NRA answer to gun control is the answer in this case. We do not have the laws that will protect us from this kind of carnage. We have allowed high capacity clips to be sold for guns (that we allow to be sold) that can shoot multiple bullets at a rapid pace. Please read the statement. The controls would be on weapons that are not used for hunting, unless you consider hunting humans as sport.

  4. Joanne Walker Flowers:

    Many years ago in basic training, I wept when I learned the amount of damage one bullet from an assault rifle can inflict on the human body. It’s unimaginable that yesterday a one-year old child was shot. It is time to act. Actually, action is overdue.

    • Tom A Spears:

      With respect, you are incorrect. He was discharged, yes, but it was not a dishonorable discharge. It was a discharge for bad conduct. Because that’s not the same the bad conduct discharge does not carry the condition that he cannot own weapons. Clearly however, it should have, based on the nature of his discharge being a violent crime. But he was able to purchase his weapons through that loophole.

      • Robert Lyons:

        Fact check: BDC is a punitive discharge, and in his case, it was a General Court Martial. By Federal law, a GCM conviction is a felony. Even if not, he still is prevented from owning a weapon by the Lautenberg Amendment, 1996, which bans weapon possession by a person convicted of a misdemeanor of violence directed against a spouse, parent or child. The AF has since admitted to failing to input his conviction into the NCIC, which, if they had done it, would have prevented his purchase.

  5. Bill Shive:

    Glad to be a Disciple! We are a movement for peace.

  6. Susan Evans:

    Thank You! This cannot be said often enough. There is NO reason that such guns should be available to civilian. Period.

  7. Eileen Schmidt:

    Accurate, compassionate, concise and beautiful call to action. Bravo!

  8. Rev. Rosemary Redmond:

    Some say this is about mental illness and not about guns. I say this is about a mentally ill person with a gun and with the intent to kill.

  9. Robert Lyons:

    Insipid comments, politically correct, but ineffectual, At this point, neither the motive, the weapons used, nor how the assassin obtained them has been revealed, so any comments about assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, or background checks is premature – good for GMP comments, but not helpful to the solution. What would help is to provide training and resources to congregations, to help them respond to an active shooter. A word of prayer for the victims would also be appropo. Maybe how to minister to and ensure the safety of domestic violence victims, as domestic violence seem to be at the root of the problem, and the MIL of the assassin was the intended victim. Or, we could have been comforted, due to the fact that Christians and churches are under attack. Or, we could talk about our witness in and to a fallen world, where sin (yes, old-fashioned sin) is real and present. But no, We hear how weapons are the problem. If we didn’t have weapons … If we didn’t have certain magazines … If convicted criminals (as Kelley) couldn’t buy or steal a gun … Now, Churches are on notice that an active shooter event is a real, present, and foreseeable threat, and churches who do not provide immediate and effective countermeasures could be held liable for any loss of life. Can you help us pastors with saving the lives of our people, rather than bemoaning inanimate weapons after the fact?

    • Steve Odom:

      Nicely put!

    • Rebecca:

      Jesus said to turn the other cheek. No qualifiers. No caveats. Not purchase a more powerful weapon. Our GMP is bringing the word of God. Listen and be chastened.

      • Robert Lyons:

        Don’t need chastening or lectured to, thanks. And I do not claim to have an exclusive revelation or insight on how Jesus’ teachings transverse the generations. I’m just a small church pastor, 35 years in ministry, where I both care for souls, and in today’s world, must keep them safe while they worship. And yet what I hear, in “turn the other cheek,” that if a lunatic begins fire at worship, I should just stand there and let her do it. I’ve been in combat. My life has been at risk. I am ok with dying. But what right do I have, after being placed in a position where people entrust their lives to me (albeit for a hour or two on Sunday) to make their decisions for them? Please, forego the sanctimony.

    • Mark Conley:

      Excellent perceptive comment Robert. Seems as though liberal narrow mindedness has permeated the D.O.C. One only has to look at cities with the most stringent gun laws to see how ineffectual they are. Shall we also ban cars and knives?

      • Robert Lyons:

        It is also interesting that the GMP referenced her remarks with Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Orlando, etc., but did not reference any of the recent church massacres. As a pastor, the loss of one life by a person invading my worship space would crush my spirit beyond belief. A 29x casualty count could not hurt me any more than just one. And it would not hurt me less, if the murder came by a Derringer, an AR-15, or toenail clippers. It’s not the method or the number, but the pain of senselessly losing any child of God. And, as a pastor, and from the pulpit, now I have to constantly look down the aisle and worry about the motives of the next person coming in. Please, please, tell me how to prevent this from happening, and not make political points from this tragedy. Do not tell me to tell my congregation to “figure it out” on our own. Help us all, General Church – don’t just politicize and pontificate, and cite politicians and doctors as your justification.

        • John McCauslin:

          Robert Lyon, while you cannot prevent a homicidal maniac from killing, you can limit the damage he can do. To begin with, as a nation we need to stop fetishizing guns. Armed guards in the sanctuary is not the solution! We simply cannot turn our churches into armed camps. That is the response of the weak and freightened, that is the response of those who do not trust in the “armor” of God, not for ptotection from danger so much as for strength in the face of evil. That is the response of those who continue to live in the thrall of an Idolatrous relationship with guns, Finally, we need to face the fact that to the extent we do nothing to address our American cultural relationship with the idea of men and the personal power they gain through their guns, we are all complicit in the damage done with and by them. It is a virtual addiction. We don’t respond to the opioid crisis with platitudes like ‘drugs don’t kill people, people do,’ and we don’t advocate the unrestrained distribution of drugs! We limit access to the dangerous substances, we educate the public on the dangers and warning signs of the addictions, and we seek out and counsel the addicted before they do too much harm. But it’s worse than a mere addiction! When it comes to men and their guns, we dare not tamper with the sacrosanct, we dare not even whisper words disrespectful of the Idol, and we attack those who would undermine, criticize or demythologize the Idol of ‘the man and his gun’ as (Constitutional) heresy, and many of us even reach out to the Idol for protection, repeating the almost hymnic response, that what is needed is a few good men with bigger guns. No. The answer is not to post guards in the sanctuary – we worship a different God in that place. Whatever we do, we must not pollute the House of the Lord with false idols.

          • Robert Lyons:

            I could likely dismantle this arguement, item by item, but I cannot get past the grammar and syntax. Also, the sexism. The author made at least two references to “men and their guns,” indicating a binary view of gender, and the false assumption that only one gender has a desire to exercise their Second Amendment Constitutional rights.

    • Julie:

      Thank you for your well put words. So often it seems as if we have gone to blame an instrument of destruction, instead of the motive, and how we should be preparing for the same possibility. Totally skipping over the prayer and concern for the victim(s).. and even the prayers for the forgotten. Who is thinking of what drove this person to carry this terrible thing out? Even more.. we need to pray for HIS family – can you imagine? Not those who were shot at, but those who may not have been in the Church…

    • John McCauslin:


  10. Sherrie Dennis:

    Thank you. My heart and mind are very troubled by the resistance of the government to rethinking gun laws ..It is always “too soon.” It won’t stop criminals. It is not the gun, but the person, etc, etc. Things can be done and hunters can have their guns and those who want can have small guns for protection. I pray for answers and for people to speak up.

  11. Bev Hawari:

    I agree with this resolution.

  12. Sandra Barry:

    It hurts my heart to think that the religious leaders are preaching that this happened because our citizens are “in the world and not in God, that because we have banned God from our schools we are seeing more evil in the world. The law enforcement officials blame it of mental health issues and are saying it has nothing to do with guns. The young shooter is hailed as a great hero because he had a gun on his person and therefore saved more innocent souls, using his own brand of vigilante justice. And nothing will be done about the Gus used but this murderous miscreant.

  13. Jerry Traylor:

    I am curious the amount of Church funds have been spent to advocate this position? There might be a sticky wicket if charitable contributions are used to further this political agenda…

    • Eric Brown:

      This is not a political issue. It is a humanitarian issue. By calling this a political issue, one gives power to the very people who do not care who dies as long as the sales of steel, brass, gunpowder and lead continue to grow exponentially. Evil has only the power we give it. Period.

  14. Steve McCann:

    It is not about gun laws California, New York, Chicago have the strictest laws in the nation.
    Sandy Hook shooter broke multiple laws prior to firing any shots.
    1st the guns were “stolen”
    2nd a felon in possession of a firearm
    3rd a felon transporting a firearm
    4th carrying a firearm into a gun free zone “school”
    The shooter also failed too check in at the school office, guns are not the problem it is a lack of respect for life. I have owned guns my entire life and a gun is an inanimate object and can only fire when someone loads it and pulls the trugger NO OTHER WAY. A car cannot make someone drive drunk, a pencil cannot make you spell a word wrong or give you a wrong answer on a math test and my fork did not make me fat. Chicago has the highest amount of gun deaths but the STRICTEST LAWS IN THE NATION. I know most people say the 2nd amendment was written 240 years old it was written for muskets let’s look at the first amendment as well because the right of free speech does not cover anything but a quill pen, jar of ink and the pony express. If we go by updating the second amendment the first amendment does not cover an iPhone, computer, fax machine, email, high speed internet access or instant messaging. Learn about guns before you jump on the gun control gun bans.

    • ERIC QUEK:

      Steve, thank you for being Clear headed! which is seldom seen in places like this. It is unfortunate, that your President Terri Hord Owen instead of being a leader is a divider. He himself stated that : ” We don’t yet know why the gunman chose to attack in that place at that time, but we do know he had one thing in common with the shooters in all those other cities and towns that suffered mass casualties. He had access to a high-capacity gun.” Notice two things. 1) He does not know all the facts. 2) Stating the obvious…has access to high-capacity gun …but does not mention how, why… Terri Hord Owen should be a shame for those comments. Instead requesting for ” time for healing, time to reach out to God and ask for his Mercy…” Terri Hord Owen further divide, insult and aggravate the situation more by making those comments. A True Leader knows when to quote Ecc. 3: 1-8 So shame on you

    • Rev. Andy Campbell:

      Hawaii has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and they seem to work. Australia also was able to change the culture with strict gun laws. A huge percentage of the guns used in crimes in the areas you note were not purchased in those areas. They are brought in from other areas. Gun laws in this country can only work if they are uniform nationwide. 93% of gun owners want the laws to be tougher for people to get guns. It is harder for me to get a box of over the counter allergy medicine than it is to get a gun and ammunition.

  15. Alice McKinney:

    To follow up on Robert Lyons concerns on safety of churches, I offer the following comments. For several years, all doors to our church are locked when services begin. Two individuals remain outside the sanctuary in case of emergency. If someone arrives late to services, the door is opened for them. While we realize that this does not guarantee the safety of those of us within the building, it would give us some warning should such an instance occur. We have multiple “escape” routes from the worship center. We have also met with local police officials, and we have received safety advice from them. All congregations should maximize the safety of their congregations.

    Sadly, the Jewish synagogues has received so many hate threats, they now have armed police security (paid by them) during services. Our Muslim friends at the local mosque are in even more danger. Yes, hatred is the beginning of the problem, but weapons designed for war should not be available to the haters.

    • Kim Curtsinger:

      Smart church. I plan on inquiring of our church what safety measures can be considered. Locked doors when services begin is a very good idea. We actually moved from our long-time seats because they were at a location where we would be first ones shot if a gunman burst in.

  16. Jacquelyn Foster:

    Thank you, for your reflection and prayerful word to the Church. Your words reflect the only cry that is in my heart and the heart of our congregation at this time: “How long, O Lord?!” Thank you for taking us to the heart of the faith of the Psalmist and of Jesus. Indeed, the words of the Bible, from the Prophets to Jesus the Christ, insist that our ritual prayers without action for healing and justice mean nothing to God. Our words of prayer and compassion for those who grieve this terrible loss ring empty unless we work to end the killing and bring the comfort that they and their surviving children may go to church, or school, or a movie, or a concert without the fear of being slaughtered. Thanks be to God, that we are able to speak with boldness as the Church of Jesus Christ, to name the sin of violence and weapon-idolatry, and to call ourselves and our nation to new life.

  17. We need to elect officials that will not pander to the NRA. Get out and vote, every chance you get. Call your elected officials, every day. Our lives are at stake. So proud of our church for this statement.

  18. ERIC QUEK:

    Open letter to General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens.
    In your opening statement: ” How long will we allow high capacity guns to slaughter human beings? ….” I find that to be ignorant, bias and very inappropriate. I can understand if that came form some less informed highly emotional member. I like you Sir, to look at the facts before jumping to conclusion since you stated: ” We don’t yet know why the gunman chose to attack in that place at that time, but we do know he had one thing in common with the shooters in all those other cities and towns that suffered mass casualties. He had access to a high-capacity gun.” It is wrong at so many levels.
    One drug poisoning is reported to U.S. poison control centers Every 15 seconds one drug poisoning is reported to Poison control center–over 2 million citizens including children.
    One shooting occurs every 10 minutes – not even close to one every 15 seconds.
    Total deaths from drugs in America numbers four times higher than all gun deaths. Source: CDC stat 2014.
    Drug poisoning affect a wider cross-section of Americans than gun violence. Majority of gun incidents occur in urban populations, whereas drugs affect everyone, everywhere. In economic terms–the cost of drug deaths and injuries are much higher than shooting deaths.
    Drug poisonings and drug deaths are overwhelmingly more costly to society than gun violence – personally and economically. And this reality is reflected in the recent shift in official attitudes among federal, state and local governments.
    While gun violence has captured a lot of media attention, I am glad to say the opioid epidemic is receiving MORE attention from elected officials than any recent disease epidemic. Sweeping new regulations have been passed in Washington with strong bilateral support to provide programs and funding to combat the epidemic
    How about vehicle deaths where does that fit in? It is number 2 cause of death for Americans.
    In 2013, 99.4% of car deaths were accidental in nature while accidental gun death was 1.8%. A staggering 65% of gun fatalities are suicides.
    Third cause of deaths for Americans are due to gun.
    In conclusion sir/madam, please do educate yourself before you make those statements. Second, be a LEADER not a divider. Present BOTH sides ( please get your facts right) and let us decide.
    Thank you for posting this open letter for your member.
    Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm
    Source: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/07/gun-homicide-rate-down-49-since-1993-peak-public-unaware/

  19. Adebowale Joshua Adekunle:

    The church that is suppose to be the place where sinners are convicted and the secret of lives should be made bare has now become a place of gun point. there is now no difference between a place of sanctification and a place of violence. We should all check ourselves if we are truly in the faith. Now there no authority in the place where God is suppose to meet his people. Something is wrong. Where is the power of the holy spirit as the days of old. it is no more. we have now become prey to those that do not know God. we have become an object of mockery to the gentiles. Tell me with all the churches in america, atrocities are spreading and we are all crying for revival. there is no sign of the power of holiness in the church. we have replace doctrine and theology with the power of God. we have all neglect the ways of Old which is the doctrine That Jesus gave to the apostles. We have all touched the unclean things and the power of the holy spirit has gone. Tell me how may churches today have time for fervent prayer. Only few. the church today has become a business enterprise using all manner of thing to preach their so called gospel. the devil know the secret of the church which is fervent prayer and holiness with the word of God. He killed the place of holiness and prayer so that pestilence and diseases are looming the church. when peter was taken by Herod, the church prayed fervently for him and he was delivered. Paul and Silas were taken into prison but with prayer and thanksgiving the foundations of the prison was destroyed. the three Hebrews was delivered from the fiery fire because they know their God. Daniel was delivered from the lions den because they know their God. Jehoshaphat routed the armies of the nations that rise ageist them because they kn ow their God. We are all ignorant about the way of the living God. There are so many thing that God does not have his hand on. the reason why all these calamity is happening is because the church which suppose to be dwelling place of God has been defiled with hidden Sin and lack of fervent prayer. We all need to go back to the day of the apostles which is the gospel from the beginning and the ways of old. without that am sorry the devil will continue to have his hand on the church. Let Go back to way of Old the ways of holiness, prayer and to seek the power of the holy spirit as of old which is what will lead us to the heavenly home.

  20. Scott Nolde:

    By definition criminals will disobey the law. No matter how much ink is used writing laws into books will not change the fact that people will kill other people. How many commandments are required in statutory law to restate “Thou shall not kill”? Those advocating for more laws cannot make killing more unlawful. Seek to make the law just.

    It is truly sad someone will take an inanimate object and use it to kill another human. The level of violence is incomprehensible. If we cannot comprehend an incident such as this then the perpetrator must have a mental issue. Thus, it is mental illness that requires treatment. The mentally ill require the help and the protection of the law. Perpetrators that kill are very sick. Seek to heal the sick.

    Those that kill obviously have a diminished capacity to love. Instead of love they seek revenge, selfish tendencies, and instant notoriety that is quickly extinguished. They have visions to change their world but events like this have little effect on the resolve of Americans. Seek to love the unloved.

    Those that advocate against the NRA likely don’t realize it was an NRA instructor who help end the Texas shooting.

    When seconds count the police are minutes away. In this case (like many others) it took a good guy with a gun to stop a killer with a gun. If and when you need the police he will bring his gun with him for his protection, not necessarily yours. If you want to see how government will treat you, read up on the Trail of Tears. Read supreme court cases referring to Deshaney v. Winnebago Co.. Read up on qualified immunity.

    Advocating for more government by more government will only repeat the cycles you see. It takes individual responsibility, resolve, will, and resources to succeed to stay well.

    John 5:6 says ‘When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”‘

    Like the man at the well, may people wait for others to do the hard work. The man at the well picked up his mat on the sabbath and walked, in violation of the law. However, it was Jesus’ who told him to do it. Would you follow the law or Jesus? Perhaps the law in Jesus’ time needed changing too? Would you make it more illegal to carry a mat? Causing someone to break the sabbath was worthy of stoning.

    Not all laws have the desired result. Often there are unintended consequences. Disarming everyone would only attract those who seek to hurt the defenseless.

    Perhaps it’s time we carry our mat, or firearm, on Sundays. Perhaps its time to not wait on others to save us, but instead do the work ourselves. The church is the people, not the government.

  21. Robert Lyons:

    I will endeavor to make this my last contribution to this thread, but the “elephant in the room” is the question of whether churches (in States where allowed) should either allow or prohibit members from exercising their “concealed carry” rights, or allow designated persons (selected ushers or others), or security personnel to be armed. A Church, as a “soft target” is most vulnerable, and the potential damage is great. Yet if the Kelleys of the world had a reasonable expectation that they would encounter armed resistance, would they be more likely to do their acts, or less likely? While I have some theological resistance to “packing heat,” I also know that some of my parishioners, even some widows of my congregation, may indeed tote a weapon for their personal safety. I respect that, and I am somewhat comforted to know that if our church experienced such an event, that someone could respond. As to parishioners packing heat, I am “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.” The one thing I am “four square” against is hiring “armed security.” To me this is hypocritical. It essentially sends the message that I am holy and resist weapons under any circumstance, but I see them as necessary, so I will pay someone to do something I personally find repugnant.

  22. Robert Lyons:

    Last comment, I promise. After I re-read the GMPs comments I was pleasantly surprised with one small detail. She correctly indicated the loss of life as 26. According to the news reports, the 26th victim was an unborn child. I am relieved that the GMPs position (and I assume she speaks for the Church) is that an unborn child is alive enough and distinguishable enough from it’s mother to be a murder victim and thus a person.

  23. Carolyn Turner:

    Well, Rev. Owens, if the madman in Texas drove his car into the church instead of using a gun, would you be calling for the removal of cars? If someone really wants to cause damage, they will get a gun, knife, of any sort, a car or any other method to end lives. Just like anything that is prohibited, people will find a way to get them. It is clear which side of the aisle you are on but you were entrusted to preach about God and NOT POLITICS. From what I read, it sounds like DOC are wanting white Republicans to find another denomination or are they really still welcomed at your church? There have many surveys asking why people don’t attend church and many state because of politics preached from the pulpit. Just look at Chalice Press’s Company Profile which states, in part, “Not all faith-based publishing is Fox News, the Moral Majority, and televangelists.” think about it