Bishops Statement on Roanoke Shooting
August 29, 2015

While I am currently on leave, taking time for spiritual reflection and renewal, Wednesday’s shooting in Roanoke, Virginia, unsettled my soul. My prayers are with the two television journalists who were killed when a disturbed gunman unleashed a barrage of 17 shots, murdering them while they were on air and injuring the person they were interviewing. My prayers, and those of the people of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, go out to the people whose lives were touched by this incident, including the shooter, Vester Flanagan. We pray, too, for Bishop Young Jin Cho, and the people of the Virginia Annual Conference, who seek to stand as witnesses against gun violence.

While I pray for these victims and their families, my prayers also turn to the city of Washington, where, on Friday evening, fatal shootings brought the number of homicides in D.C. this year to 105, equaling the number of gun deaths in all of 2014. Two of those shootings, I can’t help but note, took place at churches called St. Luke’s, one of which was the mission station of a United Methodist congregation.

The surge of gunfire that has erupted in Baltimore this summer also fills my thoughts. In the Baltimore Sun newspaper this weekend is a photo collection of the faces of 45 people who were killed in Baltimore in July. All but one is African-American; all but one is male. They include a five-month-old boy and a 53-year old grandmother. They are each children of God.

In my prayers, I cry out for mercy, justice and peace. One of the things that bring me hope is the image of United Methodists throughout Maryland, Washington, the panhandle of West Virginia and Bermuda, gathering for worship on Sunday morning. This simple act of gathering as community to praise God and lift our hearts together in a witness to Christ’s love, is an act of boldness and of hope. I call on each of you to pray fervently for an end to this senseless killing. Pray for our leaders and law enforcement officials and pray for those with anger and violence in their hearts. Prayer changes lives. Jesus promises us in Mark 11:24, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”I also call upon United Methodists in the Baltimore-Washington Conference to push back against a growing sense that nothing effective can be done to end gun violence. After every shooting that grabs headlines, public outrage is focused on change. But then, too often, our lives become filled with other concerns and we yield our passion for social change. However, our witness on this issue is too important. We must support our civic leaders and law enforcement officials. We must call out for the banning of assault-style firearms and other common sense gun laws that would help eliminate some of these horrifying cases of homicide.

I’m not sure what the answers are to the violence that seems to be so prevalent in our midst. I am certain, however, that God is with us, and with all who suffer in the midst of recent shootings: in Roanoke, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and beyond. I embrace the words of Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is my hope these words will give courage to each of us to act as living prayers, witnessing to God’s abiding and unconquerable love.

Grace and Peace,
Bishop Marcus Matthews
Resident Bishop
Washington Episcopal Area