The following statement was released Monday morning by the Open and Affirming Coalition and the National Officers of the United Church of Christ. Later today, we’ll email suggestions for actions ONA congregations can take in response to this tragedy. Please post your own responses, prayers, and action ideas on the Coalition’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ucc.coalition.
We ask your prayers for John Vertigan, Conference Minister of the UCC’s Florida Conference, and for all UCC churches in Florida as they stand with the LGBTQ community in Orlando and throughout the state. Pray also for John Dorhauer, the UCC’s General Minister and President, and Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC’s executive for health and wholeness advocacy and a member of the Coalition’s Leadership Team. Both are flying to Orlando today to represent all of us. UCC pastors will gather with John and Mike at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Orlando. The Coalition is asking ONA churches to gather in prayer at that time—at work, at home, or in your church—so that together the Open and Affirming movement in the United Church of Christ will show our grieving neighbors in Florida that we stand with them!
Today the United Church of Christ and the Open and Affirming Coalition stand with the LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida, and with all who are grieving for the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Their grief is our grief.
We pray for the families and friends of the 50 who were killed.
We pray for the many injured and for their doctors and care-givers.
We renew our resolve as a church to work in Florida and in communities across America for the safety, dignity and freedom of our LGBTQ members and neighbors.
We renew our resolve as a church to work for sane laws that will curb the epidemic of gun violence in this country.
We now know the assailant was a U.S. citizen and a Muslim. We join with the leaders of Muslim communities in the United States who have denounced the attack in Orlando and the unreasoning hatred that motivated it.
The time has come for churches to end the spiritual violence they perpetrate against their LGBTQ members and neighbors. Preaching hate against others because of their sexual orientation or gender identity has taken a terrible toll of lives lost to suicide, and is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ. We call on every church to stand with, and not against, the LGBTQ community.
We are angry, but we will not return hate for hate. Hate will not stop the cycle of violence–not in this country, or anywhere in the world. And so we remember at this time the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
National Officers of the United Church of Christ
Leadership Team of the UCC Open and Affirming Coalition