On February 27, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church passed this resolution titled “Responses to Gun Violence:”
Resolved, That the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Linthicum Heights, Maryland on February 27, 2013 express profound sorrow at the epidemic of gun violence in our communities, and urge Episcopalians to work toward comprehensive social responses that seek to stem the cycles of violence that fuel gun crime; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council reaffirm General Convention Resolution 2000-D004 expressing “deep concern about the repeated use of easily available hand guns and assault weapons by and against children, and call upon Episcopalians to seek ways to develop community strategies and create sanctuaries for our children, so that all may come to identify and value themselves and others as the precious children of God that they are, and that they may come to know peace in their lives and to create peace for future generations”; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council reaffirm General Convention Resolution 1991-D088 calling the Episcopal Church to advocate for “public policy and adequate funding to provide comprehensive community-based services, hospital care and research into the causes and treatment of mental illness”; and emphasizes that mental-health services should be available and accessible without stigma in a variety of settings, including those who have suffered trauma from exposure to violence or violent environments; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council support public-policy initiatives, such as the bipartisan “Excellence in Mental Health Care Act” pending in the United States Congress that seek to allow community-based mental healthcare providers the same opportunities to access federal funding as are currently allowed to providers of physical healthcare; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council reaffirm General Convention Resolution 1997-C035 urging restrictions on the sale, ownership and use of firearms, particularly those that are easily concealable; and the enactment of tighter restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council reaffirm General Convention Resolution 2000-B007 acknowledging that violence in our communities is encouraged and enabled by the presence of guns and calling for Episcopalians to advocate for the removal of handguns and assault weapons from our homes, communities and vehicles; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council urge our elected officials to enact a clear and effective statute making gun trafficking a federal crime and empower law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers, and their entire criminal networks; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council urge Episcopalians to examine our own cultural attitudes toward violence through efforts in our own congregations and communities, to repent of our own roles in the glorification and trivialization of violence, and to commit ourselves to another way.
On February 12, 2013, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave written testimony to the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, for the hearing on “Proposals to reduce gun violence: protecting our communities while respecting the Second Amendment.”
In Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s written testimony, she summarizes the issue of gun violence in the United States, when she said:
“The United States has witnessed far too many public shootings in recent months and years. Far too many lives have been cut short or maimed by both random and targeted acts of gun violence. The school shooting in Newtown, CT horrified Americans and people around the world, yet since that day several times as many young people have died by gunshot. Each year, gun violence claims the lives of more than 3,000 children in the United States. The victims of each of these shootings are members of our families, religious congregations, and communities, and we continue to grieve for the living as well as the dead. . .
“This is no easy task. Just as the root causes of cyclical violence in our culture, and the ways in which that violence is expressed, are varied and complicated, so too are the solutions. We must resist the temptation to use the present moment of national angst as a pretext for pre-formed political agendas or simplistic responses that are better suited for sound bites than for meaningful, long-term change. We all share a responsibility to examine the many facets of cycles of violence in our society, and to discern equally comprehensive responses that will address the causes, means, and effects of violence.”
The Episcopal Church has consistently been a voice of concern about gun violence and the exacerbation of violence wrought by easily available hand guns and assault weapons, and a voice of support for making community-based mental health services readily available and accessible without stigma, as stated in the General Convention resolutions cited in this resolution and reprinted further in this Explanation.
“The Excellence in Mental Health Act” was introduced in the 113th Congress in early February by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives led by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO). The Act strengthens community behavioral health centers that include mental health services, including 24-hour crisis care, integrated physical-mental-substance abuse treatment, and additional support for families of individuals living with mental health issues. The Act also establishes stringent quality standards and clinical outcome reporting measures, as well as authorizing Medicaid payment reforms that will strengthen the safety net to meet the mental health needs of returning veterans and the Affordable Care Act’s insurance coverage expansions.
View the text of S. 2257 and H.R. 5989, which are the same bills from the 112th Congress, that did not make it out of their respective committees for a vote. The text of the current bills has not yet been posted to the Library of Congress site.
Below is the text of the General Convention resolutions cited in this resolution:
Resolution 2000-D004: Express Concern About Availability of Handguns and Assault Weapons
Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention express deep concern about the repeated use of easily available hand guns and assault weapons by and against children and call upon Episcopalians to seek ways to develop community strategies and create sanctuaries for our children, so that all may come to identify and value themselves and others as the precious children of God that they are, and that they may come to know peace in their lives and to create peace for future generations.
Resolution 1991-D088: Encourage Understanding of Mental Illness and Respond to the Needs of the Mentally Ill
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That members of the Episcopal Church are encouraged to become knowledgeable about mental illness in order to reduce stigma and stereotypes which are prevalent within the Church body and the Community-at-large; and be it further
Resolved, That the Episcopal Church and all its units and organizations, be encouraged to reach out, welcome, include and support persons with a mental illness, particularly those who have a prolonged, serious mental illness, and the families of those persons, and recognize the abilities and celebrate the gifts of those who have a mental illness; and be it further
Resolved, That the church encourage the development of specific programs to equip the clergy and laity for ministry to the mentally ill and their families and that clergy and lay ministers seek out training and opportunities to minister to the spiritual needs of those who are affected by a mental illness; and be it further
Resolved, That dioceses and congregations work with existing agencies and organizations to assist with and initiate programs, such as support groups, drop-in centers, housing and employment opportunities, which lead to an improved quality of life for people who have a mental illness, with specific attention to those who have become homeless; and be it further
Resolved, That dioceses, congregations and individual parishioners become advocates for public policy and adequate funding to provide comprehensive community-based services, hospital care and research into the causes and treatment of mental illness; and be it further
Resolved, That dioceses, congregations and individuals utilize the resources and support services offered by the Episcopal Mental Illness Network (EMIN) of the Presiding Bishop’s Task Force on Accessibility.
Resolution 1997-C035: Urge Restrictions on Sale, Ownership and Use of Firearms
Resolved, That this 72nd General Convention, through the Office of Government Relations, urge the Congress of the Unites States to increase restrictions on the sale, ownership and use of firearms, particularly “Saturday night specials” (described as short-barreled, four inches or shorter, easily concealed hand gun); and be it further
Resolved, That legislation to ban carrying concealed firearms be encouraged; and be it further
Resolved, That Congress be urged to adopt legislation requiring the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to develop regulations to delineate appropriate safety standards for use of firearms, and circumstances under which firearms may be used and to monitor and enforce compliance with said safety standards.
Resolution 2000-B007: Request the Removal of Handguns and Assault Weapons
Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention request members of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America to acknowledge that the violence in our communities is encouraged and enabled by the presence of guns; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention call upon all members of the church to work intentionally in their several committees, legislatures, and institutions toward the removal of handguns and assault weapons from our homes, other residential communities, and vehicles.