Pastoral Response to the incident in Garland


May 4, 2015


Dear Friends,

My heart is heavy as I have been watching coverage and reading about the incident in Garland Sunday evening.

With each passing day the divisions in the human family seem to become more and more pronounced. From Paris, France to Garland, Texas; from Ferguson to Baltimore; from ISIS in the Middle East to Los Zetas in Mexico — the promise of Zion, the peaceable reign of God, feels both more distant and more urgent.

In the face of terrible stories like yesterday's which has hit so close to home, I feel compelled to remind the church in north Texas that we have a message of peace to share with a suffering world.

Our enduring principles tell us that God wants justice, reconciliation, well-being, wholeness, and peace for all of creation. The Spirit leads us to work with God and others to restore creation to shalom, and we celebrate God's peace wherever it appears or is being pursued by people of good will. In other words, we are to be witnesses to the possibility and urgency of peace, symbolized perhaps most poignantly in our church seal. In God's reign, lion and lamb will live together and be led by a child. When peace seems impossible, we reject hopelessness, provocation, revenge, and violence. Instead we proclaim peace as God's alternative to the status quo.

Tensions in the United States and around the world are growing and humanity seems unable to live in unity and diversity. Now violence has come to our neighborhood which means the world's eyes will be on us for a time. People will be paying attention to how we respond. So I call upon priesthood and member in the Heart of Texas Mission Center to uphold the very best our tradition has to offer in difficult times.

Because the attack will undoubtedly be felt as persecution by many who live in north Texas, and our peaceful Muslim neighbors will face persecution and blame for the actions of two who represent a perversion of their faith, we must uphold the worth of every person in the sight of God by endeavoring to see the Christ in the face of every person of goodwill and by striving to love our enemies.

St. Paul had these words of encouragement and counsel to the persecuted churches in Rome:

"Love one another, with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (12:10-19).

My prayer is that a spirit of respect and forbearance will grow among the nations and peoples of the earth.

May we as Community of Christ in north Texas be a Zionic example of God's desire for peace for all of creation.

In Christ,
Andy Shelton
Heart of Texas Mission Center
Community of Christ