by The Right Reverend Gregory O. Brewer, Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida
I slept poorly last night. Early this morning I had an extremely difficult time concentrating, unable to do much of anything. Feelings of anger, grief and a sense of aimlessness robbed me of the power of purpose. I wanted to pray. I did pray. But all the while I had a hard time finding the words to express to God all that was inside of me. I also knew that I must write. I have an obligation to call our people to pray and to make comment on how God can use us and our prayers.
Many are saying “thoughts and prayers are not enough” and I agree. If our prayers do not give us the fuel we need to act then our prayers, at best, are incomplete. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be His witnesses - to do something. Christ has set us free to be His witnesses and our understanding of what it means to be free is very different from the world’s.
“I don’t want what this country calls ‘Freedom.’ What we call freedom is self-centered and wholly divorced from any sense of collective responsibility. I want the freedom God offers: a freedom rooted in the community, our mutual care, our mutual respect, our mutual wellbeing. When children and other innocents die by the scores and elected officials wring their hands because of ‘freedom,’ we make a mockery of the word and show ourselves unworthy of it. Lord, have mercy” (Fr. Marcus G. Halley, Episcopal priest).
“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another” (Galatians 5:13).
Christians understand freedom to be a freedom for sacrificial service empowered by the Spirit. This is freedom which we can demonstrate by our lives. It is a freedom which we can use to call our elected leaders to account, imploring them to enact laws based not on the financial power of a lobby group, but laws that foster community and protect the vulnerable - especially our children. This means we do whatever is necessary to safeguard those made in the image of God, even if it means restricting our “freedom” to buy whatever we want or do whatever we want. To put it another way: my responsibility as a Christian citizen is to “honor the common good” above my desire to get whatever I want.
To want to live out this kind of freedom opens us up to the need for prayer for ourselves, for our communities, for our country and for the world. While we have every right to grieve and be angry, I also know that my own self-centeredness and my growing recognition that my “needs” are based far more on our consumer culture than the Gospel compel me to pray - prayers of repentance for my own blindness to human suffering, my lack of concern for my fellow citizens, and my undue need for safety and comfort. These are the sins that plague our nation and it is these sins that are the soil out of which our inordinate desire for weapons of all kinds grows and flourishes. Honestly, a culture that puts the right of unfettered access to guns above the protection of its citizens cannot call itself Christian. In that spirit of personal and social repentance let us channel our anger and frustration into prayers for God’s forgiveness and mercy and let us seek God’s direction about what we can do to limit the murder of the innocent.
Dated: May 25, 2022 in Orlando, Florida