Once again, we grieve with our sisters and brothers in Christ who have become victims of evil behavior in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The kind of grief we feel is the same grief expressed in God’s words to Cain after Cain murdered his brother Abel,
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s [innocent] blood is crying out to Me from the ground [for justice].” Genesis 4:10 AMP
It is no wonder to us that our current “Companion Litany to Our Social Creed” inspired by God’s word says to us: “Today is the day God deplores violence in our homes and streets...” yes, and even in houses of worship!
We encourage prayers for all those affected by this tragedy and those who continue to recover from the effects of other such tragedies in churches around the nation. We tend to ignore some situations until a sufficient number of those situations arise and get our attention. This latest incident is beginning to cause great concern about security in our local congregations. This concern is certainly warranted.
These incidents of violence in places of worship have prompted many to begin thinking about ways that security for our congregations can be enhanced to provide a safe environment for worship and other activities occurring within our facilities. I encourage everyone to investigate the numerous ways to increase security that do not require the use of firearms.
This is a very complicated matter with numerous elements to be considered. For instance, there are many differing opinions about concealed carry handguns in places of worship. This issue cannot be narrowly defined as a Second Amendment issue. It must also be taken under consideration as a spiritual issue based upon our position as disciples of Jesus Christ. The enhanced safety of the people attending various events must be based on rational responses to the possible threats in each particular case. Another very important factor is the possible liability issues that could arise should force be used in a manner that is perceived to be improper by someone in attendance at an event in our facilities.
The Mississippi Conference Board of Trustees met Thursday, November 9, 2017. During this meeting the trustees held a discussion in regard to matters involving security issues. The trustees voted to give the chair authority to immediately establish a task force to develop guidance and educational events regarding security in our local congregations. This task force will be composed of people who have expertise in the various areas involved in this complicated matter.
The trustees want to make sure that we are in compliance with insurance underwriting and policy requirements. The importance of addressing security issues was acknowledged by the trustees. They understand the urgency of completing this task. More information will be forth coming from the task force.
There was a great report in the United Methodist News Service that we believe you should read. Click here to read that report. It will help your trustees to begin to consider security in your church. The security plan will be different in every location.
Please feel free to contact Rev. Rickey Haynes at 662.560.3449 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions.
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.