In response to the killing of a pastor and parishioners during a bible study in the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton today urged Western Pennsylvania United Methodists to set aside significant time in worship this weekend for intentional prayer and intercession for the victims and families affected by the violence, the people of Charleston, and also the person who did the shooting.
Here is Bishop Bickerton's statement:
As I write, I am watching the sobering and unbelievable events associated with the recent shootings of the pastor and parishioners attending a bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
There are no words to adequately describe the heartbreak and sorrow associated with good, well-meaning people who are senselessly murdered while studying the Word of God, a word that is based on a gospel of love, grace, and peace. Likewise, it continues to be unthinkable that we are living in a culture where unacceptable hate crimes continue to demonstrate deep-seeded racism and bias. It is sobering to realize that the actions of one person can create significant fear and anger in people all over the world and especially among those who look to the church to provide a safe sanctuary and a refuge from the storms of life that threaten us all.
I urge all United Methodist people in Western Pennsylvania to set aside significant time in worship this weekend for intentional prayer and intercession for the citizens of Charleston, South Carolina; the members of Emanuel AME Church, and the families directly affected by this shooting. If you have bells, ring them in memory. If you have candles, light them in remembrance of God's presence in our midst. If you have a voice, offer it in testimony to the sin of this action and the grace of God to heal all hurt and violence.
I would also ask that you pray for the person who carried out this unthinkable act, as well as his family. The motivations within a person that result in actions such as this are beyond comprehension and evoke feelings of anger and resentment within us. Still, as people of faith, we are called to place even the vilest offender into the hands of our loving God.
This is a time for people of faith to exercise one of their greatest gifts, the power of intercessory prayer, as we keep the victims of senseless crimes, as well as their perpetrators, in our minds and hearts. Join me as we prayerfully place each of them into the hands of our loving God.