National Cathedral Dean Pledges to be “Counterweight” to Gun Lobby

on December 20, 2012
Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall has made gun control his first major call since becoming the senior priest at the Episcopal Church's flagship. Here he is seen examining earthquake damage on one of the cathedral towers. (photo: Richard Weinberg / Washington National Cathedral)
Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall has made gun control his first major call since becoming the senior priest at the Episcopal Church’s flagship. Here he is seen examining earthquake damage on one of the cathedral towers. (photo: Richard Weinberg / Washington National Cathedral)

The newly-installed dean of Washington National Cathedral dove headfirst into the firearms debate on Sunday, calling upon the cathedral to be the “focal point” of gun control advocacy in a sermon about the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings.

In what might be a first for the Episcopal cathedral, Dean Gary Hall’s sermon was touted in a press release issued on Friday afternoon almost immediately after the shootings were reported. While a call for stricter gun control measures from an Episcopal Church official will surprise few (the denomination has publically advocated strict gun control since the mid-1970s) the sermon displays Hall’s ambition of having the prominent church at the center of American public life, not just as the flagship of the 1.9 million member Episcopal denomination. If local media coverage is any indicator, Hall was successful in bringing attention to the church, with local television affiliates, radio stations, CNN and the Washington Post all reporting on the sermon.

With the exception of hosting prominent funerals for astronaut Neil Armstrong and former President Gerald Ford, the cathedral has mostly been in the news for unenviable reasons in recent years: repeated staff layoffs and a struggle to cover the seemingly insurmountable costs to repair the earthquake-damaged structure.

In his sermon, Hall briefly reflected on his time as a parent and dismissed calling the shooter “evil” as “reflexive” and dehumanizing. The cathedral dean quickly pivoted to gun violence, and condemned what he asserted is society’s “tolerance” of such crimes. Asking what people of faith should do, Hall turned to John the Baptist, quoting Luke Chapter 3:

“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

“In today’s Gospel, we’re asked, simply, to repent, to turn around, and then to bear fruits worthy of repentance,” Hall explained. “We’re asked to live mutually and honorably and compassionately for the well-being of all.”

Saying that followers of Jesus have the “moral obligation” to work to end gun violence, Hall charges that Americans have tolerated shootings for too long, and that the Newtown attack is the “last straw.”

“The Christian community—indeed the entire American faith community—can no longer tolerate this persistent and escalating gun violence directed against our people,” Hall declared. “President Obama called for “meaningful action” in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, and I pledge my and this community’s help in crafting and taking that action. Our political leaders need to know that there is a group of people in America who will serve as a counterweight to the gun lobby, who will stand together with our leaders and support them as they act to take assault weapons off the streets.”

Pledging to work with national leaders to enact gun control measures, Hall offered that the best way to mourn the Newtown shooting “is to mobilize the faith community for gun control.”

“Today we grieve, but soon we act,” Hall stated. Asking what Jesus or John the Baptist would do, Hall said it was to “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.”

“If we are truly America’s “National” Cathedral, as we say we are, then we must become the focal point of faithful advocacy of gun control, calling our leaders to courageous action and supporting them as they take it,” Hall demanded, concluding that “the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”

  1. Comment by Mark on December 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    It’s amazing how these leftist religionists, like programmed robots, go right to gun legislation as the main solution. They ignore mental health issues, Hollywood violence, and family breakdown/dysfunction (for which they are often apologists) as causative factors. Examining these other issues just doesn’t seem to fit their narrative.

    In the wake of this horrific shooting I was listening to PBS when Hall was interviewed as a person “from the faith community” to whom many would “turn to for answers” at a time like this. Hall offered some vague comments about gun control and societal responsibility.

    What really made be chuckle was that Hall was, seemingly, presented as a typical leader of the “faith community.” No mention that he grew up in Hollywood and has a history of leftist political activism. Why am I not suprised?

  2. Pingback by A Response From @theIRD | Notes from the Pastor's Office on December 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm

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  3. Comment by J S Lang on December 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the anti-gun crowd (or, if you prefer, anti-Second Amendment goofballs) ever got a spokesman who looked as if he had a measurable amount of testosterone? Not to be unkind, but it’s always some cadaverous milksop Harry Reid clone who looks as if he would faint at the sight of gun. Surely the liberals can scrounge around and find some clergyman who might loosely fit the term “masculine.” (Yeah, I know – ‘twould not be easy.) The NRA was lucky to have that high-T, hairy-chested Charlton Heston as their front man. A masculine spokesman for the opposite side wouldn’t change my view, of course, but it might at least give the public the impression that you could be a real man but not like guns. This insipid dean of the National Cathedral looks as if he needs B12 injections before appearing in public.

    And they wonder why so many men don’t go to church. Duh.

  4. Comment by Eric Lytle on December 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    I rather resent the Washington Cathedral trying to style itself the “National.” The Episcopalians certainly aren’t representative of America (thank God) or Christianity (thank God twice). Maybe it’s “national” in the sense of being strapped for money and in decline.

    The Episcopalians are clueless, aren’t they? they keep losing members (and thus funding), and instead of focusing on reversing that trend, all they can think of is: How can we get those cool intellectuals at PBS and the New York Times to notice us? I don’t think they can fathom that marrying gay couples and lecturing America on those nasty men with guns isn’t going to draw people into the churches. People in America today, as in all times and places, have some basic questions: How do I find meaning in life? What happens after I die? How can I be on friendly terms with God? What do I do when everything seems to be going wrong? About the only question the liberal denominations can answer is: How should I vote?

  5. Comment by Mark on December 20, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Good points. What’s also interesting, if you look at demographic trends, is that heterosexual men are leaving liberal denominations in droves (though they aren’t necessarily stuffing the pews of moderate to conservative ones). If you are interested in growing a church, just as a pragmatic measure, why further alienate a group that could represent sizable growth? The liberal sect of the Episcopalians is basically telling traditonal-minded heterosexual men to take a hike. And they are obliging.

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