The Washington Post reports 49 people dead and 53 injured after reported pro-ISIS Islamist Omar Mateen went on a shooting rampage in an Orlando gay nightclub early Sunday morning, committing the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Church officials across denominational lines are now responding to the devastating atrocity.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops responds:
Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is. Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act. The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York John Sentamu issued a joint statement:
After Sunday’s attack in Orlando as Christians we must speak out in support of LGBTI people, who have become the latest group to be so brutally targeted by the forces of evil. We must pray, weep with those affected, support the bereaved, and love without qualification. The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship. It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being. Now, in this time of heartbreak and grief, is a time for solidarity. May God our Father give grace and comfort to all who mourn, and divine compassion to us all.
Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America Foley Beach responds:
Please join me in praying for the victims, dead and wounded, and their families of the horrific shooting attack at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with those affected, in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd responds:
As our hearts break for the people of Orlando, we call upon each of us in our nation and beyond to rise up and pray for the families of the victims and the entire city of Orlando. Through this tragedy, we will have opportunities to communicate hope and love like never before.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s President, Dr. Russell Moore wrote:
Let’s call our congregations to pray together. Let’s realize that, in this case, our gay and lesbian neighbors are likely quite scared. Who wouldn’t be? Demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus to them. We don’t have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality to love one another and to see the murderous sin of terrorism. Let’s also pray for our leaders who have challenging decisions to make in the midst of crisis. Let’s mobilize our congregations and others to give blood for the victims. Let’s call for governing authorities to do their primary duty of keeping its people safe from evildoers.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) Central Florida Executive Presbyter Dan Williams responds:
It’s been a shock to the system as far as the city is concerned. The whole image of Orlando as a happy place for people to come and get away from this has been shaken. This event, the largest mass shooting in American history, has been sobering and the whole community is on edge and upset.
One congregation has a member whose cousin was the one texting his mom from the club bathroom as the gunman made his way through the facility. We learned the middle of the day yesterday, that he was among the deceased.
We have to wait and see what the needs are going to be moving forward. The situation is so fluid right now, no one has a clear handle on it. The mayor’s office has asked that we hold back on any public vigils because they don’t have the police resources available to provide coverage for large gatherings, so we’ve passed that word around.
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offers a video message:
Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida Gregory Brewer responds:
I had to work to take it in. My natural reaction was to keep the horror of this event at a distance- keeping my heart safe from grief and outrage. But slowly, and as an answer to prayer, the sadness, the weariness, the empty silence of mourning poured in. Someone said that the deeper the grief, the fewer the words. That’s how I feel. Words of condolence have little value in the face of this carnage. For right now, all we can do is grieve, pray and support the families of those who have died the best we can.
I will leave it to others to look for someone to blame. Instead – right now – all I want to do is to stand beside, pray, and love as best I can. There will be time later raise questions about security, gun violence, and homophobic rage. There is no justification for this atrocity. I categorically condemn what has happened. Better solutions must be found.
What I do believe is that love is stronger than death. The promise of resurrection brings courage, and the promise of “a new heaven and a new earth” should fuel all of God’s people to help build a better world.
Episcopal Bishop of Washington Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde writes:
Our hearts break for all the dead, wounded, and traumatized by this carnage, and pray for God’s strength and consoling mercies.
To our friends of the LGBT community, know that we love you and walk alongside you in your grief and pain, which is all the more searing following an attack in a presumed safe space during LGBT Pride month. Your tears are our tears. You will find shelter in our churches.
To our Muslim sisters and brothers, know that our support for you remains strong. We know that the hatred that fuels such violence is a perversion of the Muslim faith, and we remain your friends and interfaith partners.
To our fellow citizens of a nation once again scarred by gun violence, know that the killings in Orlando reinforce our resolve to work with Congress, state legislators, and law enforcement officials to rid America’s cities and towns of the weapons of war. We have seen too many killings, shed too many tears, lit too many candles to continue as we are. With such easy access to guns, no safe spaces remain.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
We pray for all affected by violence in #Orlando. Send your loving mercy to all who grieve and your healing to survivors.
— ELCA (@ELCA) June 12, 2016
United Church of Christ General Minister and President Rev. John C. Dorhauer:
The United Church of Christ mourns the tragic loss in the aftermath of what is now believed to be the largest mass shooting in the U.S. We are mindful of the many family members whose grief will be deep, and will linger for some time. We lift every one of them up in prayer.
We are grateful to President Obama for the swift action suspending HIPAA laws so that loved ones can be with their injured spouses and help make decisions about their care — an often overlooked right that many in the LGBT community cannot take for granted.
While it is too soon to speak about motives, the United Church of Christ nonetheless calls upon all leaders of religious and political bodies to end the constant rhetoric that demonizes same gender loving people. Our speech has consequences, and this is not the first time violence has been directed at the LGBT community with very tragic consequences. It is long past the time that we end this, including tolerating what amounts to hate speech and homophobia masquerading as religion. It is also long past the time that America enacts sane gun control legislation. Our souls and spirits cannot abide for long when this kind of tragedy is commonplace; and when no substantive action is taken in response to these mass shootings. Our grief, all too real, is not assuaged by what can be the redemptive act of doing all we can to reduce the likelihood of it ever happening again.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops responds:
United Methodists across the world are horrified by the despicable act of terrorism in Orlando, Florida, that took the lives of 49 individuals and wounded 53 others.
We are in shock. We join those who grieve. We pray for the victims, their families, and the LGBTQ community targeted by this hateful attack. We stand against all forms of violence, committed anywhere in the world by anyone.
We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters who have condemned this heinous act. We pledge to work together to overcome evil with good, terrorism with peace, hatred with love, and inequity with justice.
We commend the Florida Annual Conference as they gather this week in Orlando. They, along with Bishop Ken Carter, are our connectional presence in the midst of this tragedy. We pray that God will work through them to be a source of Christ’s witness, reconciliation and healing to the brokenness of an entire community.
As the people called United Methodist, let us not lose heart, but redouble our commitment and efforts to fulfill God’s vision of the Beloved Community throughout the world. As we combat evil, let us not let evil fill our hearts. As we struggle to end violence, let us not let violence become our way of life. As we battle terrorism, let us not become terrorists in the process. As we seek to be vigilant, let us not let fear curtail our hospitality. As we pray for peace, let it begin within our own spirits.