The Association of United Methodist Theological Schools (AUMTS) is deeply concerned about the pervasive and continuing gun violence in the United States. A related phenomenon is the use of lethal force against a disproportionate number of African-Americans at the hands of police, security guards, and self-appointed vigilantes. (See the AUMTS statement on Black Lives in 2014).
As a denomination, United Methodists are committed to following in the way of Jesus, working for the common good, and supporting measures that insure the protection, security, and safety of all persons. This is a fundamental necessity for the flourishing of human community and society.
We join with Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, incoming president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in calling us to "repent from our participation in a culture of death; [to] acknowledge the harm we do to others, and [to] claim the power of the cross that breaks the cycle of violence and retaliation." As Christians grounded in a theology of new life in Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that guns are instruments for the perpetuation of violence; they are weapons that bring death. We stand in our tradition of turning swords into plowshares, turning weapons of death into tools of life.
As leaders in higher education, we live close to the heartbeat of young people, who have risen to leadership in the campaign to regulate access to guns and to end this cycle of destruction.
We hear young voices speaking words of truth to a nation that has accepted the status quo, refusing to end the cycle of gun violence in spite of increased access to assault weapons in the United States and increased incidents of mass violence and death.
We follow Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God's love, who was never satisfied with the status quo when people were being hurt and violence perpetuated. Once a crowd tried to test Jesus on stoning laws by bringing to him a woman caught in adultery. Jesus responded, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7b, NRSV).
Jesus' action raised deep questions about the status quo and a culturally accepted practice. Jesus sought to change a culture toward love and the sanctity of life. We are called to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel that protects the vulnerable and cares for every precious life.
As theological educators, we are responsible for preparing and equipping clergy and laity for a variety of ministries in the local church, in our society, and around the world. As such, we have become painfully cognizant of the need for theological formation that:
- Provides a solid theological foundation to inform and guide leaders in the proactive prevention of gun violence and in interventions in the aftermath of violence;
- Prepares for the safety of our communities and equips Christian leaders to address safety and security in their congregations and ministries;
- Provides pastoral care for students and equips them to join others in providing care in the aftermath of violence; and
- Teaches advocacy skills that call for gun law reform.
Our United Methodist schools live in the midst of violence and threats of violence. Several of our schools have already faced threats of gun violence on our campuses and have had the experience of locking down our seminary buildings and campuses to secure safety, while also managing the fear that comes with such threats. Many of our students and community members have been directly affected by gun violence in their own lives and families.
The United Methodist Church, with approximately 7 million U.S. members and 119 schools, colleges and universities, is one of the strongest Protestant denominations in the country. By adding our strong voice to other similarly concerned faith groups, and to the groundswell of other citizens, we can potentially generate sufficient influence to support safer communities.
We support the formal statement of the United Methodist denomination: "Our Call to End Gun Violence" in which congregations are encouraged to "advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence."
We shall continue to equip our graduates to be leaders in this work, and we pray that our efforts, together with those of the Council of Bishops and many other leaders and congregations, will reflect the heart of God.
The undersigned are the chief executive officers and the chief academic officers of their respective schools. Institutions are listed only for purposes of identifying their leaders.
Mary Elizabeth Moore, Dean and Professor of Theology and Education, Boston University School of Theology
Bryan P. Stone, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism, Boston University School of Theology
Jan Love, Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean and Professor of Christianity and World Politics, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Jonathan Strom, Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Church History, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, President and Professor of Hebrew Bible, Claremont School of Theology
Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Practical Theology and Religious Education, Claremont School of Theology
Javier A. Viera, Dean and Professor of Pastoral Theology, Drew University Theological School
Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, Associate Dean and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, Drew University Theological School
Elaine Heath, Dean and Professor of Missional and Pastoral Theology, Duke Divinity School
Jeffrey Conklin-Miller, Associate Dean for Academic Programs and E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of the Practice of Evangelism and Christian Formation, Duke Divinity School
Ken J. Walden, President-Dean, Gammon Theological Seminary
Maisha Handy, Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs, Gammon/Interdenominational Theological Center
Lallene J. Rector, President and Associate Professor of Psychology of Religion and Pastoral Psychotherapy, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Luis R. Rivera, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean, GarrettEvangelical Theological Seminary
Thomas V. Wolfe, President and Bishop Henry White Warren Professor of Leadership and Ministry Praxis, Iliff School of Theology
Boyung Lee, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Practical Theology, Iliff School of Theology
Jay Rundell, President, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
Valerie Bridgeman, Interim Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Homiletics and Hebrew Bible, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
Craig C. Hill, Dean and Professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
Evelyn L. Parker, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Susanna Wesley Centennial Professor of Practical Theology, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
Neil Blair, President, Saint Paul School of Theology
Jeanne Hoeft, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean, Saint Paul School of Theology
Kent Millard, President, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio
David F. Watson, Academic Dean/Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of New Testament, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio
David McAllister-Wilson, President, Wesley Theological Seminary
Bruce Birch, Dean and Professor of Biblical Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary