When we hear the tragic news of a shooting, United Methodists mourn with the victims and families of those wounded or killed. We turn to God in prayer, longing for a day when violence will cease.
In addition, many consider what actions we might take to prevent something similar from happening in the future. So, what can we do as people of God?
What is the Book of Resolutions?
The volume containing the text of all resolutions or pronouncements on issues approved by the General Conference and currently valid. The Book of Resolutions contains not only the resolutions and policy statements passed by the most recent General Conference, but also all such statements still considered to represent the position of The United Methodist Church. The text of any resolution is considered the official position of the denomination on that subject.
— from the glossary at UMC.org
The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church contains our official positions on many issues, including gun violence. Resolution 3428 in the 2016 Book of Resolutions, "Our Call to End Gun Violence," calls upon The United Methodist Church—which means you, me, and every member of our denomination—to do several things. Read the resolution in its entirety here.
1. Conversations and prayer
The Book of Resolutions calls congregations "to make preventing gun violence a regular part of our conversations and prayer times." In order to be part of the solution, we need to talk and pray. Congregations are encouraged to use resources such as Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities, a free, downloadable resource from United Methodist Church and Society to facilitate these conversations.
2. Assist those affected
Congregations are also called to "assist those affected by gun violence through prayer, pastoral care, creating space, and encouraging survivors to share their stories, financial assistance, and through identifying other resources in their communities." Together and individually, we walk with others through the processes of grief and healing.
3. Promote gun safety
United Methodist gun owners are called upon to help prevent gun violence by safely storing and securing guns, and by teaching and practicing gun safety.
4. & 5. Join together
United Methodist congregations that have not experienced gun violence are called to join with communities of other denominations and faiths who have experienced gun violence "in order to support them and learn from their experiences."
All United Methodist congregations are also called upon to lead or join "gatherings for public prayer at sites where gun violence has occurred and partner with law enforcement to help prevent gun violence."
6. Encourage legal sales
The Book of Resolutions suggests United Methodists "partner with law-enforcement and community groups" to encourage "full legal compliance with appropriate standards and laws" to the sale and ownership of guns.
Purpose of the Book of Resolutions
The Book of Resolutions, 2016...collects in one volume all current and official social policies and other resolutions adopted by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church. These resolutions are:
- Official policy statements for guiding all the work and ministry of The United Methodist Church on approximately 200 subjects;
- Educational resources for The United Methodist Church on important issues affecting the lives of people and all God's creation;
- Guides and models for helping United Methodist members and groups relate a lively biblical faith to action in daily life;
- Resource materials for persons preparing public statements about United Methodist concerns on current social issues…
You may find that your denomination's policies give you more "food for thought." Maybe you will agree with the denomination's position. On the other hand, you may disagree...
Furthermore, you may look to some of the statements in this book for spiritual guidance as you make an important decision in your life about work, home, family life, or use of money and other resources.
— from "User's Guide" provided in the Book of Resolutions, 2016
7. Prohibit guns on church property
To help prevent gun violence United Methodist congregations are "to display signs that prohibit carrying guns onto church property."
8. Advocate for regulation
Finally, we are called "to advocate at the local and national levels for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence." Some of these measures include:
- Universal background checks on all gun purchases, ensuring that all guns are sold through licensed retailers, and establishing a minimum age of 21 years for a gun purchase or possession.
- Ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty.
- Prohibiting those convicted of violent crimes, those under restraining order due to the threat of violence, and those with serious mental illness that may be a danger to themselves or others from purchasing a gun.
- Ensuring greater access to services for those suffering from mental illness.
- Banning magazine and weapons designed to fire multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled.
- Promoting technologies that help law-enforcement agencies trace crime guns and promote public safety.
Our prayers should lead us to action.
We read in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, "We are constantly praying for you for this: that our God will make you worthy of his calling and accomplish every good desire and faithful work by his power" (CEB). We too pray for God to give us the wisdom and strength needed to fulfill the desires he has put within us for a world that is free from the violence of mass killings.
As United Methodists, this means getting involved in issues of gun violence and working to prevent these events.
Note: This story originally appeared October 2, 2015, and is periodically updated. The latest update was on May 25, 2022.
*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email.