By Bob Allen
Leaders of the 122-church Alliance of Baptists announced a goal of recruiting 50 Alliance churches to participate in the second annual Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath in March co-sponsored by Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and the Washington National Cathedral.
The 2014 schedule calls for a kickoff national event at the National Cathedral on Thursday, March 13, followed by observances in local places of worship the following weekend. Last year hundreds of events were planned on short notice. With more lead time, organizers this year hope to boost the number into the thousands.
“Our goal is to have 50 Alliance of Baptists communities of faith participate,” Alliance leaders said in the Feb. 26 “Connections” e-mail newsletter. An online signup page includes links to resources for Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian Universalist traditions.
Ten Alliance congregations signed up before the appeal. The Alliance, formed in 1987 by opponents of a conservative shift in the Southern Baptist Convention, is a member of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of 50 national denominations and faith-based organizations formed on Martin Luther King Day in 2011.
Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, recently took over as the group’s chairperson, succeeding James Winkler, former general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society elected in November as General Secretary/President of the National Council of Churches.
Hall, an Episcopal priest who became the National Cathedral’s 10th chief ecclesiastical leader and executive officer Oct. 1, 2012, made gun violence prevention by faith communities a centerpiece of his early months as a national faith leader.
The Cathedral committed to focus attention on four initiatives — a ban on assault weapons, tighter controls on all gun sales, mental health care reform and challenging culture’s “glorification of violence” — in an effort to curb killing in the United States.
The Alliance of Baptists adopted a statement in 2012 terming the reduction of death and injury from gunfire “a moral imperative” and supporting “comprehensive and effective public policy measures” to prevent gun violence.
In addition to addressing public policy, the Alliance statement also called on local churches to “discern how God may be calling us to reduce gun violence in our own home communities.”