VALLEY FORGE, PA (6/17/16)—As investigation into the unspeakable violence in Orlando has deepened in the past week, initial grief and shock at the senseless loss of human life has given way to troubling news about the assailant and the nature of the violence at Pulse nightclub.
This hate crime related to members of the LGBTQ community, as the massacre is now understood, compels American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) to stand in solidarity with the Orlando victims and their families and friends.
“We are anguished and aggrieved at this heinous massacre where the evils of terrorism, gun violence and hatred against members of the LGBTQ communities converged,” says ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray. “We condemn with the strongest language possible whatever ideologies and sentiments contribute to a culture of homophobia, bigotry, hatred and violence against fellow children of God, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We are all created in the image of God, and God’s love for all people is steadfast, immovable and unconditional.”
The hateful speech condoning hatred and violence against LGBTQ persons heard from voices in the religious community under cover of religion is wrong and condemnable. Such religious extremism should be rejected in the clearest terms. These voices do not reflect our Loving God who calls upon us to connect with all people, cultivate healthy communities and change our world with attitudes and actions that reflect the love demonstrated by Jesus Christ.
“In addition to our heartfelt expressions of sympathy, compassion and concern for the victims of the shooting and their families,” says Haggray, “we express solidarity and concern for all LGBTQ persons in Orlando, and across our nation, who live each day in vulnerability and fear of judgment and rejection as well as discrimination and violence.”
ABHMS calls upon all people of faith to affirm belief in the Almighty and Loving Creator God who so loved the entire creation that God’s own Son experienced rejection, hatred and death along with us. Let us commit to continue loving all people—fully and unconditionally—as Jesus did. God does not discriminate against LGBTQ persons and neither will we.
Haggray encourages churches across the United States and Puerto Rico to open their doors in welcome to LGBTQ persons and others each and every day. “Let us find authentic ways to publicly communicate that we stand with LGBTQ persons by extending hospitality, security, love and acceptance in God’s houses of prayer intended for all people,” he says. “Let us publicly affirm that, as Christ’s church, we are a beloved community—a community that welcomes into our houses of worship Latino/Latina neighbors, LGBTQ friends, Muslim co-laborers, and all persons who seek dialogue, understanding, safe-keeping, community and love.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on leadership, discipleship and healing communities.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.