WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) has developed a three-session Bible study about the use of guns in committing violence. The study, “Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities,” uses Micah 4:1-4 as its scriptural foundation.
Bill Mefford, GBCS director of Civil & Human Rights, wrote the Bible study that emphasizes, “The desire to stop the impact of gun violence is felt among all people from many nations.” It touches on such topics as weapons in domestic violence and war involving boys conscripted into rebel armies.
Mefford said “Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities” comes out of many conversations with United Methodists who wanted to find some space in the denomination to discuss this crucial and complex issue “absent the superficial sound bites and sloganeering that happens all too often.”
Start with Scripture
“When addressing societal issues we must always start with Scripture,” Mefford said. “I found Micah’s vision to resonate with this issue both in terms of it being grounded in God’s sovereignty over all nations, and God’s passion for shalom via individual and corporate salvation. A safer world means we must all be saved.”
Micah’s vision will challenge many, if not all preconceptions, according to Mefford, and lift people to a higher, holier understanding and engagement on gun violence.
Micah 4:1-4 contains the prophet’s vision of beating “their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
In his foreword to the study, Bishop Robert Hoshibata, episcopal leader of the Desert Southwest Conference and president of GBCS’s board, cites the cases of two priests killed recently in separate incidents.
Violent acts now commonplace
Hoshibata points out that both of these deadly incidents involved gun violence. “One commentator has suggested something that we all are feeling and believing: Violent acts such as this are now commonplace,” the bishop writes. “They are erupting all across the world. Not only in the United States, but throughout our global community, violent acts are taking the life of innocent persons, too often children and young persons.”
Hoshibata asks if we now are becoming so numb to the continued death of so many that we are unwilling or unable to do anything to change this reality?
“Sadly, gun violence is a constant reality that all United Methodists face wherever we are located,” the bishop writes, and prayerfully commends this resource for study, reflection, and call to action.
“As faithful Christians we must approach the issue of gun violence through a theological and biblical lens,” Hoshibata says. “This study will help you do just that, and this is why I am strongly encouraging United Methodists to participate.”
“Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities” offers biblical analysis of the Micah text, uses examples that bring the Old Testament scripture into current contexts, and provides questions to stimulate discussion.
The Bible study can be downloaded free from the GBCS website at “Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities” (http://umc-gbcs.org/content/general/Kingdom-Dreams-Violent-Realities.pdf).
The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.
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