Pastoral letter of June 20, 2016
To the Clergy and Wardens of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Over the last several years, a series of radical changes in firearms laws in the State of Kansas has led to permission being given to carry firearms, openly or concealed, into churches and other houses of worship. These changes reverse long-standing law and practice regarding firearms in our state. These changes reflect the efforts of an active gun manufacturers’ lobby, and in our judgment, they unnecessarily endanger the citizens of our state and the members of our parishes.
Under these laws, firearms can be prohibited from churches when the ecclesiastical authority expressly prohibits their presence and erects signage making clear such prohibition. Together we are making that clear judgement through this directive today.
For Episcopalians, the Bible serves as a trustworthy guide for our beliefs and practices. The prophets clearly saw the ultimate purpose and goal of God’s creating and saving work: “they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11: 9). God became human in Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed the Prince of Peace. The Apostle Paul embodied the spirit of Jesus when he urged Christians to never “repay anyone evil for evil” (Romans 12: 17). Paul understood Christ as the new Adam, the pioneer of God’s peaceful future reign. As Christ’s body, the Church and all its members belong to the coming Kingdom. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we demonstrate God’s generous, nonviolent intent for all creatures. We even call the space we use for our worship “a sanctuary.”
Effective August 1, 2016, the carrying of firearms will formally be prohibited in all church facilities in the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas, except as carried by designated law enforcement officials in the line of duty.
In order to comply with state law, all church-owned property must post signs indicating that guns are not permitted. To that end, enclosed you will find four of:
- the required sign, as a sticker to be affixed to an exterior;
- the required sign, as a vinyl cling that can be affixed to the inside of glass; and
- supplemental notices to go one inch below the required sign, both in the exterior sticker and the interior vinyl cling versions (for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas).
In order to comply with state law, these signs, in either version, must be placed to achieve immediate visibility from the outside and should not be obstructed by doors, sliding doorways, displays or other postings. They should be set at adult eye-level (4-to-6 feet from the ground), not more than 12 inches to the left or right of each exterior public and nonpublic entrance to the building. If a sign becomes illegible, by law it must be replaced immediately.
If you need more stickers or clings than are enclosed, please contact the diocesan office and more will be sent to you.
While this directive and the enclosed signs will meet the requirements of state law, we hope all the more it will serve as a testament to the promised future reign of Christ in which “no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love.”
Please feel free to be in touch with your diocesan office if you have any questions or additional concerns.
The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe
Ninth Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas
The Right Reverend Michael P Milliken
Fifth Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas