Christians respond to Orlando attack

Free Press wire reports | 6/17/2016, 1:18 p.m.
Christians responded quickly to the shooting rampage at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association immediately ...

Christians responded quickly to the shooting rampage at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association immediately sent trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team to Orlando to offer emotional and spiritual care to victims of the attack that took place early Sunday at Pulse. 

The Washington National Cathedral tolled its mourning bell 50 times Monday in honor of the lives lost.

Christian leaders also released statements mourning the dead, condemning the violence and encouraging prayer.

The African Methodist Episcopal denomination released a statement noting the mass shooting came almost exactly a year after the shooting that took the lives of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. The church called it a reminder that “racism and hate are still a part of American life.”

But not all LGBT Christians heard good news in some of the messages.

Matthew Vines, author of “God and the Gay Christian,” noted in an op-ed for TIME magazine that nearly 50 percent of LGBT Americans are Christians, like himself. For them, Sunday mornings are a reminder that they are not accepted in many pews.

“The core problem is that so many Christians still talk about the LGBT community like they’re not a part of the church.

For instance, he said, many of the statements made by prominent Christians didn’t name LGBT people as the targets of Sunday’s massacre.

One of them was the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

“Today’s deplorable act of terrorism goes against everything we stand for as Americans and as Christians,” he noted in a statement Sunday. “We call upon all Americans to come together for the purpose of building a firewall of love, grace, truth and respect against intolerance, hatred, bigotry and violence.”

Christian activist and author Shane Claiborne blamed the problem of gun violence. But before it was updated, it didn’t mention the problem of “anti-LGBT animus that pervades much of American society, including the church,” Mr. Vines said.

And some messages were unkind.

For example, Pastor Roger Jimenez of the anti-gay Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, Calif., told his congregation that Christians “shouldn’t be mourning the death of 50 sodomites.”

Meanwhile, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said, “Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let’s love and pray.”