April 20, 2013

Denver church members: Thou shalt not kill, for we will help

A Colorado congregation aids troubled souls while calling for stronger gun laws and mental health services.

The Denver Post

DENVER - Praise the Lord and pass laws on ammunition and guns.

The First Plymouth Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ in Englewood, Colo., has taken a formal position on gun control.

They have called on state and national governments to, for starters, strengthen requirements for gun ownership, set limits on magazine capacities, ban assault weapons, fund research on gun violence, close gun-show loopholes and better fund services for the mentally ill.

The church also is training its staff to recognize the seriously mentally ill, get them help and help keep others safe from them through a statewide education program called Mental Health First Aid Colorado.

The congregation called on other progressive churches to join them. None did.

It was the Sunday in December after the Newtown school slaughter when Pastor George Anastos asked his congregation of more than 700 to think about what they could do to help reduce gun violence in society.

"In July, we were horrified at the Aurora shootings," Anastos said.

He remembers telling the congregation then: "We are in a world where we're surrounded by violence. We are a community of peace."

Then there was Newtown. "'Do we want to do something about it?"' Anastos asked his congregation. "The sense I had that Sunday was that 'enough was enough."'

Authority in the church rests with the individuals in the congregation, not with the pastor, Anastos told The Denver Post.

About 30 people met after church to talk. Participation grew until more than 100 church members sat in on a month of "listening" sessions.

The Church Council unanimously passed a position statement Feb. 12.


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