Tragedy in Orlando: A Response

Together with the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, I join my prayers with those around the country and throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lamenting the attack on an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando that left 50 people dead.

It has become easy, in this day and age, to think that the work of seeking dignity and equality for LGBTQ people in church and society is over. This tragedy reminds us that we—as all God’s people, and as all Americans—still have much work to do. As long as there is fear, as long as there is hatred, as long as there is lack of understanding and of relationships, we all have work to do in proclaiming God’s love—a love that embraces and honors everybody.

Three weeks ago today, I was in Orlando, preaching at a church exactly two miles east of the Pulse nightclub. I had been part of a weekend conference in which local church leaders committed themselves anew to seeking peace and justice in their community and to modeling compassion in a broken and hurting world. As I presented a workshop on welcoming LGBTQ people in church and society, another speaker shared bracing facts about the level of gun access and use in America. As the event sought to equip and empower Florida Presbyterians for prophetic and effective mission, I met dozens of faithful people ready and willing to work for positive change. As sadness and shock now envelop their communities, I’m grateful for these co-laborers in the faith, whose witness will be most needed in the difficult days ahead.

In a few days, Presbyterians from around the country will gather in Portland for the 222nd General Assembly. There will be many items on the agenda that call upon—and, in some cases, challenge—our ongoing commitment to justice and reconciliation. The Covenant Network will be there, lifting up and advocating for the church’s voice in the public square for a more peaceful and just society. We’re grateful for the prayers and support as we undertake that work—work that today we are sadly reminded is as important as ever.


—The Rev. Brian Ellison, executive director
Covenant Network of Presbyterians


  1. http://Lynn%20Hargrove says

    How can we help?

  2. http://Brian%20Ellison says

    Lynn, thanks for asking. Obviously, there is much to do in terms of prayer and encouragement for those suffering most immediately in Orlando. As we turn to the General Assembly this week, and to the work beyond, a few things come to mind as ways people can help in the work Covenant Network is trying to do.

    First, I hope you and others will engage with the issues facing this General Assembly regarding the church’s ministry of witness and inclusion of LGBTQ people. There are efforts to turn back the clock on the progress that has been made on marriage. There are other proposals that would gut the church’s ability to speak in the public square on critical issues. Those who speak in open hearings, those who pray and engage with commissioners and advisory delegates, those who use their own social media networks to promote justice and reconciliation, are all making a difference.

    Second, I hope you’ll reach out in relationships with those who disagree with us about matters of justice and inclusion. All the arguments and resolutions in the world don’t do nearly as much to change minds and hearts as the story and faith of a friend, a brother or sister, a parent or child.

    Third, and it’s no small matter, we’re grateful for your financial support for our ongoing work of witness and advocacy. People’s contributions are why we can be present at G.A., why we can produce resources and facilitate conversations and make statements that have made a difference. Clicking on the donate button on this website is an easy way to do that … and it really helps.

    Finally, you can help by letting us know what is needed where you are. Into what places of need can we speak? Where can we model prophetic witness, faithful dialogue and authentic reconciliation?

    I’m so grateful for your asking. Let me know if talking further will help! –Brian

  3. http://Graham%20Houston says

    Thank you, Brian, for illuminating a path that turns despair into hopeful and positive action. So many are desperate to do something to bring about change.

  4. http://Kirianne%20Weaver%20Riehl says

    Brian, we are planning worship this Sunday with the tragedy in mind. Do you have any appropriate worship resources to recommend?

  5. http://Jill%20Acree says

    Brian, please call the Presbyterian Church to push for gun control. I know many of the arguments, but it’s worth the grandest experiment ever. We could try it and see what happened.
    Jill Acree
    Ada, Oklahoma

  6. http://Annalie%20Korengel says

    As I wrestle with how to order worship on Sunday that both allows for lament and grief over the events in Orlando and celebrate our fathers, do you have any resources that may be helpful? Thank you for your ministry in these times.

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