Faith leaders are speaking out after one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches, left, and Elizabeth Hagan, pastor of Washington Plaza Baptist Church, were among the faith leaders speaking about the Aurora, Colo., shooting.
Twelve were killed and 58 wounded during a Friday midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo. The suspect is 24-year-old James Holmes, who was until recently working on a doctorate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado.
Michael Ruffin, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fitzgerald, Ga., shared on his blog a special prayer from the Sunday morning service for all those involved in the tragedy.
"This tragedy, like all such tragedies, causes us to ask hard and challenging questions," said Ruffin. "Help us, O God, not to hide from confronting questions that we need to confront. We readily acknowledge the sin and sickness that are present in one who would carry out such an act. Is there also sin and sickness in our nation, in our culture, in our mindset, in our priorities, in our communities and even in our churches that help to contribute to such an event?"
"If our asking of such questions and if our seeking of your Spirit lead us to conclusions that challenge and trouble us," Ruffin continued, "help us to deal with those conclusions honestly and courageously."
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver and his auxiliary, Bishop James D. Conley, issued a joint statement about the shootings.
"For those who were killed, our hope is the tender mercy of our God. 'Neither death nor life,' reflected St. Paul, 'can separate us from the love of God,'" they said. "We commend their souls, and their families and friends, to God's enduring love. For those who were wounded – physically, emotionally and spiritually – our hope is in their recovery and renewal. To them we offer our prayers, our ears to listen, and our hearts to love. The road to recovery may be long, but in hope we are granted the gift of new life."
They ended their statement by noting that Regina Caeli Counseling Services of Catholic Charities would be available to help those in need in the coming weeks.
The United Methodist Church posted to its Facebook page, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Aurora." The post had nearly 5,000 "likes" and 150 comments as of Monday afternoon.
The UMC homepage also highlighted Sunday's sermon by Michael Dent, senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Denver.
"We can be angry and anxious by what has happened," said Dent. "We can remain distressed and depressed. We can wallow in shame and blame.
Or we can respond with audacity of hope and help, of grace and good news."
Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches, said in a statement released last Friday that elected officials should "seek policies that will foster greater peace in our communities and throughout this country."
Lohre also pointed out NCC's long-standing commitment to reduce gun violence. She referenced the organization's 2010 resolution called "Ending Gun Violence: A Call to Action."
In it, the NCC's member communions resolved to "call upon our local, state, and federal legislators to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns, including closing the so-called federal 'gun show loophole,' which allows for the purchase of firearms from private sellers without submitting to a background check, or providing documentation of the purchase."
Holmes, the alleged shooter, was dressed in riot gear and armed with three guns: a Smith & Wesson assault rifle, a Remington 12 gauge shotgun and a .40 Glock handgun. Another Glock handgun was found in his car.
Authorities have said he purchased all four weapons legally from local shops, in addition to the legal online purchase of more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition.
Robert Guffey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Conway, S.C., penned an entire column about the tragedy.
"After the triage and treatment of this latest local horror, it will be a sign of the core of the character of our society to see whether we are finally ready to face the violence latent in most every human heart, praying and working for peace and the rebuilding of a communal neighborhood and world where we know more intimately one another and live every day thinking of others while living into the things that make for peace," wrote Guffey on his blog, LightReading.org.
"No, we cannot stop all deranged and disturbed persons from inflicting pain, or stop all who are evil from waging war, but becoming a society that glorifies peace, kindness, humility, love, mercy, health and justice can reduce their frequency and effect," Guffey continued.
Elizabeth Hagan, pastor of Washington Plaza Baptist Church, posted a prayer on Saturday in response to the Aurora shootings.
With the refrain of "Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer," she offered pleas for those lost, those remaining, those trying to make sense of the tragedy, and "those who will use this moment in time to push their own political agendas that are rooted in ego rather than love."
Robert Cornwall, pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church in Troy, Mich., asked on his blog what Christians can do to help end violence in communities.
"Jesus has said that peacemakers are blessed and Paul reminds us that we've been called to be ambassadors of reconciliation – may this be our response to this event of violence," wrote Cornwall.