NASHVILLE — The president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Commission has been joined by 11 Tennessee pastors and the president of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board in urging state legislators to enact safety measures to protect the public from gun violence.
TBMB president Randy C. Davis and Ethics & Religious Liberty president Brent Leatherwood signed a letter April 19 with 13 Tennessee pastors – 11 of them Southern Baptists – urging support of Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal “to strengthen our state’s order of protection laws to protect the broader population from those who are a danger to themselves or others.”
Davis said the proposal from Gov. Lee is a modification to a domestic violence law that is already in effect and moves toward addressing the mental health side of the issue, which is what people from across the board have said needs to be addressed.
“This is personal for me,” Davis acknowledged.
“I am a gun owner and I strongly support the Second Amendment, however I also have a daughter who is a school teacher. She loves the children she teaches. She and her students, like all teachers and students, deserve a safe environment in which to teach and learn.
“Measures must be taken to address the mental health side of gun violence, especially as it pertains to mass shootings and the unnecessary and deeply unfortunate deaths of innocent people such as 9-year-old children,” he said.
“We should also acknowledge that there is a very obvious component of hate crimes against Christians and other people of faith,” Davis added.
“Local and national leaders and media must call that out where hatred toward people of faith has been an obvious motive to mass shootings. The safety of churches and places of worship is another motivation for this common sense measures related to this issue.”
Davis said he believes that what the governor proposed is reasonable. “It addresses what has been firmly established as a common denominator among the perpetrators of these violent crimes.
“We can no longer stand by an do nothing,” Davis said.
By executive order, Lee on April 11 set a 72-hour time limit to report new criminal activity and court-documented mental health information to the Tennessee Instant Check System, the state criminal background system. But he also called on the Tennessee General Assembly to establish an “order of protection law” to “provide the broader population cover, safety, from those who are a danger to themselves or the population.”
Tennessee Southern Baptist leaders and pastors urged support of Lee’s appeal, which came days after the March 27 mass shooting at Covenant Christian School in Nashville that killed two school employees, a substitute teacher and three 9-year-old students.
“Sadly, as last month’s Covenant School shooting tragically reminded us,” the letter said, “these are not issues that take place ‘somewhere else.’ As Tennesseans, we urge the Legislature to pursue policies that help protect the vulnerable from harm in our great state.
“As Southern Baptists, we want to see the government take steps to help end this ‘epidemic of gun violence.’ Governor Lee’s proposal does that. As an elected member of the Legislature, you now have an incredible opportunity before you. We have great confidence in you as you face this pivotal moment and have the opportunity to advance the cause of protecting the vulnerable citizens who are your charge. This action is desperately needed.”
Joining Davis and Leatherwood in signing the letter are Mike Glenn, senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood; Aaron Bryant, campus and teaching pastor of The Church at Avenue South in Nashville; David Freeman, pastor, First Baptist Church, Lebanon; Steve Freeman, senior pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Springfield; Robby Gallaty, senior pastor, Long Hollow Church, Hendersonville; Wade Owen, campus and teaching pastor, The Church at Nolensville, Nolensville; Nathan Parker, senior pastor, Woodmont Baptist Church, Nashville; Matt Pearson, campus and teaching pastor, The Church at West Franklin, Franklin; Ronny Raines, senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Clarksville, Clarksville; Mark Satterfield, senior pastor, The Glade Church, Mount Juliet, and Brandt Waggoner, lead pastor, Fairview Church, Lebanon.
Non-Southern Baptists who signed the appeal are Ben Anderson, lead pastor, Christ Church, Nashville; Clay Stauffer, senior minister, Woodmont Christian Church, Nashville, and Darren Whitehead, senior pastor, Church of the City, Franklin. B&R