Question 3 on the November ballot calls for extension, with significant exceptions, of background checks to private gun sales and transfers. The arguments against this modest provision rely largely on conjuring up unlikely scenarios in which overzealous law enforcement officers go into homes and about Maine woods demanding proof that background checks have been done, or that a gun in hand is legitimately in possession of the person having it. The source of this obfuscatory propaganda is, we can be sure, the National Rifle Association, whose position is that the only laws about guns should be ones that make them more available.
The NRA and its Maine allies play upon unwarranted fears, and an inflated conception of gun owners’ rights pursuant to the Second Amendment. There is a right to bear arms. The Courts also have said that Governments can, in the public interest, make laws and regulations which put reasonable limits on who can have weaponry, and what kinds can be available.
There is much about the opposition’s arguments that is questionable, but perhaps one version captures best an outlook which is particularly troubling for people of faith such as those of us who participate in the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. This telling view is succinctly expressed on a lawn sign which asserts that background checks were a failure in New York, and that they address a problem which Maine does not have. If it is true that provision for background checks in New York City have not instantly solved the problem of gun violence there, it is also true that in many States where background checks are required, there have been almost 50 per cent reductions in gun-related deaths.
It is the second portion of the sign which is most telling, however. Thankfully, even Maine’s small urban areas do not face the challenges that major metropolitan areas do. But to say that Mainers can rightly ignore the problem of gun violence is both shortsighted and self-centered. It is easy to imagine that many citizens of Aurora or San Bernardino or Newtown or other places where guns fell into the wrong hands once told themselves that they and their children lived safely away from the dangerous streets of New York or Chicago. For us to assume that “It Can’t Happen Here” would be foolishly naïve.
It would also be morally wrong. For people of faith, there is the eternal question: “Who is my neighbor?” I may live far from the complexities of life in Portland, but was not the young woman mortally wounded there with an untraceable gun my neighbor? Her parents, originators of Question 3, would certainly suggest so. How often have guns exchanged via Uncle Henry’s or gun shows migrated down to Boston or New York and been used to take human life? Under present circumstances, we cannot know. We can however predict with assurance that as gun laws are tightened in States to our south, those who Governor LePage says come here from those areas to peddle drugs will be increasingly inclined to take guns back for destructive use or sale in other places.
We cannot say that all that matters are my individual rights. We live not just as laws unto ourselves, but in community. To paraphrase the poet and priest John Donne, no person is an island entire to him or her self, and each person’s death diminishes us—even if that death occurs well away from our immediate surroundings.
Adoption of Question 3 would be a modest but much needed step toward ending the scourge of gun violence which afflicts so many. Our own Bishop Stephen Lane has spoken strongly on the matter. We of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship of Maine here reiterate his concern, and urge our fellow citizens to vote positively on Question 3.
Written by Edward McCarthy and submitted by Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Maine Chapter (Kathy Coughlan and Diane Paterson, Co-Conveners)
Download the Statement on Question 3 here.
The Maine chapter of EPF was founded during the Vietnam War era and was reconstituted in January 2006. We now have about 70 members of the Maine Chapter, including laypeople, a bishop, presbyters and deacons. In recent years we have accomplished and are continuing to focus on the following:
- Submitted annual resolutions to diocesan convention.
- Sponsored a poem/essay contest for youth.
- Sponsored a 3 day Creating a Culture of Peace Retreat for 22 people w Janet Chisholm at Living Water.
- Developed 4 action groups out of the retreat.
- Held booths at Brunswick Peace Fair and diocesan convention
- Co-sponsored a movie with follow-up discussion about Gandhi in Brunswick Movie Theater.
- Developing a movie series in southern part of the diocese.
- Had a representative speaker at interfaith rally in Portland.
- Participated in the annual Peace Action Maine dinner annual meeting.
- Work closely with Indian Relations committee to educate ourselves about Native Peoples in Maine (promoting movies and education).
- Have raised funds in support of Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City
- Created a DVD slide show available to parishes for showing on Al Ahli Hospital
New Northeast Blog Posts
Convention resolutions: Church funds should not support militarism:
Bishop Lane urges prayer and support for the Middle East:
Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza: A Focus
EPF-Maine has been focusing attention on Al Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip and on its significant need for international support. A resolution passed in Diocesan Convention in October 2012 lent support to the effort to increase awareness of the issues involved in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and its possible resolution.
EPF-Maine is encouraging fund-raising efforts on behalf of Al Ahli Hospital throughout the Diocese of Maine. In May 2013 the women's group at Grace Church in Bath (The Women of Grace) contributed $500 to Al Ahli after seeing the PowerPoint presentation on the hospital and participating in discussion facilitated by parishioners and EPF-members the Rev. John Beaven and Diane Paterson. Another $500 was contributed in June 2013 to Al Ahli Hospital by the Outreach Committee at Grace Church in Bath in response to a challenge from the women's group. In September 2013 a Millenium Development Grant of $7,500 was awarded by the Diocese of Maine to Al Ahli Hospital. Donations to the hospital are channeled through American Friends of the Episcopal
The Diocese of Maine and the Maine Chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship invite you to join a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, October 24-November 3, 2016.
Brunswick Peace Fair:
EPF-Maine participated in the annual Peace Fair held on the Brunswick Mall.
Peace groups in Maine invited others to gather with them for a day of celebrating making our earth safe for our children.
The following themes were addressed: Teaching Peace, Protecting from Violence, Environment Health, Food Capabilities, Human Health, Creating a Compassionate Society.
Coordinator was Karen Rienert from the Executive Committee of EPF-Maine.
Creating a Culture of Peace (CCP) Training:
Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF-Maine Chapter) offers from time to time experiential encounters for Episcopalians on confronting violence with nonviolence in everyday life.
6 parishes and one religious community (SCHC) have offered forums, workshops, sermons, and retreats, which have been led by Carol Huntington, nationally certified CCP trainer, assisted by Anne Street, Dick Bamforth, Alicia Kellogg and three other leaders in our Diocese. All assistants were trained in the basic Creating a Culture of Peace 3-day training led by Carol and Janet Chisholm, National Coordinator of CCP.
CCP uses a holistic approach to empowering participants in the spirituality and practice of active peacemaking in their lives through a three-day, 20 hour program. EPF-Maine continues to offer 50-minute sessions to one-day retreats to parishes in the Diocese of Maine who want to begin to experience being better peacemakers. We welcome invitations to share what we have learned about peacemaking.
Dear Leaders of the Parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine:
We invite you to join the Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Maine Chapter in extending peacemaking resources to all the clergy and laity of the diocese. Here are some ways you can:
We look forward to your reply. And we welcome your ideas about additional ways to advance the Peace of Christ throughout our Diocese, our nation and our world.
May God bless our ministries,
The Executive Committee, EPF-Maine
The Spirituality and Practice of Peacemaking
“CREATING A CULTURE OF PEACE: training for personal and social change” has been a transforming experience in my life! I have always considered myself as being committed to peace and justice, especially justice. It was not until I went to the CREATING A CULTURE OF PEACE (CCP) training that I was able to experience a deeper truth about the integral relationship between peace and justice. I was so inspired and empowered that I enrolled in the course to become a trained and certified Facilitator in the national program.
CCP has given me an understanding of the power and creativity of active nonviolence as a way to respond to injustice, oppression, conflict and violence. As a social worker for 40 years --- 25 years living and working in the inner city--- and more recently as a deacon, I have experienced many kinds of violence. My faith as a Christian has been foundational to my ability to try to confront and transform that violence which was at work while I served in the cities of Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Boston, as well as in my personal and family life. Now I see CCP as part of my Christian formation process. It has provided me with a new sense of personal power and practical skills, and more importantly, a way of being that transcends and transforms the violence that pervades our culture. I see that using active nonviolence is the way to come to justice and peace.
Janet Chisholm, my trainer and mentor, is a faith-based peacemaker and educator. She has established CCP as a nationwide, community-based training program which has benefited thousands. It has been embraced by youth groups and intergenerational groups, congregations, civic groups, peace and justice organizations, colleges and seminaries. It has been adopted by national and regional faith groups, including the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and by Veterans for Peace. (Janet is the past national chairperson of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and the former executive director and training coordinator of the national Fellowship of Reconciliation.)
CCP’s innovative and interactive process helps participants find their own power and practice more skills for making personal and social changes without violence. It allows them to address issues which most concern them, such as controversial topics and group conflicts, neighborhood and school violence, domestic violence, climate change, war and militarism, discrimination, video games, homelessness, peace education, and lack of health care. Mutual learning occurs through storytelling, meditation, small group sharing, brainstorming, role plays, thought-provoking exercises, music and movement.
The content of CCP provides a holistic and practical foundation in spiritually-grounded peacemaking. Participants explore violence and active nonviolence, social change, and community-building. Every group chooses and plans concrete projects for change to help create the peaceful world we desire.
Almighty God, You have bidden us to carry in your Name the sword of the Spirit;
you have made us messengers of peace in a world of strife,
and messengers of strife where false peace prevails;
Make strong our hand, make clear our voice,
give us humility with firmness, and insight with passion;
that we may fight not to conquer but to redeem,
following the example of your blessed Son, the Savior of the world. Amen.
The Rev. Richard Bamforth
a meditation on how we pray about peace in the Episcopal Church