Well into last Sunday’s worship service, someone entered my church and was lurking in the rear of the sanctuary. As I tended to matters of faith in the pulpit, I was also assessing that potential security threat.
After the horrific Pittsburgh synagogue massacre that occurred the previous day, I decided to take no chances in protecting my congregation from harm. Under my vestments, I carried a Smith & Wesson M&P 40 pistol on my hip.
Outside of my religious duties as a church rector and Anglican bishop, I also serve as a Pennsylvania state constable. I have served on protective details at area synagogues during Jewish High Holy Days. I understand the threats that are out there, and I’m prepared to deal with them.
Now, I am truly a shepherd for my own flock.
The way institutions and people of faith are sometimes regarded these days is appalling. It’s bad enough when Bible-toting people are considered “trash” as they were in recent fake anti-littering ads in New York City, or when churches, synagogues and mosques are vandalized. The threat is now physical, too.
It was after the violence at churches in Charleston, South Carolina, and Sutherland Springs, Texas, that I began thinking about carrying a gun in church.
As I consider how the horrors at the Tree of Life Synagogue might have been minimized or avoided altogether by a good guy with a gun, I will now have a gun at my side during services with no regrets.
In the wake of that tragedy, when the media asked President Donald Trump for this thoughts, he armed guards in places of worship were “certainly an option.” This was rebuked by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who that “the approach we need to be looking at is how we take the guns … out of the hands” of potential threats.
Isn’t that what an armed guard — or an armed bishop — can do?
It’s bad enough that the assaults on faith from the glitterati, government and now gunmen endanger the principles of religious freedom upon which our nation was founded. We don’t need to fight the last and worst part of it by trampling our Second Amendment freedoms trying to decide who should be denied the right to keep and bear arms.
For over ten years, the Community Security Service — a private company co-founded by an Israeli army veteran and security expert — has been volunteers in “situational awareness and basic security theory” to protect Jewish institutions in places including Pennsylvania, New York and Washington, D.C.
One synagogue security professional said such provisions “make sure that people are coming for the right reasons.” Strategy exists to protect our houses of worship — for those who accept it.
“Trust but verify” is key.
That was exactly how I treated last Sunday’s latecomer. Related to my duties as a constable, I had recently received a threat to myself and my family from someone I had arrested. It could have been that guy.
For that personal reason, and the increased instances of anti-religious violence that might someday threaten my parishioners, I now have no problem with a pistol in the pulpit.
As I’ve before, it’s a bishop’s duty to act as a shepherd for his flock. That’s why I have an ornate staff called a crozier. Like a shepherd, it’s my duty to steer my congregation away from figurative wolves who would corrupt them spiritually. And now I am also physically protecting them from literal threats to their security because the crozier is no longer enough.
Some politicians and well-funded activists will undoubtedly use the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting to call for stricter gun control. That’s not the answer.
Awareness and swift response are much more appropriate.
Council Nedd II is co-chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network, rector of St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, and a Pennsylvania State Constable.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.