As the Georgia General Assembly considers HB 875, a bill that among other things would allow persons with concealed gun permits to bring guns into churches, the Conference Leadership Ministry Team wants to remind our churches and leaders of actions taken previously by the North Georgia Conference and by the denomination.
In 2008, the Annual Conference, meeting in Athens, passed a resolution on Concealed Weapons in Houses of Worship. The full Resolution, which passed by a large majority, can be found below. The Resolution says in part that the delegates “oppose any further attempts by the state legislature to allow anyone other than law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons into houses of worship.” This Resolution is still in effect.
In 2000 the General Conference adopted a Resolution entitled "Church Is a Weapon-Free Zone" that was readopted in 2004, 2008, and 2012. It is number 5011 in the 2012 Book of Resolutions and reads as follows:
WHEREAS, in keeping with the spirit of Isaiah 2:4: God will judge between the nations, and settle disputes of mighty nations. Then they will beat their swords into iron plows, and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war”;
WHEREAS, reflecting the church’s traditional role as a place of safety and sanctuary,
Therefore every United Methodist
Church is officially declared a weapons-free zone.
We invite all persons to be in prayer for our leaders as they consider this legislation. Churches that would like to take further action should keep in mind that the relatively recent changes to Georgia Ethics Laws creates a lack of clarity around what actions can be taken when a bill in the Georgia Assembly effects someone’s workplace.
One reading of the law is that, unless someone is a registered lobbyist, direct actions beyond a private citizen communicating from their personal forms of communications to their districted representatives in order to influence a bill’s passage could be considered a violation of the ethics rules. Again, the rules in this matter are vague. There is nothing prohibiting a private citizen from contacting their elected representatives regarding matters of legislation. Likewise, open letters with mass signees are fine.
The most careful way forward would suggest clergy and staff not contact individual members of the Georgia General Assembly from their work email or phone or meet with members of the Georgia Assembly in private.
-The North Georgia Conference Leadership Ministry Team