News Articles

Tennessee Baptists, ethics leader urge legislative protection from gun violence

NASHVILLE (BP) – The head of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB), the leader of Southern Baptists’ ethics entity and a group of Tennessee pastors are urging the state legislature to enact safety measures to protect the public from gun violence.

TBMB President Randy 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.”

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.

“As the president of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, the head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a group of concerned Middle Tennessee pastors, we are writing to help articulate the perspective of our churches,” the leaders wrote. “In Tennessee, upward of 20 percent of the populace identifies as Southern Baptist. The members of these churches who gather weekly across the state care deeply about life and the protection of all people made in the image of God. They believe in protecting innocent children from violence and struggling people from self-harm.”

The letter cites two Southern Baptist resolutions, including the resolution “On the Imago Dei” that messengers approved at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting affirming that humanity is made in God’s image; as well as the 2018 resolution “On Gun Violence and Mass Shootings” that calls on “federal, state, and local authorities to implement preventative measures that would reduce gun violence and mass shootings while operating in accordance with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

The letter follows an April 17 letter from Leatherwood that also urges the legislature to adopt gun safety measures. Leatherwood’s three children are enrolled at Covenant Christian School, he has tweeted.

The full April 19 letter can be found here.