From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Presbyterian Pastor: Forgiveness is Road to Healing for Columbine

Date 20 Apr 2000 12:06:07

In note #5866 to PRESBYNEWS, PCUSA NEWS wrote:


	Presbyterian Pastor: Forgiveness is Road to Healing for Columbine Victims

	Those unwilling to forgive gunmen and others will be ‘stuck' in despair

	by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- As the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Columbine
High School passes today, those affected by the massacre must find hope amid
struggle by forgiving those who are to blame.

	Otherwise, a Presbyterian minister from Littleton, Colo., told a national
television audience on ABC's "Nightline" news program on Monday, April 17,
those coping with their grief will become "stuck" in rage and despair,
unable to heal and resume a normal life.

	"Forgiveness. We need to engage the process of forgiveness," said the Rev.
Stephen Poos-Benson, pastor of Columbine United Church, answering questions
from "Nightline" correspondent John Donvan. "For some people that is a very
hard message to hear right now, and they can't hear it."

	Forty-seven students and a handful of teachers and administrative staff in
the school at the time of the rampage -- none fatally wounded -- are members
of Columbine United, an ecumenical church with 1,100 members most of whom
are from the Presbyterian, Methodist and United Church of Christ

	Teen-age gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and a
teacher and wounded dozens more at the school on April 20, 1999, before
committing suicide. Their rampage, he worst school shooting in U.S. history,
shocked millions of people worldwide who watched on television as police
circled the building and terrified students fled the school, including a
member of Columbine United Church who was seen dropping from a library

	But in a place where "forgiving is not coming easily to everyone," as
Donvan put it, Benson knows that asking those in pain to forgive the two
young killers and others blamed for failing to head off the massacre is
easier said than done. And he has tried before.

	"Literally, every single time since the shootings when I have preached on
forgiveness, I've had people get up and walk out on my sermons, walk out of
my services," Poos-Benson said during the interview taped in February.

	The 30-minute program chronicled events of the past year in Columbine --
memorials for the victims, reporters milling about, high-profile lawsuits
and lots of finger pointing. Most of all, the report conveyed the overriding
attitude of Columbine residents who have grown weary of discussing the
matter and seeing their town in the national spotlight.

	"I've heard one message pretty consistently from people here," Donvan said,
standing in front of Columbine High School. "It is in three words, ‘Leave us

	Donvan, who covered the shootings a year ago, asked the pastor, "Is it
really your business to be guiding some of these people to the idea of
forgiveness, when it's not at all what they're in the mood for?"

	Poos-Benson, a pastor at Columbine United Church for 16 years, replied: "If
it's not my business, then I shouldn't be in this business."

	"Because?" asked Donvan.

	"Part of my job is to hold this congregation and this community by the
hand, walk with them, encourage them to move forward," Poos-Benson said.
"Engage these different steps of the process so they don't get stuck."

	When asked to define "stuck," Poos-Benson said. "Ten years down the road,
if there is still a rage that is burning within us, that's stuck."

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