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God transformed anger to hope, says Oklahoma City bombing widow

 


God transformed anger to hope, says Oklahoma City bombing widow

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by the Rev. Chebon Kernell

A drum is played at a memorial service at Norman (Okla.) First American United Methodist Church, marking the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

April 21, 2005

By Noah Long*

NORMAN, Okla. (UMNS)—Anne Marshall’s anger toward God transformed her belief and restored “hope” in her life.

Marshall’s anger started 10 years ago when her husband, Raymond Johnson, was killed with 167 others in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. She shared her feelings on the 10th anniversary of the bombing during a memorial service at Norman First American United Methodist Church. The service was one of many held across the metro Oklahoma City area on Tuesday, April 19, the anniversary date of the bombing.

Marshall served for 12 years as an executive with the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns in New York City. She is a member of the Wewoka Indian United Methodist Church, near Holdenville, Okla.

She told of watching the execution of convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh, how she struggled with her decision to attend the execution and how she came to a stance on the death penalty.

“I got a lot of hate mail because I went against the Social Principles on the death penalty and I wouldn’t want to go through that again,” Marshall said. In its Social Principles, the United Methodist Church states its opposition to capital punishment.

Marshall was one of 10 victims or survivors drawn from a lottery system to attend the execution in June 2001.

“It’s true if the government wants to find you, they can,” she said. “They tracked me down to Arizona to tell me I was one of the 10 selected to attend the execution of Timothy McVeigh.”

Before she accepted the invitation, she consulted with United Methodist bishops and with her tribal elders. A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Marshall said it was the tradition of her tribe that persuaded her to attend the execution.

“In our tribe, if Tim McVeigh killed my husband, he could come before the tribe and ask for penitence, and it was up to the people whether to accept that. If they didn’t accept it, it would be up to him to set his own execution date,” Marshall said. With that in mind, she made the trip to Terre Haute, Ind., to witness McVeigh’s execution.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS file photo by John C. Goodwin

Anne Marshall (right) tells delegates to the 2000 General Conference how the bombing in Oklahoma City changed her.

“I didn’t go with thoughts of revenge, and I prayed during the execution that God would restore my hope,” Marshall said. She said she turned down requests for television interviews following the execution, although she was asked to represent the “faith community” before the TV cameras.

Her struggle with the bombing led her from anger to peace during the past 10 years.

“These 10 years have been a challenge,” Marshall said. “I was angry with God, and it had nothing to do with Timothy McVeigh and (convicted co-conspirator) Terry Nichols, but with God, and it wasn’t until I went to a sacred mountain and saw the pure white snow (that) God spoke to me and said, ‘This is who I am. Can you accept me?’”

Marshall said that moment started the healing process.

“I’m much wiser in my relationship with others,” she said. “I now believe in ‘quality’ time with people, rather than ‘quantity’ time. God can restore people with hope. I now have the confidence that hope has been restored.”

The 10th anniversary memorial service ended with a traditional “cedar ceremony,” conducted by Steve Littleman, a Kiowa tribal elder. The cedar ceremony symbolizes a cleansing of the spirit.

*Long is a member of First American United Methodist Church in Norman, Okla., and a reporter for the Newcastle, Okla., Pacer newspaper.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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