Religious leaders speak out against violence at US Capitol: “Our democracy is under siege”

Photo: Marianne Ejdersten/WCC

WCCAs mob violence took over the US Capitol on 6 January, churches in the USA spoke out against the threat against the integrity of democracy.

Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches (USA), released a statement on the “Mob Attack of the US Capitol” that condemned and repudiated the actions of pro-Trump protesters who made a mockery of the American democratic process.

“Chaos reigns, guns have been drawn, and our democracy is under siege. This is outrageous, unacceptable, shameful and a disgrace,” Winkler said. “Every effort must be made by law enforcement to restore order immediately.”

The National Council of Churches (USA) has long supported nonviolent protests—often organizing and participating in them—but Winkler said that demonstrators desecrating the US Capitol are disrupting the fair democratic process. “All who have been involved in today’s riots, those who participated as well as those who have incited this violence, must be held accountable,” Winkler said. “We are keenly aware from our own experience that what is taking place is a profound breakdown in security and is beyond anything we have ever seen before.”

In addition, Winkler said he is deeply concerned by President Trump’s efforts to remain in power.

“We fervently denounce President Trump for the role he has played in provoking this situation by encouraging and attending a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally earlier today, continuing to lie about the results of the election and refusing to concede and accept the election’s outcome,” said Winkler. “On this day intended to ceremonially accept the vote of the people, many Republican members of Congress also attempted to disregard the votes of nearly 82 million Americans.”

These votes were carefully counted and withstood more than 60 legal challenges, Winkler noted. “Elected officials can’t be allowed to pick and choose the votes they want to be counted,” he said. “All votes count.”

Winkler and the National Council of Churches (USA) added that they are particularly disturbed by and aware that the votes being contested are those that were legally cast by Black and Brown people in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. “These actions have proven once again that the vestiges of racism and white supremacy are still affecting and infecting our democracy,” Winkler said. “We must increase our efforts to end the scourge on our society, which not only impacts people of color but is detrimental to democracy itself.”

World Council of Churches interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca followed the latest developments with grave and mounting concern.

“The divisive populist politics of recent years have unleashed forces that threaten the foundations of democracy in the United States and—to the extent that it represents an example to other countries—in the wider world,” said Sauca. “Accordingly, these developments have implications far beyond domestic American politics and are of serious international concern.”

Calls for continued prayer

Member churches of the World Communion of Reformed Churches in the US are responding to the crisis, and the communion called for prayer and support for the US.

The United Church of Christ issued a call to prayer which included, “Let us pray for America—a land of democratic ideals that doesn’t always live out those ideals perfectly, but which has long been a beacon of light and hope for many who live with the hope of being free citizens in a free state.” The church held an online prayer vigil on 6 January which was posted to YouTube.

Rev. John Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, said: “I call us all to pray tonight for a peace to settle throughout our land. Before this escalates further, may we all be vigilant in our prayerful support for a quick and peaceful end to this.”

ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, called its congregations to prayer and fasting on 8 January: “Pray in general for our nation,” a statement read. “Even when this standoff ends, we still live in a deeply divided country.”

Colin Watson, executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America said, “While our founding documents permit lawful protest, the actions today were not lawful or peaceful. I call upon all praying Christians to lift up in prayer the people of the United States, our elected leaders and our public servants.”

Eddy Alemán, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, said, “What happened in Washington today is wrong and shameful. This direct attack on democracy is not godly. Join me in continuing to pray for the United States, for its elected officials, for its residents and citizens, and for a peaceful transition of government.”

Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said: “This is not a protest. This is not only breaking the law but it is a threat to our democracy. We pray for peace and safety for all who are in harms way.”

Rev. Susan C. Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, tweeted: “God our rock and our strength, we pray for the United States. We pray for the safety of Congress, for law agencies seeking to restore calm, for protesters that they would disperse, and for all who are troubled by this disruption in the democratic process.”

The Lutheran World Federation said it stands in prayer and solidarity “as the country faces turmoil after the US Capitol was stormed, halting vote certification.”

Presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry strongly denounced the riotous assault on the US Capitol, referring to it as an attempted coup.

“The events at our Capitol today are deeply disturbing,” he said. “We believe the actions of armed protesters represent a coup attempt.”

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement that condemned the violence at the US Capitol.

“I join people of good will in condemning the violence today at the United States Capitol,” Gomez said. “This is not who we are as Americans.”

He called for prayers for members of Congress and Capitol staff, and for the police and all those working to restore order and public safety.

“The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of this great nation,” he said. “In this troubling moment, we must recommit ourselves to the values and principles of our democracy and come together as one nation under God.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, also issued a statement following the protests, in which he described the United States Capitol as “sacred ground and a place where people over the past centuries have rightly demonstrated, representing a wide variety of opinions.”

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, reflected in a tweet about a day he sees as tragic. “This mob attack on our Capitol and our Constitution is immoral, unjust, dangerous, and inexcusable,” he wrote. “What has happened to our country is tragic, and could have been avoided.”

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also tweeted about the ongoing unrest. “What we are seeing in Washington now is the refutation of our American commitment, a form of unleashed anarchy which is the enemy of ordered liberty, and President Trump is responsible now for unleashing mayhem,” he tweeted. “Pray that God will rescue is from this.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released a statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and wider Reform Movement.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented assault not just on the US Capitol building and members of Congress, but on American democracy itself,” reads the statement. “The scenes of insurrectionists breaching Capitol security, of Senators and Representatives hiding under chairs on the chamber floor praying with the chaplain while Capitol police stand at the ready, are terrifying and heartbreaking.”

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