What we witnessed in the attempted coup yesterday has shaken the nation. How should clergy respond? Below is the statement released by the Clergy Emergency League, a network of faith leaders I helped to co-found. (Also available on the CEL website here.)
Clergy Emergency League Statement Regarding Attempted Coup in Washington, D.C.
January 6, 2021
(Jesus said:) “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:52
The Clergy Emergency League (CEL) denounces the attempted coup and terrorist attacks by Trump supporters in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. We call for the immediate impeachment and removal of Donald Trump from the presidency for violating his oath of office. We also call for the full prosecution of those who breached the Capitol.
For months, Trump has continually lied about the election results and urged his white nationalist supporters to engage in insurrection against democracy.
The violence of the mob that attacked the Capitol has already resulted in one death and numerous injuries. These attacks were intentional, premeditated, and well-publicized. These and any other future attacks on federal, state, or local governments must be answered with swift arrests and prosecutions to restore peace and order.
Just as disturbing is the fact that law enforcement not only failed to stop this mob, but, in fact, allowed the armed insurrectionists to enter the Capitol grounds and building.
We note the bitter irony that this was the exact opposite response to peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington, D.C. in June of 2020. At that time, Trump deployed armed law enforcement and National Guard officers to clear church steps of clergy and volunteers who were caring for peaceful protesters. Officers shot tear gas and rubber bullets at unarmed persons who were exercising their Constitutional rights.
In contrast, when white supremacist rioters descended on D.C. today, the National Guard was not called in until the insurrectionists had forced their way into the Capitol building and Congress had been evacuated from their respective chambers. In the meantime, the rioters broke into Capitol offices and took over the House and Senate chambers, destroyed property, injured civilians and officers, and attempted to subvert the peaceful transition of power. A thorough investigation into this failure of law enforcement to uphold peace must be conducted with full accountability for those who did not fulfill their duties.
At the same time, the President himself has failed to fulfill his duties to respect the results of the election and the democratic process that ensures the peaceful transition of power.
Worse, he incited the violence that has pierced the heart of our nation. Because he has insisted that he will never concede and continues to call for violence, he must be removed from office immediately. Violence will only continue and likely increase if he is permitted to remain.
We acknowledge and grieve that many of our siblings who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color know all too well the horror of this kind of white supremacist violence on a daily basis.
Called by our faith and by the teachings of scripture, we who are the Clergy Emergency League denounce all violence, systemic and structural racism, domestic terrorism, and the disruption of democracy.
Furthermore, these troubling events happened just as the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have been elected to the Senate, thanks to the tireless efforts of the people of Georgia to preserve democracy.
Now the work is to ensure a peaceful transition of power.
As we look ahead to the incoming leadership in Congress, as well as the Biden-Harris administration, we urge all elected officials to take up the work of truth-telling, accountability, and restorative justice.
Now is not the time for silence.
Now is the time for clergy and all people of faith to speak out against violence, call for peace, and hold accountable those who support the Trump agenda.
Especially on this day when the church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, we look to God’s light, truth, and peace, and pray for the protection of those who strive for justice, resist tyranny, and fight for the oppressed. Just as the Magi chose to resist the violent orders of Herod, may we as people of faith come home by another way—the way of peace.
About the Clergy Emergency League: The Clergy Emergency League (CEL) is a grassroots network of more than 2,300 clergy speaking out against the abuses of power at the federal, state, and local levels. Specifically, we resist the fusion of politics with radical, right-wing, fundamentalist Christianity, and the growing power of racist white nationalism and a militarized police state. We provide support, accountability, resources, and networking for clergy to prophetically minister in their congregations and the public square in this time of political upheaval, social unrest, and partisan division. Learn more at www.ClergyEmergencyLeague.com.
The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade
The Rev. Stephen Fearing
Co-founders, Clergy Emergency League
The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and ordained in the ELCA. Dr. Schade does not speak for LTS or the ELCA; her opinions are her own. She is the author of Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is the co-editor of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Her latest book, co-written with Jerry Sumney is Apocalypse When?: A Guide to Interpreting and Preaching Apocalyptic Texts (Wipf & Stock, 2020).
Leah is also co-founder of the Clergy Emergency League, a grassroots network of clergy that provides support, accountability, resources, and networking for clergy to prophetically minister in their congregations and the public square in this time of political upheaval, social unrest, and partisan division.