A GROUP of 13 bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States have urged people not to participate in public demonstrations in the wake of the violence that erupted in the Capitol last week, sparked by remarks by the outgoing President Donald Trump (News, 7 January).
Mr Trump was impeached on Wednesday night — for the second time in his tenure. The Senate is to hold a trial to determine his guilt. If he is found guilty of inciting the rioters who invaded the Capitol building last week, he could be barred ever from standing for president again.
The bishops, mainly from Midwestern regions, are led by the Bishop of Michigan, the Rt Revd Dr Bonnie Perry. Two Congressmen from Michigan were among the ten Republicans who voted with the Democrats to impeach Mr Trump.
The bishops express concern over FBI warnings that armed protests are being planned in Washington, and all 50 state capitals, between this Saturday and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday.
They write: “As your bishops, we write today imploring you to stay away from these protests and any counter-protests that might occur. In these perilous times, when public demonstrations carry a significant risk of both violence and exposure to Covid-19, we believe that God calls us to exercise both our Christian witness and our civic responsibility in ways that promote peace and safety.
“Between now and Inauguration Day, we can best follow our vocation to be peacemakers by staying away from places where harm could come to God’s people.”
Staying home does not, however, mean staying silent, they write. “We hope that all people of goodwill will join us in raising our voices to support our country’s democracy, letting our elected officials know that we are praying for them, particularly in the aftermath of last week’s siege of the US Capitol.”
They continue: “Whether you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent, please let your elected officials know that you cherish our representative democracy and our pursuit of a more perfect union, and that you expect that those who are found responsible for last week’s violence to be held accountable.”
The Church has a “robust witness” in Washington, they write, urging citizens to join its online Public Policy Network for opportunities to advocate for “peace, justice, and the dignity of every human being. . . Most of all, in the coming days, we ask you to pray.”