THE Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, has called for the immediate removal of President Trump from office after the President’s public comments — widely regarded as incitement — before and during a violent attack on the Capitol. Five people died (Comment, News, 7 January).
After repeatedly alleging that the election had been “stolen”, President Trump told a crowd rallying south of the White House to “walk down to the Capitol,” and said: “You will never take back our country with weakness.”
Bishop Curry added his name to an open letter from church leaders in the United States to Vice-President Mike Pence, urging him to remove the President at once.
Their letter reads: “For the good of the nation, so that we might end the current horror and prepare the way for binding up the nation’s wounds, we, as leaders of the member communions of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, believe the time has come for the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, to resign his position immediately. If he is unwilling to resign, we urge you to exercise the options provided by our democratic system.”
Bishop Curry had described the violence as a coup attempt. In a video message to the Episcopal Church, he urged people to choose community over chaos. “In the moment of a national crisis, a moment of great danger . . . a people must decide, ‘Who shall we be?’” he said.
On Wednesday, as expected, Vice-President Pence rejected demands to enact the 25th Amendment, which would have removed the President immediately. The House of Representatives, however, later voted for an unprecedented second time on a motion to impeach President Trump. The vote was carried, as predicted, and the Senate is to hold a trial to determine his guilt. Impeachment would block Mr Trump from running for office ever again.
Some of those who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday of last week held signs reading “Jesus Saves” and “Jesus 2020”. Some were there to join an event dubbed the “Jericho march”: a gathering of Christians to rally for “election integrity”.
Mr Trump took the presidency in 2016 with up to 80 per cent of the white Evangelical vote, a figure that fell by just a few percentage points in November’s election.
Some of the Christian leaders who had questioned the legality of the November election distanced themselves from the President after the violence last week. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham and a former supporter of President Trump, posting on Twitter, called on “Christians to unite our hearts together in prayer for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris, and for the leadership in both parties.”
But other pastors who backed Trump were supportive in their Sunday sermons. Pastor Brian Gibson, of HIS Church in Kentucky, blamed others, including the left-wing Antifa movement, for the violence.
He told his congregation: “So now I know some, some bad actors went in, and I believe potentially there were Antifa up there. I think more and more I know there were Antifa up there, insiders up there that started that action.”
Pastor Tim Remington in Idaho, from the Altar church, called on “the army of the Lord” to be ready. “The next two weeks are probably the most important two weeks in the history of America,” he told his congregation. Others referred to freedom of speech and the First Amendment, including the President’s spiritual counsellor Paula White-Cain.
President Trump has now been banned permanently from Twitter, which referred to the “risk of further incitement of violence”; and he was suspended from Facebook and Instagram indefinitely. YouTube has also suspended President Trump’s channel.