As tens of thousands of pro-Trump supporters descend on the nation’s capital Tuesday (Jan. 5) and Wednesday (Jan. 6) to urge Congress to reject the results of the November presidential election, the local conference of United Methodists urges churches to light candles in their windows as a peaceful counter-witness.
The U.S. Congress will vote Wednesday to accept the certification of President-Elect Joe Biden’s win, which is normally a formality. However, some congressional Republicans announced they will object to the results in some states where Biden won since they claim, without evidence, that the results cannot be trusted. President Donald Trump refuses to admit his defeat, instead spreading false allegations and even trying to pressure election officials to change the results for him.
Admitting that the recent election season has been “unlike any other in recent memory,” the statement Tuesday from the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church noted that “United Methodists are being called to prayer.”
“We prayed for peace as we approached November 3, 2020, and we will continue to pray for peace as our nation finalizes that process,” the BWC said in its statement. “As a way of illuminating these prayers, we ask congregations to place candles in their windows to shine a beacon of hope on our nation today, tomorrow, and Thursday.”
The statement notes that D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser urged people not to gather in the city Tuesday or Wednesday as pro-Trump protesters arrive. A similar protest on Dec. 12 saw the rightwing “Proud Boys” group vandalize four churches — including a United Methodist church.
One of the targeted churches, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, sued the Proud Boys on Monday (Jan. 4) for the vandalism that included the destruction of a “Black Lives Matter” sign.
“White Supremacists will not dictate the terms of our worship, theology, or our strident commitment to the liberation of humankind from violence, oppression, and exploitation. Our ancestors were victorious against the White Supremacists who sought to instill fear in them and to control them,” Metropolitan AME’s pastor, William H. Lamar IV, said at a virtual news conference announcing the lawsuit. “I declare that we will be victorious against these White Supremacists because God is with us, Jesus Christ is on our side, and our ancestors surround us. We are on the side of justice and justice will prevail.”
Also on Monday, D.C police arrested Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, for burning a “Black Lives Matter” banner taken from Asbury United Methodist Church. Police charged him with a misdemeanor count of destruction of property related to the Dec. 12 protest and two felony counts of possession of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices found during the arrest.
Ahead of this week’s protest, D.C police said their “enhanced deployment” would include “additional concentration being placed on houses of worship.”
Rather than confronting protesters in the street, the BWC instead urges the peaceful witness of lighting candles as a way of avoiding violence and following the mayor’s request.
“The decision not to stage a counter-protest does not mean that United Methodists are in any way stepping away from their commitment to the democratic process or to justice and peace,” the BWC wrote. “Rather, leaders have discerned that a heated confrontation with those planning to descend on the capital does not further our stand for justice.”
“For people of faith, January 6 is also Epiphany,” the BWC added. “In observance of this holy day, United Methodists will continue to rise as they seek to pursue the spiritual and moral obligation to be a light for peace and justice.”