Biden To Visit Mother Emanuel AME Church As South Carolina Primaries Approach - Word&Way

Biden To Visit Mother Emanuel AME Church As South Carolina Primaries Approach

(RNS) — President Joe Biden plans to give an address at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday (Jan. 8) as he prepares for the Democratic Party’s first primary of the 2024 presidential cycle.

The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning said the president also will meet with families of “the Emanuel Nine,” the people who were killed in the 2015 massacre at the church by a white supremacist who attended a Bible study there before opening fire.

Biden is also expected to address concerns about hatred, democracy, and freedom, themes he raised in a speech Friday, the day before the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

President Joe Biden addresses the the 2021 National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Video screengrab

“Today we are here to answer the most important of questions: Is democracy still America’s sacred cause?” Biden said, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks provided by his campaign ahead of his speech in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. “This isn’t rhetorical, academic, or hypothetical. Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time. It is what the 2024 election is all about.”

Manning told Religion News Service in an interview that he hopes Biden will address similar themes at his church, which is one of the oldest African American congregations in the South.

“In 2015 when Dylann Roof came into this sacred space and of course, unfortunately, murdered nine people after Bible study, after sitting and hearing God’s word,” Manning said, “after praying, his response was murder, hate, and destruction. We unfortunately continue to see that downward spiral and not many people are concerned about that, not many faith leaders are actually speaking about it.”

He said he hopes Biden will address the need for remembrance and resilience, as well as the need to bring communities together amid divided views of candidates for the upcoming election.

“I would hope and pray that the community comes and hears and gets excited, gets energized about the 2024 election and what is realistically at stake,” said Manning, who is a registered Democrat in his state. “We have a choice to — from a biblical perspective — to not waver from two competing opinions. Either we’re going to stand for justice, freedom, equality, or we will continue to go down the path of untruths, vicious attacks, and hurtful rhetoric.”

Although he may lean in one political direction, Manning said he intends to “continuously pray” for whoever occupies the office of president.

Manning, who began leading Mother Emanuel about a year after the massacre, said his church still encounters difficult moments, as recently as this week.

“Mother Emanuel continues to be a light in the pathway of darkness and very resilient,” he said. “When it was announced that the president would be here, someone took the liberty of going on our Facebook page and saying Dylann Roof is a hero. That’s what we deal with.”

He said the congregation — sometimes about 100 in person and 1,000 online — nevertheless stands firm and continues to grow.

On Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris is also scheduled to be in the state, where she will speak to the annual retreat of the AME Church’s Seventh Episcopal District Women’s Missionary Society in Myrtle Beach.

Like Biden did earlier, Harris is expected to discuss the attacks on the Capitol.

“Regarding January 6th, the Vice President will address the full-on assault on hard-fought, hard-won freedoms we are seeing across our nation — and will call the members of the AME Church to continue to stand in defense of our most sacred principles,” a White House official said.

More than 1,000 people are expected at the retreat, reported The Christian Recorder, the official publication of the AME Church.