Baptist leaders call for peace, prayer following Jan. 6 protests at US Capitol

Protesters gather outside the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, Jan 6, 2021.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Baptist leaders call for peace, prayer following Jan. 6 protests at US Capitol

As churches gathered Jan. 6 on campuses and online for Wednesday night services, prayer for America was on the minds of many.

“We want to pray for our country tonight,” said First Baptist Church, Florence, Pastor Kevin Johnson, speaking to his congregation via Facebook Live. “It’s been a difficult day. It’s been a difficult time in many ways.”

Johnson urged prayer, noting: “When we pray for our country we pray not politically, we pray spiritually. We don’t pray in favor of one or the other. We don’t pray that the left would win or the right would win. We pray as the angel of the Lord showed up and said, ‘I’m not on either side, I’m here on God’s side.’ That’s the way we want to pray.”

Earlier in the day, violence broke out in Washington as a joint session of Congress met for a ceremonial counting of electoral votes and the final step in affirming the election of Joe Biden as the nation’s 46th president.

A crowd claiming the election results are fraudulent gathered outside the U.S. Capitol, then stormed inside, overwhelming police and forcing lawmakers to evacuate from the Senate and House chambers.

Lawmakers pray for nation

As what sounded like gunshots rang out in the U.S. Capitol, a CBS News video caught what appeared to be Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware offering her own response to the harrowing situation: She led her fellow lawmakers in prayer.

She called on Jesus to protect members of Congress and to bring “peace in the land, peace in this country, peace in this world!”

At least one person was shot in the ensuing melee and later died, according to news reports. Three other people died in “medical emergencies.”

National Guard troops from D.C., Maryland and Virginia were activated and a lockdown of the city was initiated by city officials.

Speaking from The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said he was reminded of the words of President Abraham Lincoln: “We shall nobly save or merely lose the last best hope on earth. … The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way that, if followed, the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.”

Biden, who typically ends speeches with an appeal for God’s blessings on the nation and its military, appended his remarks by saying: “May God bless America. May God protect our troops and all those folks at the Capitol who are trying to preserve order.”

Baptist leaders respond

Countless Alabama Baptist and Southern Baptist religious leaders reacted quickly to the chaotic and unprecedented scene, calling for peace and calling Christians to prayer. They shared responses on social media as well as through statements and as they led their Wednesday evening prayer and church services. Among those calling for prayer were Alabama’s Rick Lance and the SBC’s Ronnie Floyd.

Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said, “We need to pray fervently for our leaders and our country during these challenging times. Peaceful protests are acceptable, but violent behavior is not.”

Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, said he was “deeply grieved over the destruction and violence at the U.S. Capitol. The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of American democracy, and today we saw the opposite of peace. This is not what we are called to be as Americans, and this is surely not what we are called to be as Christians. Let’s continue to pray for America.”

Earlier in the week, more than 2,000 faith leaders and religious activists released a statement calling on Congress to honor the result of the November election.

The letter, issued Jan. 4, states:

“As faithful citizens, we are praying for a peaceful, smooth, and dignified transfer of power. A delayed and drawn out objection on January 6th would not overturn the will of the American people and change the outcome of the election. It will be nothing but a disservice to the idea of e pluribus unum – and every Member of Congress who believes in the sanctity of our democracy should say so.”

Electoral votes confirmed

A few hours after the chaos at the Capitol calmed down Jan. 6, lawmakers regathered to finish their work, and before dawn Jan. 7, they confirmed the election results naming Biden as the president-elect.

Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the joint session, announced the final electoral vote tally, 306–232.

(Compiled from reporting by TAB Media, Baptist Press, Religion News Service, the Associated Press.)