The Doors of the Church are Still Open: A Response to the incident at Bethel, Gainesville from the AME Church Leadership

Bishop Harry Seawright

On Tuesday, November 16th, news media around the United States reported the story that a local law enforcement officials arrested a white teenager who idolized Dylan Roof with a notebook in her position detailing a plot to attack Bethel AME Church in Gainesville, Georgia. We are thankful for the vigilance of local law enforcement in apprehending her and her classmates for alerting the authorities.

The servant leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church are grateful to God that this plot was averted. Yet, we are deeply concerned that hate crimes continue to grow in this spiritual, social, political, and economic climate of American hate that is being fueled by the doctrine of white supremacy. We must do everything within our power to encourage and equip our people to protect our houses of worship.

White supremacy, as practiced in the United States, has always placed a target on the African Methodist Episcopal Church. We will never forget the heroic struggle of Denmark Vesey and Bishop Morris Brown – first pastor of Mother Emanuel – who fled for his life after Vesey’s rebellion and execution in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The muskets that used to defend Mother Bethel from rioters in Philadelphia are treasured relics in its museum. Several preachers and prominent lay leaders had to flee southern states for their association with the Civil Rights movement. The assassination of the Emanuel 9 and the recent “copy cat” hate crime attempt in Gainesville, Georgia, are only the latest reminder that the target is still there. Sadly, in today’s hate-filled climate, no church, synagogue, mosque, or temple is safe in this environment where the thief is free to steal, kill, and destroy.

We know that God has not given us a spirit of fear. We stand firm in the empowering promises found in Psalm 27 and Psalm 37. We urge all faith communities that believe in love and peace to join us as we organize to protect our houses of faith, spiritually, socially, and politically. While we will protect our doors, the doors of the church are open to all who need to hear the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. We will not hide in our sanctuaries and will continue to embrace the people and communities we serve.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Bishop Harry Lee Seawright, President of the Council of Bishops

Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram, President of the General Board

Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Sr. Senior Bishop

Bishop Frank Madison Reid, III, Chair of the Commission on Social Action

Mrs. Jaquelyn Dupont-Walker, Director/Consultant of Social Action

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