Nonspecific threats against ‘liberal’ churches prompt alert

Having heard threats against “liberal” churches, United Church of Christ leaders issued a special alert Jan. 16.

Attack advisory 01-16-21
This notice from the three national officers of the United Church of Christ appeared at the UCC website Jan. 16 and 17 and in the denomination’s social media channels.

The UCC’s national officers signaled “safety concerns” in view of the threats, made in the days following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. In a statement posted at the UCC website and via social media, the Rev. John Dorhauer, general minister and president, and the Revs. Traci Blackmon and Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general ministers, urged special caution through U.S. Inauguration Day, Wednesday, Jan. 20.

‘Erring on the side of caution’

Church buildings are a special concern, they said. Many congregations are already functioning online because of COVID-19. But some are using their campuses in limited ways.

“We are advising our congregations to be extra vigilant this week, to avoid gathering in their buildings after credible threats against government buildings and liberal institutions were received by a couple of Conference Ministers and one of our ecumenical partners,” they said. “Mainline churches are among the entities that have been identified by law enforcement as potential targets.”

They also said: “Erring on the side of caution and noting the previous attacks on our churches in the West and, in recent weeks, against like-minded churches in D.C., our national leadership decided to ask our congregations to be vigilant going into inauguration week.”

Thousands of views

The officers’ statement appeared at the UCC website on Jan. 16 and 17. It drew thousands of views and shares and hundreds of comments on social media. And it was featured in news reports.

Many churches clearly heeded it. Examples include Suquamish (Wash.) UCC, which canceled a peace vigil, and Pilgrim Faith UCC, Chicago, which temporarily closed a food pantry, counseling center and other in-person uses.

UCC churches throughout the U.S. are among those that have become more security-conscious in recent years.

In their message following the alert, the officers added this prayer: “Creator God, you are always present with us. We offer prayers for leaving and healing for all of creation. Hold us in your care and grant us the love and compassion we need to care for each other, now and always.”

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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