Correction: An earlier version of this blog post stated incorrectly that Frederick Douglass was an ordained AME minister. He was an AME Zion preacher. This version has been corrected.
Has anything like this ever occurred with a newly elected president? Less than two weeks after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, “the first protestant denomination formed on American soil,” has called upon its more than 1 million members in 39 countries, including the United States, to do all they can to see that a host of decisions and actions by the Trump administration, described by the bishops as “clearly demonic acts,” “do not last.” The bishops are calling for concerted grass-roots action, including bringing pressure on Congress.
In a Jan. 31 Episcopal Statement, the bishops said that they didn’t come to their decision quickly. They watched with dismay, they said, as presidential candidate Trump showed insensitivity and callous disregard for the rights and well-being of countless Americans. They were troubled to see him go around the country expressing views and policy positions that threatened to divide and polarize the nation.
The bishops said they had hoped that Trump’s campaign stances would be altered during the transition and after he had a chance to gain the wisdom of more experienced heads in government.
That, they said, has not been the case.
Citing his election-night promise to unify the nation, the bishops told their AME congregations: “President Trump has demonstrated that his word is not to be trusted.”
And they pointed to a list of actions that have caused bitter divisions and outright fear. Among them:
The appointment of Stephen K. Bannon (he “has spoken and written racist rants against minorities and Jews) — they call for his removal; the nomination for attorney general of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) — “a history of racial indifference … and a controversial record as it related to decisions regarding racial matters” — they call for his rejection by the Senate.
The bishops also expressed their opposition to various Trump executive order and memoranda, ranging from undoing the finances of the Affordable Care Act, to the construction of a wall along the nation’s southern border, to the travel ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
The bishops’ call is expected to be heard by AME clergy and laity alike.
You can bet the congregation at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine Bible-studying members were coldly murdered in 2015 by a young white supremacist, will take the message of the bishops to heart.
So would have Frederick Douglass, the famed abolitionist, orator, writer and AME Zion preacher who died in the 19th century. Yes, the same Douglass that a clueless Trump referred to this week as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
The Council of Bishops’ announcement was not just to let the vast predominantly black AME network know where their leadership stood. It was, on the eve of African American History month, an unprecedented call to action against a sitting president.
The bishops’ battle cry: “ ‘Put on the whole armor of God’, and let us be about the work of the kingdom.”
Eleven days into the Trump presidency.