AME bishops issue alert after seventh church fire since Charleston shootings




Church steeple, in a dark stylized image
Image by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church bishops have issued an alert after an AME church became the seventh predominantly black church to suffer a fire since the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., two weeks ago. Through a release issued by the National Council of Churches, the AME Church shared information about an interfaith call to action that its bishops were to issue yesterday in New Orleans, La.

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However, late this afternoon the ATF--a federal agency investigating the Mt. Zion AME Church fire in South Carolina--tweeted that this most recent fire was “caused by lightning. No criminal intent. The investigation is complete.”

In related news, threatening letters have been sent to two women pastors of AME churches in Clarendon County, S.C., and another woman pastor in the area. A report from WISTV Channel 10 in Columbia, S.C., said the pastors may have been targeted with threats of violence “just because they are women.” One letter was left at Society Hill AME Church, and another at Reevesville AME Church. Find the report at www.wistv.com/story/29446127/female-pastors-in-clarendon-county-receive-letters-threatening-their-safety .

Church fires

The fire at Mt. Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, S.C., began on Tuesday, June 30, at 8:35 p.m. (Eastern time). Whatever the cause, it became the seventh predominantly black church in the South to suffer a fire since the Charleston shootings. The fire at Mt. Zion AME Church occurred 20 years and 9 days after that same church was burned to the ground by KKK members.

The NCC release said that “the AME Church is preparing its local congregations to set up safety watches and take preventative measures to protect human life and physical assets.”

Federal authorities have been investigating the church fires and have determined that at least three were arson attacks, according to ABC News.

The seven churches that have suffered fires:
-- College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church, Knoxville, Tenn.; fire occurred June 21
-- God’s Power Church of Christ, Macon, Ga.; June 23
-- Briar Creek Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C.; June 24
-- Fruitland Presbyterian Church, Gibson County, Tenn.; June 24
-- Greater Miracle Temple Church, Tallahassee, Fla.; June 26
-- Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Warrenville, S.C.; June 26
-- Mt. Zion AME Church, Greeleyville, S.C.; June 30

Interfaith call to action

“Two weeks after the church massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church, the AME Church is meeting in New Orleans, La., to issue an interfaith ‘Call to Action’ for this 4th of July weekend,” said the NCC release. The AME Church Council of Bishops and church leadership represent members in 39 countries on 5 continents.

Also today, a blogpost from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness calls on Brethren “to stand in faith and solidarity with all our brothers and sisters in Christ--especially those who persecuted. In response to the shootings at Emanuel AME Church.” See  http://blog.brethren.org/2015/ending-the-isolation-a-statement-from-the-office-of-public-witness-on-the-recent-violence-against-black-churches .

The NCC release included the following statement from the AME Council of Bishops concerning the shootings at Emanuel AME Church:

“The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) joins with our components and worldwide membership in expressing our grief and sympathy. The senseless and evil action which took the lives of those who gathered at Mother Emanuel to study and pray is indicative of a major crisis facing our nation and its people. While we are relieved that the alleged murderer has been arrested, we do not believe this matter has been concluded. We call upon the nation’s political leadership, faith institutions and other organizations in this country to face the reality that racism remains an unresolved sin in our nation.”

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