Faith leaders in public office lead chorus of prayers after Charleston killings
by Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, joined his colleague Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, in a U.S. Capitol prayer service held Thursday afternoon (June 18) to mourn for the nine people murdered at a church in South Carolina.
In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, State Rep. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, who was in the nation’s capitol for a meeting, praised Rev. Clementia Pickney, a minister of the Gospel killed at Wednesday night’s Bible Study in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Charleston.
In Washington, D.C. Sen. Scott organized a prayer vigil on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at which Lankford prayed along with U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Charles Schumer, D-New Jersey, as well as U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, and Delegate Eleanor H. Norton, D-D.C.
State Rep. Young, who represents much of east Oklahoma City in the state Legislature, said in his statement: “Presently, I am in our Nation’s Capitol, meeting with state legislators from across the country discussing Medicaid Policy. We have all joined in a moment of silence recognizing the tragedy that occurred in South Carolina.
“I am made aware of the many times over a 30-year career as a pastor that on Wednesday nights, I have led prayer service and Bible study and so the events of last night strikes home in a special way. I am praying for the families of my fellow Pastor and Legislator and those who were murdered.
“I pray for the one who committed this act and his family. We need a nationwide discussion on issues of violence in our country.”
Several dozen members of the U.S. Congress and their staff members attended the vigil Sen. Scott organized. In an opening prayer, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black reflected, “A church should be one of the safest places on the planet and people assembled to lift their hearts in prayer and hear the word of God; they were brutally murdered in the house of God.
“Our hearts ache for the families of the victims; our hearts ache for the citizens of Charleston, S.C.; our hearts ache for our nation; and we pray and ask that God will somehow use us to end the insanity of violence that we see.”
Pastor Otis Gordon of Life Changers International Ministry, Sen. Scott’s cousin, also prayed at the U.S. Capitol gathering, according to a report from IJR (Independent Journalism Review).
Lankford prayed, “The Scripture says God is near to the broken-hearted, and that would match South Carolina and all of us today. …
“Father, our nation is needy of you. Our families are broken and people are just angry. God, I pray that you would allow us as believers in you to be able to speak peace to places that need peace; that you would sweep righteousness into places that desperately need it. …
“God, heal us as a nation. We need your help.”
IJR reported the diverse crowd said the Lord’s Prayer aloud at the vigil’s end. Soon thereafter, Sen. Scott left for his home state.
From his office in South Carolina, Sen. Scott issued a statement Thursday evening:
“The horror that occurred at Mother Emanuel last night has truly devastated our community. Emanuel AME means so much to so many, and we stand by them today as they mourn the loss of their leader and brothers and sisters in Christ. Pastor Pinckney was a good man, an honest man and a wonderful representative for his congregation.
“As reports come to light that a suspect is held in custody, I hope for swift justice for Pastor Pinckney’s congregation and the people of Charleston.
“Today’s prayer circle at Morris Brown AME Church will help our community begin to come to terms with what has happened, and start the healing process. While we unfortunately know that hate enters some people’s hearts, I also know this: we can and will work every single day to replace hate with love, pain with kindness, and hostility with good will.”
In other news, the state Democratic party offered the Oklahoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) “any support we can provide.” In addition to his ministerial work, Pickney was a member of the South Carolina legislature.
Anthony Douglas, President of the NAACP Oklahoma State Conference said in a statement he was “mindful of the effects a similar hate crime had on the people of Tulsa in 2012. We have been through this pain before and can now use our strength and experience from that time to help others come through this harrowing event now.”
Also on Thursday, police arrested the prime and apparently sole suspect in the murders.