Midweek services for several Southern Baptist churches in the Charlotte area will feature focused times of prayer for the city amid controversy and overnight violence sparked by the shooting death of a black man at the hands of law enforcement officials Sept. 20.
Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church, said in a phone interview with the Biblical Recorder that the church’s goal is “real racial reconciliation,” emphasizing the importance of Christ-centered ministry.
Hickory Grove plans to spend the entire Wednesday evening service “praying for grieving families, law enforcement and the welfare and peace of the city according to Jeremiah 29. That will be our guide, as elect exiles in Babylon, praying the Lord would bring peace to our city.”
Local news reported that violent protests erupted late Tuesday evening (Sept. 20) after Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot by Charlotte police officers in an incident that began while authorities were searching for another man.
Officers observed Scott exit his vehicle holding a firearm and approached him after he returned to the car. When Scott emerged from the vehicle still armed, officers fired their weapons after warning him several times to put down the firearm, reports indicate. Officer Brentley Vinson fired the fatal shot. He has been placed on administrative leave, the department said. Scott was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center.
A woman claiming to be Scott’s daughter alleged in a Facebook live video hours later that he was unarmed when officers shot him.
Protestors gathered Tuesday evening and clashed with police officers as demonstrations escalated. Several officers were hospitalized when rioters began throwing rocks and other objects. Looting and violent attacks continued late into the night and extended to the early morning hours of Sept. 21. Sixteen police officers were injured during the night, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney in a press conference today (Sept. 21) with Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
Coye Still, senior pastor of University Hills Baptist Church, a church located less than a half-mile from where the shooting took place, said his church plans to devote time during their midweek service for prayer over the situation. Still also hopes to plan joint events with area churches to serve the community, but he said people are “still taking it in, thinking about how best to respond.”
Pressley said his goal during this time of unrest is “keeping Christ as that which draws us together so that the gospel becomes the reconciling agent. It becomes what makes us whole. … We’re doing our best to be aware of what’s happening in the city and doing our best to point people to Christ.”
Pressley also said in a Facebook post, “As a church, we weep with those who weep. We are a broken people living in a broken world and that brokenness impacts us all. Even still, we do not live here without hope. God has reconciled us in Christ and given us a ministry of reconciliation. That’s why Hickory Grove Baptist Church exists.”
Scott Davis, senior pastor of Pitts Baptist Church in Concord, said a portion of his church’s midweek service will be devoted to prayer for the situation as well. He urged Christians to “pray first and foremost for our officials and public servants and respect them. … According to 1 Timothy 2, Paul’s greatest concern in our prayers for officials, other than for the general peace, was not simply for our personal comfort but rather for officials to have wisdom in their decisions so that avenues to spread the gospel would remain in place. It’s a gospel-advancing peace believers should focus upon.”
Many churches and other ministries are opening their doors to all who would like counseling and prayer. Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association, wrote in an email to area churches, “With the events of yesterday and last night, please join us in united prayer for our city, for the family affected by the shooting, for our police department and city leaders, and especially for the church to be the light and salt we need to be for such a time as this.”
Lowman indicated that Metrolina facilities will be open for prayer Sept. 21-22 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story includes reporting by BR Editor K. Allan Blume.)