ATLANTA, Ga.—Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) used his Sunday sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church to encourage the congregants to vote.
The senator wore an African-patterned vestment. He occasionally sang along with his church’s gospel choir while waiting to preach. At one point, he led worship.
Every attendee needed to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the building.
Warnock seemed to grow less tense and tired as the service continued. Several times he brought the congregation of around 400 people to its feet.
Evangelizing the Electorate
Warnock’s sermon mainly focused on how believers often only recognize God’s work after it has happened. He referenced his election campaign for Senate.
“My dad, wearing a soldier’s uniform, couldn’t even keep his bus seat. Now I’m sitting in a Senate seat,” he said.
A voter registration table inside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 6, 2022. (Jackson Elliott/The Epoch Times)
He implied that forces in American politics wanted to reverse civil rights victories. Warnock pastors the church once led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We’re not allowing anybody to turn the clock back 60 years,” he said.
Warnock described voting as both a civic and sacred obligation.
“That is not only our civic responsibility. I believe it’s our sacred obligation to use the voice that God has given us so that God’s values of love and justice might reign in the world,” he said.
Warnock added that he isn’t concerned about the result of the election because it’s in God’s hands. Then he said that after campaigning, he napped at 6 pm rather than spending every moment on the task.
“This is your project. This is your work. I might as well go to sleep,” Warnock said
Congregants leave Ebenezer Baptist Church after service in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 6, 2022. (Jackson Elliott/The Epoch Times)
Terry Cummings, the Georgia State House of Representatives candidate for District 39, attended Sunday’s sermon.
Warnock softened his focus on the election by announcing that Republicans, Democrats, and independents were all welcome at the church. He offered an altar call to reporters covering the service.
With his comments on voting, Warnock may have been preaching to those already converted. Of four churches attendees the Epoch Times interviewed, all said they, their families, and their friends had all voted early.
“All my friends and family have cast their vote,” said one young woman who chose not to give her name.
Some voters said abortion was the most important election issue for them.
“I never thought that [restricting abortion] what a subject to be discussed. It surprised me that you can go back,” said Birgitte Houen-Tolstrup.
Birgitte Houen-Tolstrup outside Ebenezer Baptist Church after service in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 6, 2022. (Jackson Elliott/The Epoch Times)
She added that she didn’t normally go to church but went to support Warnock.
Deaconess Irmogene Alexander also said abortion is important in this election.
“I don’t think that other people should decide on what a woman is doing with her body,” she said.
None of the congregants interviewed said they were concerned about accusations of scandal hovering around Warnock.
Walker’s ex-wife accused him of driving over her foot in an argument and sued him for failing to provide adequate child support. He told his church that dictator Fidel Castro had a “complex” legacy. The Washington Free Beacon reported that Ebenezer Baptist Church threw needy people out of low-rent housing in Columbia Tower because they were only $28.55 behind on rent.
Alexander said that Ebenezer Baptist Church didn’t own the low-rent housing in the story.
“Elevator does not own that complex,” she said.
Deaconess Irmogene Alexander Houen-Tolstrup outside Ebenezer Baptist Church after service in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 6, 2022. (Jackson Elliott/The Epoch Times)
According to documents obtained by the Free Beacon, the church has 99 percent ownership of the low-rent housing.
Several congregants said they were concerned that Georgia’s new voting laws would suppress voter turnout. But when asked, none presented any instance where someone they couldn’t vote.
“Most people got out early so that they wouldn’t run into any issues,” said Venita Jackson, a congregant.
Jackson said she has attended Ebenezer for 33 years and knows that Warnock is a good man.
“I am very familiar with both situations. And it has not changed my vote,” she said. “As a person. I know him to be a true man of God with the best intentions for the church community and for the people of Georgia.”
Outside the church, pro-life protester Fred Smith displayed signs to the congregation condemning Warnock’s support for abortion. Smith has protested outside the church since April 2022.
Fred Smith outside Ebenezer Baptist Church after service in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 6, 2022. (Jackson Elliott/The Epoch Times)
“I cannot compromise in my mind how he could be a pro-choice pastor and preach it even from the pulpit,” Smith said.
Jackson Elliott reports on small-town America for The Epoch Times. He learned to write and seek truth at Northwestern University. He believes that the most important actions are small and that as Dostoevsky says, everyone is responsible for everyone and for everything. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys running, reading, and spending time with friends. Contact Jackson by emailing [email protected]