UPDATE: Letter from St. Paul's rector, see below.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond Virginia agreed to host an event put on by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. The event was to be a roundtable discussion on the topic of “Debunking the Myth of the White Confederate Military”. But sometime on Friday, the day of the event, the church canceled.
The Atlantic has this account of the days activities:
"The day began with a small rally of SCV faithful at the Lee monument on Monument Avenue. At least one unit marched while chanting the following:
What do we do?
All of them!
Apparently, some time on Friday, officials at St. Paul's canceled the church portion of the event. I have no idea why they did this, though it seems safe to assume that enough people within the church community voiced their disapproval. What we do know is that the SCV has done everything in its power over the past few years to alienate reasonable people. "
(The account is part of a larger article that argues that organizations like the Sons of the Confederacy are older and graying and no longer appealing to young people. And that if they want to survive, they are going to have to rethink some of their stands. Which is very similar to an article making the same point we published earlier this morning.)
The Richmond Times has a further description of the activities which took place:
A small plane with a banner reading "Richmond, Embrace Your Confederate History" circled the gathering as speakers denounced Abraham Lincoln and praised Lee and Jefferson Davis.
"What a wonderful day to be in the Capital of the Confederacy," Louisiana resident Chuck McMichael, past national commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told the crowd.
Michael Rose, the Virginia commander, expressed outrage that the General Assembly considered a bill establishing a holiday to honor Lincoln "in Virginia " and drew cheers when he said it had been killed in committee.
"What people think is if you're studying the Confederacy, you must be a racist. And that's bad labeling," said S. Waite Rawls III, president and CEO of the Museum of the Confederacy.
And perhaps it was because of efforts like these that St. Paul's initially agreed to host the event. But whatever the original reason was, clearly as the event's tenor became clear, St. Paul's withdrew it's invitation.
[Rightly so in this editor's opinion. And not surprising given St. Paul's reputation in the area and their commitment to reconciliation.]
But here's a question for our readers: How much background checking should a church do before it allows a group access to the church facilities? If a mistake happens, how much responsibility should the church take?
The mission of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is to proclaim Christ in the heart of the city. And that mission calls us to promote healing and reconciliation, whenever and wherever we can. We seek to be responsive to that call – and it means to us that St. Paul’s, with its deep history and roots in this city and this nation, must serve as a place and a community that fosters such healing.
With that in mind, we declined to rent space to the Sons of the Confederate Veterans for their event previously scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, February 25. Regrettably, we did not receive complete information regarding the nature of the event.
Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church