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Associated Press: Confederate symbols in Episcopal churches

Associated Press: Confederate symbols in Episcopal churches

Since the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E., several Episcopal churches have made national news over their internal struggle with the presence of Confederate symbols on church property. The latest (perhaps?), Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, is not in a former slave state. Slavery was abolished in Ohio’s original 1802 constitution.

The AP reports,

Many churches date back to Civil War times and beyond and found themselves on the side of the pro-slavery South when their sons marched off to war. The war ended, as did slavery — but the racism did not.

Just steps away from the Statehouse [in Columbia, SC], the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is wrestling with Confederate ghosts. The South’s Gen. Wade Hampton and its poet laureate, Henry Timrod, are buried on the parish’s grounds. A plaque in its sanctuary honors members who died in the Civil War. However, the church doesn’t allow the display of Confederate flags, and the Very Rev. Dean Timothy Jones said Confederate flags recently placed on soldiers’ graves were removed.

“I care deeply about how historical symbols can create hurt and communicate a message of discrimination,” Jones said. “We believe in redressing the terrible wrongs of slavery and affirming the dignity of every human being.”

The AP mentions other Episcopal churches who have struggled with Confederate symbols or icons: Washington National Cathedral, St. Paul’s Episcopal in Richmond, VA, R. E. Lee Memorial Church in Lexington, VA and Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati.

Episcopal News Service reported last week:

The Episcopal cathedral in Cincinnati plans to launch a discernment process as it considers removing memorials to Confederate figures after [Dean Gail Greenwell] called for their removal in a sermon last month.

“The church itself has been complicit in enshrining systems and people who contributed to white supremacy, and they are here in the very corners of this cathedral,” Greenwell said.

The cathedral’s stained-glass window, a gift from a Lee descendant, shows Lee receiving a blessing from Virginia Bishop William Meade. Greenwell also pointed to the cathedral’s plaque honoring Leonidas Polk, who was consecrated in 1838 in Cincinnati and served as the missionary bishop of the Southwest.

Polk, one of the founders of Sewanee: The University of the South, was bishop of Louisiana when he served as a Confederate general. He was known to wear his Episcopal vestments over his military uniform, “a thoroughly offensive merge of his professed faith and his fervor to see the institution of slavery endure,” Greenwell said.

Is your church struggling with Confederate symbols? Let us know.


Image: Leonidas Polk, Sewanee’s Fighting Bishop

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Brother Tom Hudson

Tuesday, Sept 19th, will be the 155th anniversary of the day that Union troops burned our parish church (St Luke's, Brownsville, MD) in retaliation for its being used as a Confederate headquarters and field hospital during the Battle of Antietam on Sept 17th. There is no record of whether that was done with or without the approval of the congregation, but it is true that our valley 3 miles north of VA was populated with slave-owning farms and Southern sympathizers. We have a monument in front of the church that acknowledges the historical facts, and it displays the national flags of both countries (not the Confederate battle flag). We remember the day as one that is simply part of our long and faithful history as Episcopalian members of the Jesus Movement. We are not in any way ashamed of that history, and we are proudly loyal to the United States today, but we would never consider removing the memorial to the reality of our history of 150+ years ago.

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Quentin Durward

In the mid 1960s, Mao Zedong led the Chinese Cultural Revolution. "Red Guards" mobilized to close schools, museums and places of worship that "they" decided were linked to things "they" felt were contrary to "their" moral values. They destroyed works of art and literature. They controlled speech by threat of force and imprisoned and killed millions who did not represent or do the things "they" thought proper. The decision to escape history by destroying its artifacts should not to be taken lightly. I can only pray that cooler heads prevail.

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