The next time someone tells you that the church is beset by factions that will tear it asunder, tell them this story from the Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina and see what moral they draw from it:
Imagine the scene: The Diocese of South Carolina’s bishop was in his office at St. Philip’s Church in downtown Charleston when one of his own priests stormed in, unhinged by rage.
The armed priest was irate about Bishop William Alexander Guerry’s efforts to advance racial equality in the church. The priest shot Guerry. Then he shot and killed himself.
Guerry died four days later at Roper Hospital, reportedly uttering Jesus’ words: “Forgive him, Father, he knew not what he did.”
The tragic scene took place on June 5, 1928, 85 years ago this past week.
The issue, in this instance, was race, and perhaps Guerry’s support for the social gospel. Thomas Tisdale, chancellor of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, was surprised to learn how little was known about Guerry, even within the state.