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Honoring a South Carolina bishop murdered for progressive beliefs

Honoring a South Carolina bishop murdered for progressive beliefs

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.


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Roger Mortimer

Kendall Harmon is not the diocese of SC, John. And the early 60’s are fifty years ago. Do you hear even the hint of a whisper that the diocese of Mark Lawrence has so much as considered an African association, as AMiA & CANA did?

Geoffrey McLarney

Clint wrote, “that is a very bold statement you are making, and I hope it isn’t true”

Really? You hope it’s “just” heterosexism and transphobia at play in SC? It’S lovely that Canon Harmon can recognise the mistakes of the past, but talk is cheap. The real challenge is refusing to make those same mistakes in our current context, when the scapegoated group has changed but the principles are the same.

John B. Chilton

Roger, I’m going to call you on this. Let’s be fair and accurate.

As it is said, we are all racists. It cannot be said the lower diocese is/was worse. For his part, Kendall Harmon has consistently kept has not shied from calling us all on how we have fallen short when it comes to the issue of racism in this country.

In the early 1960s The Diocese of Virginia was debating whether to integrate its schools and conference centers. Progressive voices won the day, but certainly it was an issue that was being tiptoed around in the 1950s as an issue too hot to handle for fear of causing division.

Roger Mortimer

St John’s, Savannah – different diocese, I know, but near enough as makes next to no difference – seceded from PECUSA in 1965, led by it’s rector Ernest Risley- “a violent segregationist” -rather than allow the few African Americans who attended (servants of regular congregants only) move from seating in the balcony to the body of the church. The church – the second oldest Episcopal church in the city – returned to its allegiance in 1970 and has studiedly played no part in recent Savanna Secessionist Shenanigans.

Clint Davis

Wow, Roger, that is a very bold statement you are making, and I hope it isn’t true. Too bad it’s true enough that you would even have that perspective either way.

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