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New play spotlights SC Episcopal bishop story

New play spotlights SC Episcopal bishop story

A new play, premiering in Charleston, South Carolina, tells the story of an Episcopal bishop murdered by one of his own priests in 1928. The play, written by Thomas Tisdale, is entitled “Truth in Cold Blood”, and will debut in July, in conjunction with the Enthusiastically Episcopalian Conference.


The story of the murdered bishop runs something like this: Bishop William Alexander Guerry was ahead of his time with regards to racial equality, and was a fervent supporter of the Social Gospel movement. This confluence so angered one of his priests that the man stormed into his office on June morning with a pistol and shot him.

See an earlier Cafe post on this bishop here.

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Ronald Caldwell

As per the idea that the schism in SC stemmed basically from innate racism, I do not agree. That is not to say that SC did not have a highly counter-revolutionary social and cultural character. The schism resulted from an evangelical leadership that cleverly played on popular homophobia to oppose the overall "liberal" drift of TEC. Evangelicals wanted personal salvation rather than the social gospel. Homosexuality happened to be the issue of the day that they could use. Since they could not stop TEC's progressive trend, they did the next best thing, take DSC out of TEC.

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John B. Chilton

All true, @Ronald Caldwell.

But as I commented in the earlier The Lead post on this subject,

https://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/bishops/honoring_a_south_carolina_bish.html#comment-46539

From the article (link, http://www.postandcourier.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130609/PC1204/130609378/1015/church-honors-sc-bishop-killed-in-his-charleston-office :: "Among issues that angered the murderous priest was Guerry’s support for installing a black bishop to minister to black parishioners as a way to keep both races under the same church umbrella...."

Notice the "progressive" solution was a segregation solution. The church in South Carolina, and in many other dioceses consecrated black suffragan bishops so that they would be under the control of a white diocesan and with the stipulation that they would have no role in serving white members of the church.

The Diocese of Virginia had so few black members that a white clergyman, as part of his portfolio of duties, was in charge of its Colored Convocation. The other convocations of the diocese were geographic and white only. The Colored Convocation spanned the diocese and served only blacks.

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Ronald Caldwell

Contrary to popular stereotypes, South Carolina has not always been a reactionary diocese as the independent diocese is today. The great bishop Temple did landmark work in the 1960s and 70s moving the diocese forward in social progressivism. It was only after Bp Allison arrived in the 1980s that the old diocese began a distinctively rightward turn as he was a fervent advocate of the evangelical side of religion. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Bp Salmon led a crusade opposing ordination of openly homosexual persons in TEC and the diocese began to hire more and more graduates of Trinity School for Ministry, a favorite project of Allison. By 2003 the diocesan leadership was solidly counter-revolutionary so that the Robinson episode and its aftermath allowed that leadership to move the diocese gradually out of the Episcopal Church. Mark Lawrence did not create the "break" from TEC. That was already well under way when he was brought in to finish it off. The revolt of DSC from TEC was from the top down.

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