Friday, November 14, 2014


By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History, Emeritus

South Carolina, marriage equality is at hand. News broke yesterday that a federal judge in Charleston, Richard Mark Gergel, overruled the SC state ban on same-sex marriage holding that it violated basic rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, particularly in the Fourteenth Amendment. He said his ruling would go into effect on November 20. It was a moment of rejoicing for those who have advocated for and favored human rights and equality of all people in South Carolina. Of course, the state authorities said they would appeal Gergel's ruling. Last month, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling overturning the Virginia ban on same-sex marriage was upheld when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case. South Carolina, North Carolina, and West Virginia are also in the Fourth Circuit. Of all those states, only South Carolina stubbornly refused to allow same-sex marriages to proceed. Both Governor Haley and Attorney General Wilson not surprisingly vowed to fight on defying the inevitable. As we all know, the great majority of states have established marriage equality. South Carolina will too. It is just a matter of time. 

For many years, the leaders of the pre-schism Diocese of South Carolina fought tooth and nail against the Episcopal Church's efforts to promote equality for homosexual persons. Lawrence was once fond of railing against "indiscriminate inclusivity." As with the nation and marriage equality, the majority in the national Church gradually agreed to remove ancient prejudices and support equality for all people. It was a fine moment in the long history of the Church. However, South Carolina, ever fond of self-inflicted pain, broke away from the Church rather than accept the tide of history.

On innumerable occasions, Bishop Lawrence expounded on his view that God assigns gender to each and every person and no one should question, let alone interfere with that divine order. He went on at length about that even the day after the special convention on Nov. 17, 2012 in an interview with Anglican TV. That is why I find it intriguing that the old leaders are now promoting an openly homosexual man as a speaker in SC on Nov. 15. Wes Hill, a professor at Trinity School for Ministry, the incubator of reactionary "Anglicanism" in America, is a self-announced gay man. He says that gay people should refrain from actually following their sexual desires and should develop something called "spiritual" (celibate) relationships. I do not support that viewpoint, but I would like to think that the Diocese of South Carolina's promotion of a gay man is one tiny step in the right direction.

Only a few years ago, Hill's witness among conservative Christians would have been impossible. Anti-gay forces then were pushing "conversion therapy," that is, programs to "turn" homosexuals into heterosexuals. Under that system, an announced gay man would have been put through the wringer to try to force him to be straight. It was an unsuccessful, absurd, even cruel, tactic that has been quietly abandoned. Now the standard talking point among anti-gay elements is to "accept" gays as long as they do not act out their sexual inclinations. This is just as absurd, wrong, and in my opinion, cruel. It too will fall away as society continues to throw off discrimination and recognize equality for all people. This will arrive in SC too.

The secessionists who left the Episcopal Church because of its stand on homosexuality are now running away from that issue as fast as possible. Unfortunately, they had already run so far in the wrong direction that they will have to race inhumanly fast to backtrack enough. They know that time and history, not to mention demographics, are against them. Surely it would have been better for all of us if we had all extended Christ's love and compassion to all people as we should have to start with. Once again, South Carolina would have been spared a great deal of pain and suffering.

UPDATE - Nov. 14. The independent diocesan website has announced that Wes Hill's talk that had been scheduled for Nov. 15 has been postponed. The Rev. and Mrs. Jamie Sosnowski suffered a personal loss that led to the postponement of his ordination that had been scheduled at St. John's on Johns Island on Sunday. Hill's talk, to be held at the same place, was cancelled out of respect. It will be rescheduled to coincide with the ordination that will be set at a later time.