Friday, July 10, 2015


The final lowering of Confederate battle flag on the South Carolina state house grounds today gives us an appropriate moment to reflect on our Civil War past.

First, before anyone calls me a yankee or outside agitator, let me say all of my ancestral families have lived in the South for 200-300 years and all of them alive in the 1860's supported the Confederacy. All of the able-bodied men of military age put on Confederate uniforms and went to war. Some of them died far from their homes in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. All of those who did return alive were wounded in more ways than one. These ordinary farmers believed they had gone to fight to protect their families, their homes, their communities, and their livelihoods from aggression. Besides, there was a military draft in the South. They did not have much choice. On the level of their own understanding of what they were doing, I have only admiration for them.

My forefathers did not fully comprehend what we know now. The Confederacy was actually fighting for two main reasons: to break up the United States into two countries, and to keep four million human beings in slavery. I am sorry, ancestors, but neither of these was really a noble cause. The Confederacy was not fighting for democratic or Christian ideals. And, it is time all of us white southerners throw off our "Gone With the Wind" non-historical romanticism and come to see the reality of the Old South. Indeed, reality struck us hard in the face just a couple of weeks ago allegedly by a young man who was driven by delusional unreality.

As a student of history, I am struck by the similarities between the Civil War and the schism. Both came from the same philosophical root, local over national sovereignty. The state of South Carolina claimed states' rights in the U.S.; the South Carolina diocese claimed independent autonomy in the Church. South Carolina declared it had the right to secede from the Union because there was no clause in the U.S. Constitution forbidding it; the diocese claimed it could secede from the Episcopal Church because there was no clause in the Church's Constitution and Canons forbidding it. South Carolina went to war to guarantee her secession; the diocese went to court to do the same. In both cases, destructive wars ensued for a long time. On victimization, South Carolina claimed it was forced to secede by the menace of the "Black Republicans" from off; the diocese said its bishop was the victim of the malevolent presiding bishop from off. Neither was true.

Neither case turned out well. South Carolina suffered more loss and destruction than did any other Confederate state. The war was a catastrophe for the state. Besides, a Confederate victory would have established the principle of states' rights in the Confederacy. This would have made long term union in the south impossible as one state after another would have left the Confederacy over one disagreement or another. And, what would keep counties from leaving states, and cities from leaving counties? The result would have been the balkanization of the south. If the Confederacy had won, the south today would be like Central America of the Balkans, a bunch of small and impoverished nation-states. Everyone of us southerners, white and black had better thank God the Confederacy did not win the Civil War.

It is too soon to know what is in store for the independent diocese, but the record so far is not promising. It has already spent two million dollars on lawyers by its own admission. No doubt before all this is over there will be many more millions in lawyers' pockets. This is true while the diocese shrinks. It is now two-thirds of what it was when Lawrence became bishop. As membership declines, income does too. Apparently, the diocese is having a harder and harder time raising money from its faithful for legal bills. There is no end in sight.

Meanwhile, the diocese has concentrated authoritarian power in the hands of its self-proclaimed "bishop" (apparently he does not hold valid Holy Orders in any known denomination) who has refused to join any larger group. He arranged for a peculiar "oversight" scheme with Global South that is not oversight at all. He has steadfastly refused to join the logical entity, the GAFCON-backed Anglican Church in North America. The truth is that more than two and a half years after leaving the Episcopal Church, the leaders are providing no direction for the future of the independent diocese and there is no sign this is about to change any time soon. 

The biggest concern for the independent diocese should be the demographic table. While the diocesan leaders insist on clinging to a strong anti-homosexual agenda, society all around it is going the other way. As the old communicants die off, the diocese will have an increasingly difficult problem of attracting the young. Studies show that young people are almost unanimously in favor of equal rights and freedom for homosexuals. In time, the independent diocese will have to reverse its anti-homosexual stands or go out of existence.

Both the Confederacy and the diocese split from their unions because of social policy. The Confederacy had rather die trying than to give up slavery. The diocese resolved to leave the Church rather than accept equal rights for homosexuals. The problem was that both movements were against the grain of American democracy and history. This country was the first nation in the history of the world to be established on principles. It declared at the very start that all people are created equal and are given by God rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Neither the Confederacy nor the independent diocese wanted to accept those ideals. One was swept aside by the time and tide of history, and the other is about to be. American society is moving along to incorporate ever more the ideals of freedom, equality, justice on which this country was founded. The independent diocese cannot stop that any more than the Confederacy did.

The monstrous evil of June 17 has not prevailed. It will not prevail because all around us are good people who lift us all up with the remarkable witness of God's grace and with profound understanding and commitment to democracy. The families of the nine martyrs taught us how to be good Christians even in the worst imaginable pain and suffering. Jenny Horne taught us how to be good democrats because we are human beings first. They are part of that great cloud of witnesses who lead us on to a better world and I thank God for them.