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The Episcopal Church's knee-jerk reaction to Confederate names

The Episcopal Church's knee-jerk reaction to Confederate names
Many Confederate officers were Episcopalian

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
September 20, 2017

George Washington, a colonial Anglican, was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). He became the first president. He was a slave owner and he has an Episcopal chapel named for him in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania -- Washington Memorial Chapel.

Episcopal Bishop Leonidas Polk (I Louisiana) was one of 18 three-star generals in the Confederate Army. In 1864, he was killed in action at Pine Mountain, Georgia. He was a slave owner and he has an Episcopal mission named for him in Leesville, Louisiana -- Leonidas Polk Memorial Mission.

Robert E. Lee, an Episcopalian, was General-in-Chief of the Confederate States Army during the War Between the States (1861-1865). He surrendered at Appomattox, bringing an end to four years of bloodshed. He seemed to be a reluctant slave owner and, until Sept. 18, he had an Episcopal church named for him in Lexington, Virginia -- R.E. Lee Memorial Church.

In fact, the entire stormy debate over the removal of confederate statuary -- including his -- seems to fall on Lee's bronze, marble or stone shoulders all around the country in: New Orleans ... Charlottesville ... Antietam ... Dallas ... Richmond ... Austin ... Durham ... Seattle ... Baltimore ... Gettysburg ... Washington, DC ...

Currently, there are more than 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy to be found in public spaces scattered across America. These symbols include monuments and statues and flags as well as named churches, schools, roads, highways, parks, bridges, counties, cities, military bases, lakes, dams, and other public works. The various mementos are in all Southern and most border states and a few scattered around in northern, eastern or western states including: New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Ohio. Several foreign countries, too, have Confederate memorabilia, including: Canada, Brazil, Ireland Switzerland, and Scotland.

Through the prism of history, Confederate Episcopalians Robert E. Lee ... Leonidas Polk ... J.E. Johnston ... J.E.B. Stuart ... Josiah Gorgas ... A. P. Hill ... James Longstreet ... John Hood ... Dorsey Pender... William N. Pendleton ... Wade Hampton ... Francis A. Shoup... Ellison Capers ... Jefferson Davis, and others like them, have become politicized. They are being judged or vilified or even demonized for what they did during a brief tumultuous four-year period time which over shadows the entirety of their life on earth. That has become their lasting legacy and little else.

But, as with many Southern families, the War Between the States also became a heated and sometimes bloody and deadly battle between father and son, brother and brother, uncle and nephew, cousins and other close family members, as kinfolk often landed on opposite political sides and took up arms to defend them.

The Civil War ended in 1865. Many Confederate Civil War veterans went on the live exemplary lives of service. Robert E. Lee became the president of Washington College (Washington & Lee University) and the senior warden of Grace Church in Lexington, Virginia; Josiah Gorgas became the president of the University of Alabama; Wade Hampton III became the Governor of South Carolina and the US Railroad Commissioner under President Grover Cleveland; William N. Pendleton returned to Grace Church as rector; James Longstreet was president of the New Orleans & Northeastern Railroad, he served as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire under President Rutherford B. Hayes, and as the US Railroad Commissioner under presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt; and Ellison Capers, who penned the Confederate's Prayer, became an Episcopal bishop (VIII South Carolina) and was elected the South Carolina secretary of state. He also became a chancellor at Sewanee. He is one of eight Episcopal bishops buried at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral church yard in Charleston.

John Hood became the president of Life Association of America insurance company; Francis Shoup, an Episcopal priest, became a professor at the University of Mississippi and then at the University of the South at Sewanee. He was also a published author; J.E. Johnston became the president of the Alabama & Tennessee River Railroad, he was elected to Congress and served as US Railroad Commissioner under President Grover Cleveland; and Jefferson Davis became the president of Carolina Life Insurance Company, he was elected to the US Senate, but was barred from office by the 14th Amendment and he turned down the presidency of Texas A&M. Leondinas Polk was an Episcopal bishop who was looking forward to returning to his New Orleans Cathedral. He helped to found the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee and was killed in battle; and before the War, J.E.B. Stuart designed a piece of cavalry equipment -- the saber hook -- and received a US patent for it. He was killed in battle. A. P. Hill and Dorsey Pender also died during the War.

Many Civil War memorials and monuments were erected at the turn of the 20th century when many of the Civil War veterans -- Union and Confederate -- were dying out and living history was disappearing. The grandfathers who remembered the Battle of Gettysburg or the Battle of Antietam or Sherman's March to the Sea, were no longer around to tell their stories to the younger generation. So Lee and Sherman or Polk and Lincoln or Jackson and Grant were remembered in stone or bronze, just as Christian saints are remembered in church statuary.

In Lexington, Virginia, Grace Church was renamed the R.E. Lee Memorial Church in 1903; that same year the William Tecumseh Sherman Monument was built in Washington, DC; the Gen. Leonidas Polk Headquarters shell monument was erected at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia in 1895; construction on Washington, DC's famed Lincoln Memorial began in 1914; the Stonewall Jackson statue was erected at Lexington's Virginia Military Academy in 1912; and the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial was erected in the Vicksburg (Mississippi) National Military Park in 1918.

It's not the Lincoln, Sherman or Grant Civil War monuments which are being defaced and town down. It is Lee's and Polk's and Jackson's which have become the flashpoint of derision and hatred. Removal of Confederate monuments has occurred in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New York, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington DC, and Montreal, Canada. Now the Episcopal Church has joined in the fray.

Twenty-first century Americans are trying to look at their 19th century counterparts without understanding the culture and lifestyle that existed 150 years ago and now, in the post modern super-charged politically correct social media-driven society, their ancestors have been found wanting. What today's citizen sees has historical significance and value, but the meanings are being taken out of context particularly in view of overt actions taken by ill-informed people purposely trying to stir up public discord. Some see the mounting changes as a betrayal of history.

So far, there is a growing list of Episcopal churches which are reeling from the divide over "racial justice, the legacy of slavery and God's call to 21st century Christians." The Confederate symbols and military generals are now seen as "re-enforcing racial oppression, human subjugation and white supremacy."

The 2015 General Convention passed Resolution D044calling for "all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions, to discontinue the display of the Confederate Battle Flag." Resolution presenter the Rev. Betsy Baumgarten said: "We consider the continued display of the Confederate Battle Flag to be at odds with a faithful witness to the reconciling love of Jesus Christ."

In 1903, R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church was named in Lexington, Virginia, now it is renamed Grace Episcopal. "Charlottesville seems to have moved us to this point," commented church rector Tom Crittenden.

Recently the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island removed two plaques-- erected in 1912 and 1935 -- identifying a maple tree that Robert E. Lee planted 20 years before the Civil War when he a vestry member at Fort Hamilton's St. John's Episcopal Church in Brooklyn. "For us, it wasn't a decision that needed more than a minute of thought," said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano (VIII Long Island).

The National Cathedral in Washington DC first removed confederate flags from its stained-glass windows. "There simply is no excuse for the nation's most visible church to display a symbol of racism, slavery and oppression. None." former National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall said. But removing the small stained-glass confederate flags was not enough. Now the cathedral has removed a twin stained-glass window depicting Lee (the Episcopalian) kneeling in prayer while reading the Bible and shows Jackson (a Presbyterian) with his hands raised in praise to God. "Are these windows, installed in 1953, an appropriate part of the sacred fabric of a spiritual home for the nation?" the Cathedral Chapter asks. Another targeted window portrays Jackson and Lee riding side-by-side while mounted upon horses.

In Cincinnati, Ohio Cathedral, Dean Gail Greenwell is pushing for the removal of a stained-glass window depicting General Lee near the altar and a plaque honoring Bishop Leonidas Polk in the vestibule. In 1838, Polk was consecrated as the Missionary Bishop to the Southwest at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati. "We haven't honored great heroes of the civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr. or Sojourner Truth or Desmond Tutu, who is Anglican," the dean said.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, is also struggling with its Confederate ties. It is known as the "Cathedral of the Confederacy." It has two 1898 Tiffany windows: one depicting Lee, who was a frequent wartime visitor and another with Jefferson Davis, who was baptized at St. Paul's and was an active church member. History also records that the undercroft of the church was used as a military hospital during the Civil War. In 2015, the church's rector, Wallace Adams-Riley, called the question about the church's strong Confederate ties. "I simply felt called to raise the question for our congregation," he said. Now he has resigned from the church, but reasons for his departure have not been revealed.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina, has former South Carolina governor and Confederate General Wade Hampton III and the Confederate Poet Laureate Henry Timrod buried in the churchyard, along with five governors and eight Episcopal bishops. The Confederate flags on the Confederate graves were removed. "I care deeply about how historical symbols can create hurt and communicate a message of discrimination," Cathedral Dean Timothy Jones said.

The University of the South, which was founded by Bishop-turned-Confederate-General Leonidas Polk has also been engaged in discerning what to do with its Confederate symbols on campus, including a 1900 picture entitled "Sword over the Gown", depicting Bishop Polk in episcopal regalia with his military uniform jacket draped over a chair. One hand is on his officer's sword, the other holding a prayer book. The picture was moved from Convocation Hall and placed in the school's archives. Bishop Charles Quintard, M.D. (II Tennessee) is buried at Sewanee. He was called the "Chaplain of the Confederacy", as he brought spiritual comfort to the men of the First Tennessee Infantry Regiment. Bishop Quintard was a trained physician who toiled as a regimental surgeon. He is also remembered at St. James Episcopal Church in Bolivar, Tennessee and St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia. The Episcopal Church remembers him in prayer on Feb. 16. He is one of two Confederates remembered by the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The other Confederate is Fr. William P. DuBose, whose feast day is Aug. 18. He was Sewanee's chaplain and founded the School of Theology. During the War, he was the adjutant for the Holcome Legion in South Carolina. He was captured during the Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run) and was a Union prisoner of war. He is buried at Sewanee.

Many Episcopal churches, mostly in the South, have plaques remembering their historical Confederate ties. The Confederates are a part of the history, fabric and lore of a local congregation.

Bishop Polk is now buried at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans. In 1864, he was originally buried in St. Paul's Church in Augusta, Georgia. History records that he had one of the most elaborate funerals held during the Civil War, conducted by Presiding Bishop Stephen Elliott of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. In 1945, Bishop Polk, and his wife Frances Ann Devereux, were reinterred in Christ Church Cathedral.

Historical markers show that the Confederate-era Episcopal bishop is also remembered at: St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, Alabama; St. John's Episcopal Church, Thibodaux, Louisiana; St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Greensboro, Alabama; Trinity Episcopal Church, Demopolis, Alabama; Seaford Academy, Seaford, Delaware; The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, New Iberia, Louisiana; Christ Episcopal Church, Covington, Louisiana; Trinity Episcopal Church, Cheneyville, Louisiana; Oak Home, Corinth, Mississippi; Grace Episcopal Church, Canton, Mississippi; Rebel's Rest, Sewanee, Tennessee; University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee; St. John's Episcopal Church, Columbia, Tennessee; St. Stephen's Episcopal Church cemetery, Williamsport, Louisiana; St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Franklin, Louisiana; St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Selma, Alabama; and the Peavine Church, Rock Spring, Georgia. Fort Polk in Louisiana is also named for the former Episcopal bishop.

Not only was Bishop Steven Elliot the one and only Presiding Bishop of the Confederate Episcopal Church, he was also the first Bishop of Georgia and the provisional Bishop of Florida. As such, he is historically remembered at several Episcopal churches, including: St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia; St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Milledgeville, Georgia; Montpelier Institute for Girls, Macon, Georgia; Christ Episcopal Church, Macon, Georgia; Grace Episcopal Church, Clarkesville, Georgia; and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Darien, Georgia; and Saint Helena's Episcopal churchyard, Beaufort, South Carolina.

Robert E. Lee is also remembered at many different churches during his Civil War years because either he worshipped in them or battles were waged around them. Historical markers are located at: Grace Episcopal Church, Berryville, Virginia; St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Petersburg, Virginia; St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Boonsboro, Maryland; Kingston Parish-Christ Church, Mathews, Virginia; Church Quarter, Montpelier, Virginia; Mount Horeb Church, Chase City, Virginia; Zion Reformed Church, Hagerstown, Maryland; Walnut Grove Church, Mechanicsville, Virginia; Namozine Church, Mannboro, Virginia; Cumberland Church, Farmville, Virginia; Lee Chapel (Mount Carmel Church), Burke, Virginia; Willis Church, Glendale, Virginia; Christ Reformed Church, Middletown, Maryland; Carmel Church, Carmel, Virginia; and St. Mary's Catholic Church, Fairfax Station, Virginia. Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, was built in his honor.

Following the Civil War, all officers and soldiers returned home and tried to pick up their lives. Now all Civil War veterans -- Union and Confederate -- have died and some are buried are in Episcopal churchyards and seminary graveyards or in military cemeteries.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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