Wrong Flag, Wrong Conclusion.

I know the writer does not get to choose the caption or the photos to go with a story, but George Conger's article on the doings in South Carolina misses the mark on several levels. In his article, "US dioceses ‘free to secede" Conger's article refers to secessionists and loyalists and speaks in terms remenesent of what my Southern lady ancesters refered to as "the late lamented disturbance," the Civil War.

Here, however, is the caption and graphic that came with the article. It might have behoved the editor to think for a moment. It is the US that held to the notion that secession is not an option, no matter the basis on which a state entered the union. So of all the flags to fly this is not the one.

An easy mistake to make these days when the US is identified with full blown individualism in which secession is touted as an option.

Of course the flag that ought to have been there as a reminder of the civil alternative to the religious sentiment for secession is this one, the flag of the Confederate States of America. And least anyone accuse me of northern liberal leanings on this, I can only offer this note. I have the civic right to make this comparison since (i) my family, with the exception of my fraternal grandfather, are all from the South, (ii) they were members of the Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America, and (iii) one direct ancestor was a signer to the Declaration of Independence.

The notion of the right to secession continues to be proudly proclaimed, although it gets morphed into the rebellion of the right and the flag of the Confederacy is replaced with the flag of the United States of America. No wonder then that the editors made the connection.

But let us be clear as we can be: there is no relationship at all between the claim of churches to a right to secession and the matter of states rights, patriotism and other matters of civil virtue.


  1. It also is not the "second major legal defeat for the Episcopal Church in a week," no matter how often they say it.

  2. What led you to post that particular stars and bars? There were over a dozen different flags from the south. I find that flag offensive under the best of circumstances.

    My likel letrs is "stoper".

  3. "The War of PECUSA Aggression"?

  4. Mark+, Just for a point of clarity, I think you'd have been better served in using the Bonnie Blue instead of one army's Battle Ensign.

  5. How fitting. How very fitting, indeed, is the Confederate flag for this group in SC.

    If they had any level of integrity and honesty about them, they would embrace this symbol wholeheartedly as there is an abundance of undeniable similarities between the two.

  6. I just hope we don't spend another century speaking about "the recent unpleasantness"....

  7. Lord, Conger is still at it. He's been spouting this secessionist caa-caa for years now. The first time I heard it was at a clergy conferece in the Dio. Central Florida probably six or seven years ago. His grasp of history is tenuous at best and his willful misrepresentation of it is enough to term it propaganda. Likewise, his understanding of and commitment to the canons of the church to which he vowed loyalty are so lacking as to bemoan an absence of integrity.

  8. Mark,

    This analogy seems to me be a misused one, more on the "loyalist" side than the "secessionist" one. Yes, those terms are used in the article, but, no, nothing else remotely "speaks in terms remenesent" of the Civil War.

    What is happening between ECUSA and its opponents has nothing to do with that conflict or, as is also often introduced, pre- and immediately post-Constitutional America. Both sides are simply one among the 20,000+ Protestant denominations that form and re-form, unite and disunite as the winds carry them (as ECUSA itself demonstrates, having seceded from the unbroken teaching of the Christian Faith on sexual morality when it became politically and socially convenient to do so). The removal of a diocese or two, much less a parish, has nothing like the effect nor carries anything remotely like the import of a state seceding from the Union - a matter settled, in the event, by force and not by democratic processes (which is the plain fact - though, as a through-and-through Yankee, I'm happy it was resolved as it was). It's an inconvenience for a private, small fraternal organization - nothing more, nothing less.

    What's more, as someone who benefits from a violent revolution against the Crown of Britain and a not-infrequently violent revolution against the Pope of Rome, you appear hypocritical in starting your history only in 1861.

  9. lies, distortions, evasions... isn't that the defining characteristic of Satan?

  10. Regarding Bp. Lawrence, I don't understand at all how he could accept the position of bishop in the Episcopal Church and answer, "I am so persuaded" and "I will...." to the questions put to him and then turn so quickly against the church in which he was ordained bishop. The language that he used in his address to the clergy of his diocese still shocks me. He hasn't seceded yet, but I see nothing in his address of an expression of loyalty to the church in which he was ordained. Does he truly see himself as free to secede with his diocese from that church? Not yet, maybe, but soon? Perhaps as soon as the Archbishop of Canterbury gives the nod to the establishment of another province in the US? Perhaps even before then?

  11. Fred if you are offended by the Stars and Bars, ..don't visit the south past Kentucky. Because chances are you'll find it on 75% of the vehicles, and 25% of the homes and businesses.
    I've even seen it in Michigan in rural areas.

  12. Phil,

    Actually, the positions of the South in the Civil War and of the Reasserters in the instant vonflict is not as dissimilar as you try to make it. Consider: both held views within a larger entity that had been traditional (slavery is in fact written into the Constitution!), and which were subject to moral attack on the ground that the traditional position failed to recognize the full humanity of those it relegated to lesser status. Unable to convince the revisionist majority on moral grounds, they declared a separation (absent canonical or constitutional authority) and launched a pre-emptive strike against the Union (Fort Sumter) or the Church (CANA, ACNA, etc.) to which they belonged.

    No similarity at all, right?

    By the way, don't you think it rather telling that you repeatedly assume that the TEC majority is not motivated by anything other than political or social convenience (your words, not mine)? I'm quite prepared to grant you your sincerity, emphatically though I disagree with you. You cannot even muster up that level of grace which Augustine showed Faustus, while still deeming him a heretic.

    If you can't meet us where we are--instead of where you would like us to be--why should we even listen to you?

  13. Conger is a journalist in precisely the same way that Tokyo Rose was.

  14. Andy, there might be confusion: Somalia has a design which is identical to the Bonny Blue.
    There's a lot of talk about Right wing secession; what about Left-'Cascadia', Republic of Vermont, Hawai'i's annexation annulled; even Alaska under the 'right' people-I've heard people on the left talk about all of them, albeit in very small doses. Garrison Keilor even had a "PHC" spot on Vermont secession as a spoof a few years back.

  15. Father Mark,

    Fraternal grandfather? Is there a country and western song about that? (my family is Southern, too, and Ledbetters have been known to marry Ledbetter cousins-- please don't publish this.)

    Father Bill,
    an appreciative and attentive conservative reader

  16. "There's a lot of talk about Right wing secession; what about Left-'Cascadia', Republic of Vermont, Hawai'i's annexation annulled;..."

    I think the big difference is that none of the far left secessionists occupy governors' mansions or legislative seats.

    Frankly, I don't think any of these secession movements are serious. If they were ever put up for a popular vote in their own states, they would all lose. People have a lot invested in their own states. They also have a lot invested in the United States, and they have no interest in throwing it all away.

    I do find it curious that the far right, which promotes the most cartoonish jingoist nationalism, so quickly starts talking publicly about sedition when they lose an election.

  17. Anglocat, sorry I didn’t respond to your comment sooner. I didn’t make the claim that the positions of the South and disaffected Episcopalians are dissimilar – merely that comparing the whole situation to a major world-historical event such as the Civil War is overblown. As I wrote, what we have is merely a profound disagreement within a small, private organization – which isn’t exceptional even within the ambit of Protestantism, let alone the larger universe of voluntary human associations. For sure, the whole mess has large financial, legal and social ramifications for certain people, but I don’t think most Americans take much interest in it.

    As to your proposition, sure, one group has chosen to break from a larger one, prompting a coercive and punitive response from the latter. But so what, really? We could also find that situation on countless playgrounds and in businesses all over the country every day of the week. None of it establishes some grand appeal to the principles at stake in the Civil War. After all, I could just as well cast ECUSA in the role of the South, caught up in the secular tide against Biblical principles and throwing around idle talk about it maybe being time to tell the larger body (Anglican Communion, in this case) to go to you-know-where.

    On that point, look: the culture, and not ECUSA, moved first: as I’ve said before, if we were having this discussion in 1903 and not 2003, you might have a point. But, in the event, the historical record says otherwise. Ellen DeGeneres came before Will and Grace, which came before Bishop Gene Robinson. I don’t see how that observation (which doesn’t even, in isolation, imply rightness or wrongness) entails not meeting you where you are or not mustering up sufficient grace. I, too, think you are sincere in your principles. I just think they’re secular, with a Christian gloss, even as I acknowledge you think otherwise.

  18. David,
    FWIW I lived in Virginia -- I understand what so many of the
    southerners mean when they raise the Stars and Bars. And, it is not the same thing as someone in Michigan "pretending".

  19. Well, Phil, in re your last paragraph: You're certainly right that "Ellen DeGeneres came before Will and Grace, which came before Bishop Gene Robinson." However, by the time Ellen came out in 1997 the Episcopal Church had been involved in theological reflection on sexuality in human life and specifically on the homosexual persons in our church for more than twenty years. I recognize that you don't approve of the results of that theological reflection in the life of the Church, nor perhaps of the enterprise itself. However, we were at this decades before the society began to unbend, in discussions of how the faith as this Church has receieved it spoke to the real lives of our glbt brothers and sisters in Christ.

  20. I don't think that's an accurate picture, Marshall, just as, I acknowledge, my limited examples were incomplete. The proper backdrop is the moral unraveling and jettisoning of guardrails, particularly in the area of sexual behavior, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. So, certainly, ECUSA could dabble in the new morality to maintain its "relevance," but it could never conceive of calling the union of a man and a man "marriage" or actually encouraging such behavior until such conditions were well-entrenched in the elite media culture, ca. Will and Grace.

  21. Phil,

    First, thanks for your reply, and for your effort to lower the temperature of the discussion. You will not be surprised to hear that I think your interpretation of liberal theological thought is incorrect, as to what liberals themselves think, and why they think it.

    Where I think you go wrong is in assuming that we follow the culture, and refashion moral views in light of what keeps us "relevant." I would suggest is that we apply the universal truths of the Gospel to situations as they become clear to us, sometimes through the advances of science or other fields of endeavor, and sometimes through experience.

    For myself, I didn't consider the church's teaching on gays and lesbians in any real depth until I met a victim of a gaybashing, by self-described Christians, and saw him weep, and heard his experience. And then I remembered the Nazi treatment of gays, which like that of the Jews derived from anathemas laid down by the Church in which I grew up--the Roman Catholic Church.

    I didn't need "Will and Grace" to wake me up--this happened years before that show aired. I saw, in that moment, my own heterosexual privilege, and realized that justice was not served by it.

    With respect, Phil, you are trivializing--I'm sure not intentionally--the reasons why those who disagree with you do so. It's not some instrumental or pragmatic desire to stay relevant, or be hip. It's because we have seen pain, and injustice, and feel called to stand with the oppressed.

  22. If I may expand upon Anglocat's point, I think this business of saying that the gay issue is all a matter of "culture" is an attempt to trivialize the matter.

    People feel the way they do about this matter, not because they are passive flotsam in whatever trend comes down the stream, but because they see a yawning chasm between what Christianity proclaims and how that proclamation is lived out, especially when in comes to gays. They see this attempt to segregate part of the baptized into a lesser class as offensive. If offends not their sense of permission, but their sense of what is right and decent.
    Indeed, all of the hetero folk that I've ever known who came around to supporting the rights and dignity of LGBTs did so because of experiences similar to Anglocat's. They were largely indifferent to the issue until it suddenly and urgently became personal for them. Either a family member of friend came out to them, or they witnessed something appallingly unjust.

    If the Christian proclamation is being compromised, then it is not because of any accommodation with modernity, real or imagined. It is because that proclamation loses its credibility to people of good conscience when it is used to justify policies of segregation, and to incite acts of violence for reasons that have been demonstrated as archaic and flat out untrue; as archaic and wrong at Ptolemy's model of the cosmos.

  23. Anglocat,

    The problem with applying the universal truths of the Gospel in a vacuum and apart from the overwhelming consensus of the Church is that we quickly get to the “every man a Pope” result. As you yourself have reminded me, other Christians have applied those universal truths to new situations and found that it was right to enslave other people, or beat and murder those thought to engage in homosexual behavior – in the former case, a substantial number of Christians so found.

    Anyway – I don’t gainsay the experiences you’ve had that led you to believe as you do. I do think there is something that should be said in response. The crimes or violence committed against gays have nothing to do with the morality of homosexual behavior. We have other outcasts in this society: what do you think would happen to someone spouting openly racist ideas at almost any major corporation? That person would almost surely be fired. Furthermore, people like that, the David Dukes of the world, are reviled. Their behavior leads them to be oppressed. Do we stand with them – that is, endorsing their views, as opposed to understanding they also are made in the image of God, as we should do with anybody? And how about the violence and threats visited against conservative speakers on many college campuses? Should that lead you to embrace conservatism?

    Obviously, the answers are “no.” The behavior that leads certain people to be targeted for hatred in different situations is severable from the hatred itself. No Christian group of any significance or respectability whatsoever advocates violence against gays. That is a fact. If people choose to act otherwise, the responsibility lies with them, and them alone.

    In fairness, I know you’ve told only part of the story here. The treatment of gay people may be one side of the coin, but the other is that people observe that some gay couples love and are committed to each other deeply, and conclude that love should be honored by the church in the same way as it honors heterosexual relationships.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.