"Peace hath its victories no less renowned than war." It is one of the highest honors of the Southern soldier that, when he had laid down his arms in 1865, he went back to his home, or what was left of it, and never thought again of taking them up. He revered the character and followed the example of his noble leader, General Lee, who spent the rest of his life teaching the arts of peace, and instilling into the young men of the South lessons of peace and of patriotism.
And in studying the brief history of the Church in the Confederate States we cannot but be proud and thankful that, when the War ceased, the separation caused by the War ceased with it. The Church of Christ showed then the spirit of Christ, and at once put behind it all wrath, bitterness, anger, and the memory of wrongs done or suffered, and, making no terms or conditions on either side, but with sole reliance upon the love and honor which should be between brethren, closed the breach, and was again one in heart and mind, and in that visible unity which witnessed to men their Oneness in Christ.
And that the reality of that vital Unity, which thus asserted itself in the life of the Church, and which was truly the work of the Spirit, and not the contrivance or achievement of man, may clearly appear, it is necessary to mark somewhat distinctly the human elements of strife and discord which entered into the problem, as men saw it, at the close of hostilities in the spring of 1865.
The first important step towards reconciliation and reunion was properly taken by the Presiding Bishop of the Church in the United States. [The Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Bishop of Vermont.] In God's good providence his personal relations with the Southern Bishops, and his known attitude towards some of the vexed questions of the day, assured him of a favorable hearing in any proposition he might make. He addressed to each of the Southern Bishops an affectionate letter, inviting and urging them to come and take their accustomed places in the General Convention, which was to meet in Philadelphia on the fourth day of the month of October.
This letter was dated July 12, 1865, and contains among other things the following passages, quoted once and again throughout the Southern Church during the next few critical months:
"I consider it a duty especially incumbent on me, as the Presiding Bishop, to testify my affectionate attachment to those amongst my colleagues from whom I have been separated during those years of suffering and calamity; and to assure you personally of the cordial welcome which awaits you at our approaching General Convention. In this assurance, however, I pray you to believe that I do not stand alone. I have corresponded on the subject with the Bishops, and think myself authorized to state that they sympathize with me generally in the desire to see the fullest representation of churches from the South, and to greet their brethren in the Episcopate with the kindest feelings.
"The past cannot be recalled, and though it may not soon be forgotten, yet it is the part of Christian wisdom to bury it forever, rather than to suffer it to interfere with the present and the future interests of unity and peace.
"I trust therefore that I shall enjoy the precious gratification of seeing you and your delegates in proper place at the regular triennial meeting."
Of course, the one chief difficulty in all such cases is the different point of view. The case of Bishop Polk would have constituted an all but insurmountable obstacle in the path, but that difficulty had been providentially removed. Still, in the North, that remained a very real and serious embarrassment. Then there was the case of the Consecration of Bishop Wilmer and of the erection of Arkansas into a Diocese. These two, however, were felt to be mainly technical. The real difficulty on that side lay in the fact that Northern Churchmen had got into the habit of speaking, and perhaps thinking, of the separation as in some way schismatical. Bishop Wilmer's Consecration was spoken of as a schismatical Consecration, and the whole attitude of the Southern Church seemed to Southern Churchmen to be misapprehended and misrepresented at the North. The General Convention of 1862 had wisely rejected the several resolutions proposed by the more radical members, in which Southern Churchmen were denounced as seditious and schismatical, and had adopted instead resolutions of a comparatively moderate and generous character. But the rejected resolutions were understood to represent the views of many influential men in the Church; and it was well known that many of those, who in 1862 had most earnestly opposed such injurious reflections upon their absent brethren, had based their objection upon the fact of absence, and the want of any evidence before the Convention, except public rumor and hearsay, upon the questions involved. It seemed universally taken for granted in that Convention that, if the Southern Dioceses had presumed to recognize the authority of the Confederate government, and to organize the Church upon the theory of a permanent new nationality, they would deserve the worst that could be said of them. The comparatively moderate and, on the whole, kindly resolutions finally adopted, while they endeavored to avoid intruding into politics, were yet framed upon the theory that Southern Churchmen, as Churchmen, owed a sacred allegiance to that interpretation of the Constitution which the North had espoused. It did not seem to have entered into the minds of the members of that Convention that, without reference to the merits or demerits of the Southern cause, it was not only a matter of necessity, but of duty as well, that the Church, in the presence of an organized civil government, should eschew party strife and submit to "the powers that be"; and that separation thus caused could not justly be called schism. These things had not been forgotten in the South, nor could they be ignored. Even the loving letter of Bishop Hopkins already quoted, which did so much to prepare the way for a better mutual understanding and the happiness of a perfect reconciliation, did not escape this error. He spoke of the continuance of the separate organization of the Southern Dioceses as being necessarily a schism. His affectionate and earnest entreaties and warnings were against making a schism in the Body.
Southern Churchmen indignantly repudiated the charge of schism. They rightly repelled the word and the thought when applied in any way to their action past or in prospect. They pointed out that schism has to do with the unity of the Church as expressed, not in legislative organization, but in the union and fellowship of the members in the One Body; and they claimed that they had made no breach in that unity of faith and fellowship. They had only recognized the facts of their situation, and in the disruption of political connections which actually had existed, and which they had believed to be both necessary and permanent, they had acted as the situation seemed to require for the life of the Church. They had been wrong in their estimate of the permanence of the separation, but no one could doubt the perfect honesty and sincerity of their course. And in the very act of effecting their separate organization they had protested, in the most solemn manner, that they had done, and would do, nothing which should break the fellowship of faith and love with their Northern brethren. They pointed with confidence to the record of their proceedings and to the Pastoral Letter of their Bishops, published when the War was raging most fiercely, and they defied the eye of malice to discover in them any trace of a schismatical mind or spirit. And having, as they believed, been providentially forced into a separate organization, they felt now that as Christian men, clergy and laity, in an organized branch of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, they had a right to consider and to determine what course they should take for the future, freely and fully, and undeterred by any cry of schism. The eloquent Bishop of Virginia put the case as to the charge of schism most admirably to his Council of September 20, 1865:
"The separation of the Southern Dioceses from the organization with which they were happily connected, was occasioned not by any disagreement in doctrine or discipline, or manner of worship, but by political changes, which rendered the continuance of that connection impracticable. The preservation of the order and purity of the Church, in this section of the country, called for a separate organization, which was accordingly effected with a careful avoidance of any alteration which could impair that unity of spirit which our holy religion enjoins. 'The exigency of the necessity' furnished the divine commission under which this association was formed, and constitutes a divine sanction for its continuance, unless good and sufficient reasons to the contrary are manifest. The mere cessation of the causes in which it originated does not, as a matter of course, dissolve it, and restore the relations which previously existed... .Under these circumstances, it could not, on any principle of reason or revelation, be regarded as justly liable to the imputation of schism, which is 'a causeless separation from the external communion of any church.' Our organization was no breach of communion, and for the external separation which it formed there was obvious and ample cause." To Bishop Hopkins, who, as we have seen, had invited the Southern Dioceses to return at once to their old relations with the Church in the United States, and had urged that to continue their separate organization would be to create a schism, the Bishop of Alabama replied in a published letter. In the first place he affirmed that, "Schism, as defined by the standard authorities, has reference primarily to the rending of communion, and cannot be truly predicated of branches of the Church of Christ which maintain intercommunion." In illustration he cited the case of the Churches of England, Scotland, the United States, and Canada, and the relations existing between them. He urged various arguments in favor of delay, in order that time might heal the many wounds caused by the War; and he maintained that the spirit manifested by many Northern Churchmen justified the apprehension, that terms of reconciliation might be imposed, if too speedy advances to reunion were made, which Southern Churchmen could not accept. One argument advanced by him must at that time have been most effective, and all but convincing. He called attention to the fact that the class of laymen in the South, from among whom the lay deputies to General Convention had always been chosen, were, almost without exception, men who by the United States government were excluded from the general amnesty proclaimed at the end of the War; and that those classes had recently been declared by the President to be "unpardoned rebels and traitors." Since the General Convention of 1862 had felt it to be the duty of the Church to support the government, how could the Southern Dioceses feel any confidence that their lay deputies to the General Convention of 1865 would be received as such? [The four lay deputies chosen to represent the Diocese of North Carolina at the General Convention in Philadelphia, October 1865, all belonged to the classes excluded from amnesty, though one of them had been able to have his disabilities removed. It would probably have been impossible to find four laymen, in any Southern Diocesan Convention, at all competent to represent the Diocese in the General Convention, who did not belong to the classes excluded from amnesty. The late Governor Thomas H. Seymour, of Connecticut, told the writer that, being at Chapel Hill, in June, 1868, to deliver the Commencement Oration before the University of North Carolina, he dined with a distinguished company of gentlemen, including among others the Hon. Thomas Ruffin, former Chief-Justice of North Carolina and one of the most eminent of American lawyers, the Hon. Wm. A. Graham, who had been Governor, Senator, Secretary of the Navy, and Whig candidate for Vice-President, Ex-Governor Swain, President of the University, the Hon. Wm. H. Battle, of the State Supreme Court, and Ex-Governor Zebulon B. Vance. He was told, as an illustration of the unnatural condition of public affairs in the South, that under the Reconstruction Acts, which had just gone into effect, the only persons in the room who could vote were the two negro men who waited upon the table.] Those who do not remember the experiences of those days cannot appreciate the force which such an argument carried. There was little desire in the South among Churchmen to perpetuate division, and to add another broken fragment to the already too numerous divisions of Christendom; but there was a very serious apprehension lest too great haste might occasion mortifying and injurious rebuffs. For these reasons Bishop Wilmer felt bound to decline the invitation of the Presiding Bishop. The Bishop of Alabama was a strong and eloquent writer, and his letter to Bishop Hopkins was the more influential in the South from the fact that the Bishop of Mississippi, one of the mildest and sweetest natures in all the Church, North or South, appended his signature to it, with a line to say that he entirely agreed in its arguments and conclusions. In the summer of 1865 the people of the South could not feel sure of the state of feeling in the North towards any sectional matter. [The following from "The Life of Bishop Hopkins" may serve to illustrate the feeling expressed in Bishop Wilmer's letter. "On the 6th of May, 1865, three weeks after General Lee's surrender, a leading editorial in the Episcopal Recorder of Philadelphia, then the chief Low Church organ, demanded of the government that some of the leading Bishops and clergy at the South should be hanged, on the ground that they had been leaders in the original movement for secession. As the General Convention was to meet that same year, in October, in that same city of Philadelphia, one can easily see how difficult it must have been to persuade Southern Churchmen that they would be welcomed to its sessions as brethren." And again: "With such editorials as that of the Episcopal Recorder, and the reprinting in similar organs, for weeks, of every paragraph that could keep up Northern prejudice against Southern Churchmen, the prospect of immediate success [in the reunion of the Dioceses] was not cheering."]
Diocesan Councils had been held during the month of May, 1865, in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, but the uncertainty of the times and the small attendance of members had prevented any important action. Nothing was done with reference to reunion: it was then too soon for the question to be considered. But Bishop Hopkins had opened the question by his letter of July 12, and the response of the Southern Bishops, even when most adverse, as in the case of Bishop Wilmer and Bishop Green, soon made reunion the great issue before the Church.
August 11, an adjourned meeting of the Diocesan Council of Georgia was held in Emmanuel Church, Athens. In his address to this Council, Bishop Elliott spoke out strongly upon the duty and necessity of the eventual return of the Diocese to its former relations with the Church in the United States. He had been upon specially affectionate and confidential relations with Bishop Hopkins, and the prompt and generous action of the Presiding Bishop, in addressing his letter to his Southern brethren, had moved him, as it had moved all the Bishops; and there was no uncertain sound in Bishop Elliott's strong presentation of the importance of renewing the old bonds of union between all parts of the Church. He did not wish to contemplate the prospect of permanent separation. But Bishop Elliott was equally strong in the expression of his opposition to immediate action by individual Southern Dioceses, looking towards representation in the approaching General Convention. As during the continuance of the war he had been most free in expressing, even from the pulpit, the national aspirations of the Southern people, so now he embodied that sentiment of sensitive regard for the memories of the recent past, and that apprehension as to the treatment which might possibly be accorded to Southern Churchmen by their Northern brethren, which made so many good men fear the effects of a too precipitate movement for reunion. He said to his Convention of August 11, 1865: "In her action, under the present condition of affairs, the Diocese of Georgia must remember that she has to act, not only for herself, but also for her sister Dioceses, with whom she was for a time united. She owes it to her own character and dignity to keep faith with them, and to arrange a reunion which will not place any of them in a worse condition than it may place herself... .My opinion is that the Council made up from the Dioceses in the States which seceded, should meet in November,... and should there decide upon the course to be pursued. ... It will cause delay of a month or two in the adjustment of the affairs of the Church, but better that than a hasty reunion, which will leave subjects to be discussed and reopened, which had better not be touched after once they have been talked over and settled. It would prevent, 'tis true, our Diocese from being represented at the next General Convention in both Houses, but that might be a blessing, when wounds are so recent, and when topics connected with the exciting subjects of the conflict of the last four years must necessarily come up for consideration. After such years of strife, there must be some readjustment, which had better take place while our Dioceses are not represented in the General Convention. It would allow that body a much freer scope for discussion, and might save us much pain and irritation." [Bishop Elliott at this time seemed disposed to take a position similar to that of Bishop Wilmer, and to postpone ecclesiastical reunion until the Southern States had been restored to their proper civil status. His words, in this same address, are: "The Diocese of Georgia will, therefore, as soon as her civil Government is restored, be in a condition in which, as I said before, there will be no political or canonical hindrance to her reunion with the Dioceses with which for so many years, she acted in harmony and peace." But in using this language he probably assumed, as a matter of course, the speedy restoration of civil and political relations between all the States of the Union, and had not contemplated the possibility of any alternative. He probably meant simply to indicate a time, not to suggest a condition, of returning.]
It is quite plain from this that Bishop Elliott was not at all prepared to consider immediate reunion. Much about this same time he addressed a letter to the Editor of The Church Journal, of New York, taking the same ground, in favor of postponing the movement for reunion, upon even more distinct and specific suggestions of the mortifying experiences to be apprehended by Southern Churchmen, who should thus venture to trust the magnanimity of their brethren of the North, and very openly reflecting upon some of his Southern brethren, who were disposed to adopt the course which he disapproved. [Bishop Gregg felt himself and his Diocese so closely touched by these reflections of the Bishop of Georgia, that he replied in an open letter addressed to Bishop Elliott, through the columns of the Church Intelligencer. There are few finer specimens of clear and cogent reasoning, manly dignity, and sweet Christian courtesy, than in this letter of Bishop Gregg to one whom he loved and revered, but in this case could not follow.] His Council seemed of a different mind, and gave a much warmer and more sympathetic response to the idea of an early restoration of the old relations; and while declaring that the Diocese of Georgia was prepared to resume those relations "whenever in the judgment of the Bishop it shall be consistent with the good faith" which they owed to the other Southern Dioceses and Bishops, it took care to provide that the delegates elected to the Council of the Southern Church, should be authorized also to represent the Diocese in the General Convention at Philadelphia, "if any contingencies should arise whereby it should become expedient" that the Diocese should be represented in that Convention.
The first strong and unequivocal word in behalf of prompt and unhesitating reunion, after the action of the Diocese of Texas the middle of June, seems to have come from North Carolina. Bishop Atkinson about this time took up the matter with a clearness of view and distinctiveness of utterance characteristic of him. The fortunes of war had left his kinsman, Bishop Lay, stranded, so to speak, in the little town of Lincolnton, N.C. Bishop Lay had in 1861 resigned to Bishop Brownell his jurisdiction as a Missionary Bishop of the Church in the United States, and had been elected Bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas, upon its organization under the Constitution and Canons of the Church of the Confederate States in November, 1862. The return of the Southern Dioceses into union with the Church in the United States, a very simple matter in the case of the other Southern Bishops, was to him a question of very grave complications, since his Diocese had been practically wiped out of existence by the destructive ravages of war, and he had resigned his work as Missionary Bishop. His status in the Church, upon the accomplishment of reunion, promised to give more ground for doubt and contention than even the Consecration of Bishop Wilmer. But he cared not to consider any mere personal aspects of so great a question, and readily joined Bishop Atkinson in a letter to Bishop Elliott, Presiding Bishop of the Church in the Confederate States, expressing their "decided opinion," that "considerations of principle, and of expediency as well, require us to restore the ecclesiastical relations which existed before the war." To this letter Bishop Elliott replied, saying that he did "not see how we can avoid returning into connection with the Church in the Union." This reply, however, must be interpreted in accordance with Bishop Elliott's plainly expressed purpose of postponing action until after the General Council appointed to meet November 8. But as that would be the month following the meeting of the General Convention in Philadelphia, and as it was most desirable that there should be some consultation and concert of action among the Bishops with reference to the General Convention, Bishop Elliott, as Presiding Bishop, agreed to call together the Bishops of the South for mutual counsel and advice before the meeting of the Council. The date and place appointed by him were September 27, 1865, at Augusta, Georgia.
This then was the situation in the South at the end of the summer of 1865, as the time for the meeting of the General Convention drew near. Distant Texas had by the middle of June gone back to its old position, without hesitation or suggestion of condition. But Texas was not only distant, far removed from sympathetic contact with the rest of the Southern Dioceses, but it was little more than a Missionary District, which had hardly had a Bishop in the General Convention, and had been wholly unrepresented in the one national Council of the Southern Church. Texas counted for little in making public opinion in the Southern Church in 1865. The Bishops of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi were distinctly opposed to immediate reunion, and took an aggressive attitude in behalf of the policy of holding the General Council in November. It seemed that they had not only their own Dioceses behind them, in standing for this policy, but that they represented the general sentiment of the South. The Bishop of South Carolina was declaredly for permanent separation; and while Bishop Johns, as we shall presently see, earnestly desired, and most eloquently pleaded for, immediate restoration of the old relations, his clergy and laity were against him, and soon after, in the meeting of their Council, September 20, gave emphatic expression to that opposition. Florida, weak and scattered, even more negligible than Texas, had given no sign of diocesan life for a year or two, and exercised no influence upon the situation. Tennessee and Louisiana, both deprived of their Bishops, had been so paralyzed by the course of hostilities that they had been able to assemble no Diocesan Convention since 1861, and so had never become formally united with the "Church in the Confederate States." [Bishop Otey had died April 23, 1863.] In this situation of affairs the Diocese of North Carolina met in Diocesan Council Wednesday, September 13, in Christ Church, Raleigh. Among the Southern Bishops in 1865, Bishop Atkinson stood next to Bishop Elliott in personal distinction, power, and influence. With the removal of Bishop Meade, Bishop Otey, and Bishop Polk, these two, Elliott and Atkinson, remained the most notable Southern Bishops in the eyes and to the minds of the Church at large. Bishop Elliott embodied the strong national feeling of the South developed by the war; Bishop Atkinson had all along subordinated every local and national feeling to his high conception of the freedom of the Church, and its superiority to all worldly interests and institutions. In 1861 he had maintained boldly, and at the cost of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, that the Church was no ways affected in its constitutional connections and obligations by the civil and political disruption caused by the secession of the States; now in 1865, while holding strongly the absolute lawfulness and propriety of the action of the Southern Dioceses in forming their separate organization, he was equally emphatic in asserting that, the cause, and the only cause, of separation being removed, it was the plain duty of the Diocese to resume its former relations with the Church in the United States. He repelled the suggestion of anything schismatical in the action of the Church in the Confederate States, but he so far agreed with Bishop Hopkins that he saw great probability and imminent danger of the development of schism, should the Southern Dioceses persist in maintaining a separate organization, after the sole cause, alleged by them to justify the separation, had ceased to exist. The organization might not itself be schismatical in theory, but he felt that the spirit by which it would be maintained would be schismatical, and that the situation would surely, unavoidably, produce the worst practical fruits of schism. He put the situation very clearly before his Council: "We believe that schism is a sin, as well as a source of innumerable and incalculable evils. And surely wilful separation from a Church, with which we have hitherto been in union, is schism, or schism is a very mysterious and impalpable thing, a sentimental grief, not a plain matter of fact, taking place before the eyes of men. An enforced separation is not schism... .The Church in the Confederate States was not schismatical as to the Church in the United States, because war and diversities of political government kept them apart. But when there is no war and no diversity of political government, then to remain apart, because we cannot bear each other's presence, that is schism and great uncharitable-ness, and so the common-sense of all men, who believe that there is such a sin, will ultimately decide.
"This is a question which, it is certain, requires of us all of calm and dispassionate wisdom that we can command, and, what is even more important, a supreme reference to the honor of our Lord and the welfare of His Church, making us willing to sacrifice to these objects whatever tends merely to gratify our own feelings, or to gain the favor of our fellow-men. To me it is plain that this is a critical moment in the history of the Church, both at the North and the South--that on the decision it shall now reach and the action it shall now pursue, it will depend very much whether in the future it shall sink to the level of a mere sect, or rather a bundle of hostile sects, or shall maintain its claim to be a pure and vigorous branch of the Church Catholic, rising continually into wider usefulness and higher influence, until at length it shall become the Church, not merely in the United States, but of the American people."
He did not confine himself to the purely ecclesiastical aspects of the question. He was no less a true patriot than a loyal Churchman. He had a heart and an intelligence responsive to the necessities of his people and his country. He looked beyond the limits of the immediate horizon: "Let us then endeavor to forecast the future as well as we can, for we are not deciding any ephemeral question. The conclusion to which we shall now come is one in which our children's children have a deep interest as well as ourselves. The authority of the government of the United States is reestablished over the South, and there is a universal disclaimer of any intention or desire to attempt to unsettle it. But it is very far from being certain what the nature of the Union is to be which has been cemented with so much blood. Is it to be one of constraint, or one of affection? Is the South to be added to the melancholy list of oppressed nationalities--to become an American Poland or Hungary, to live by the side of the North in a state of chronic turbulence, suspicious and suspected, hating and hated? A doom so mournful and so humiliating is certainly not to be desired. Can it be averted? To me it seems very much to depend on the Ministers of Religion. They have a great deal to do in moulding the sentiments of a people. They sit by their firesides--they are admitted into their most confidential communications. A feeling which they sanction is, on that account, much more strongly believed to be right and proper to be cherished, while one which they reprobate is, even if still indulged in, thought to be of a questionable nature. . . .
"It is then of cardinal importance to the peace and welfare of the country, that there should be a reunion of the different religious denominations which now have distinct organizations at the North and the South. But I believe it to be perfectly evident that, if this is to take place, it must begin with the Episcopal Church. If that cannot, or will not, reunite, none can or will. We separated from the force of outward circumstances, without discord, without crimination or recrimination; on the contrary, with the language of love on our lips, and, I trust and believe, with the feeling of love in our hearts. . . .
"I conceive, therefore, that the best hopes of the country, and especially of the South, are bound up in the question, what will the Episcopal Church now do? My earnest desire, then, and constant prayer, is, that the Church may be restored again in the unity of its government, and the unfeigned love of its members. And yet I cannot conceal from myself, that even this blessing, much as it is to be desired, earnestly as it is to be sought after, may be bought at too great a price. The price would be too great, if, to obtain it, we were required to violate conscience, to deny what we believe to be true, or to express repentance for what we do not see to be evil. The assurances, however, which I have received from a number of friends at the North, lead me to believe that the great body of the Church there desire nothing of the sort... .And let me add, that what is right to be done on this mighty subject, it is right should be done quickly. The interests are too momentous to be left to the hazards and uncertainties of time. May God give us wisdom and understanding and faithful hearts to see our duty and to follow it! And at the same time it is our duty, as it is, I am sure, our wish, in all we do on this subject, to consult, and, as far as possible, cooperate with, the other Dioceses of the Church in the Confederate States."
The laymen and the clergy of North Carolina had come to feel great confidence in the wisdom of their Bishop; and that he always appealed to their reason and conscience, and never wished to carry any measure by the weight of his very great personal influence, gave all the greater force to his personal feelings and wishes. They probably felt as did the large majority of other Churchmen in the South, and would have preferred some delay, and united action by all the associated Dioceses. But they had usually followed his advice in great and critical matters; he had never led them wrong; and they followed him now. There was, however, a minority against him, apparently not numerous, but strong in intelligence and in character. Some indication of this feeling is seen in the fact that the Rev. Alfred A. Watson, one of the noblest men in the Church, Northern by birth, a most distinguished chaplain in the Confederate army, subsequently chairman of the Committee on Canons in the House of Deputies, and then the first Bishop of East Carolina, moved in the Council that a committee be appointed to whom should be referred so much of the Bishop's address as related to the reunion of the Dioceses; and when that had been adopted, moved further, "That this committee be appointed by election." This was a distinct intimation that the Council should oppose the course recommended by the Bishop, and that it should make sure of a committee who would report to that effect. Thus understood the resolution was rejected, and then the Bishop showed his quality by naming the Rev. Mr. Watson second on the committee composed of some of the most eminent members of the Council: the Rev. Richard S. Mason, D.D., the Rev. Alfred A. Watson, the Rev. Jos. Blount Cheshire, D.D., the Rev. William Hodges, D.D., Hon. William H. Battle, Hon. William M. Shipp, and Mr. Richard H. Smith.
Six of the seven members of this committee joined in a report declaring the strong desire of the Diocese to maintain the unity of the Church within the United States, with their gratification at hearing the sentiments expressed by the Bishop in regard to reunion; and gratefully acknowledging the kindly overtures made to the Southern Dioceses by the Presiding Bishop. They submitted two resolutions for action:
"Resolved, That the Diocese of North Carolina is prepared to resume her position as a Diocese in connection with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, whenever, in the judgment of the Bishop, after consultation with the Bishops of the other Southern Dioceses (which consultation he is hereby requested to hold), it shall be consistent with the good faith which she owes to the Dioceses with which she has been in union during the last four years.
"Resolved, That, with a view to such contingency, there be four clerical and four lay deputies elected, to represent this Diocese in the ensuing General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States." [Deputies were also elected to represent the Diocese in the "General Council" to be held in Augusta, in November.]
The Rev. Mr. Watson, the only man of Northern birth on the committee, submitted a minority report providing, in substance, that if all the Southern Dioceses should authorize their Bishops to act for them, and if a majority of these Bishops should deem it right and advisable to reunite with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, "it shall be competent to the [said] Bishops to take all the steps necessary to effect or complete such reunion, so far as the Diocese of North Carolina is concerned." This was indeed a strange and impracticable proposition, but it served at least to define the issue. It was rejected by a decisive majority, as was also another series of resolutions, introduced by Mr. Edward J. Hale, referring the whole subject to the General Council appointed to be held in Mobile, November 8. Both resolutions reported by the majority were then adopted; and the following deputies were elected in pursuance of the second resolution: of the clergy, the Rev. Drs. Richard S. Mason, Joseph B. Cheshire, Fordyce M. Hubbard, and William Hodges; and of the laity, the Hon. William H. Battle, Messrs. Richard H. Smith, Kemp P. Battle, and Robert Strange.
The resolutions of the Diocese of North Carolina are almost identical with those of the Diocese of Georgia. Both express an earnest desire for the reunion of the separated Dioceses, so soon as might be consistent with their honorable obligations; and both refer it to the Bishop to determine when that time shall have come. Both also provide for the representation of the Diocese in the approaching General Convention at Philadelphia, "in view of such contingency." But there was this very radical difference in the effect of the action of the two Dioceses: the Bishop of Georgia was openly and peremptorily opposed to going back to the General Convention, until the meeting of the General Council had enabled the Southern Dioceses to confer together, and to agree upon terms of reunion, which the General Convention should be called upon to accept. This being the case, it was perfectly certain that the action of the Diocesan Council of Georgia had not at all advanced the cause of immediate reunion. On the other hand, Bishop Atkinson was declaredly in favor of having the Southern Dioceses represented in the coming General Convention, and trusting to the vital power of Christian fellowship to secure appropriate action by the Convention, and not standing apart in an attitude of suspicion until such action had been taken. He was no more willing than Bishop Elliott to give up any principle, or to agree to any unworthy concession, but he believed that when brethren looked each other in the face, and felt the love of brethren in their hearts, they would not be long in adjusting any difficult questions which might arise. This was Bishop Atkinson's known attitude; and the action of his Diocesan Council, in electing deputies to the General Convention, and leaving it for him to say when they should take their places in that body, was felt to be the first great step taken towards speedy reunion.
The Council of the Diocese of Virginia met in St. Paul's Church, Richmond, September 30; and in all his long and faithful service Bishop Johns never showed to better advantage than in his address to that body. He felt clear of any taint of schism in thought or purpose; he felt no doubt of the propriety of any action by him or his Diocese in connection with the War; but he saw the dangers which beset the path of a perpetuated division. His own good heart could trust the hearts of his Northern brethren. He had been deeply moved by the appeal of the Presiding Bishop, and by letters and messages of affection from others of the North, in some cases from those furthest removed from him in former associations and in theological sympathies. With simple yet lofty magnanimity, sadly rare even in the best men, he had gratefully acknowledged, and gratefully declined, offers of pecuniary assistance for his impoverished Diocese and clergy; saying, with simple dignity and unconscious heroism, that it would be better for his people by self-denial and mutual helpfulness to bear their own burdens, rather than to become a burden upon others. [This was in response to the generous offer of the Bishop of New York. A similar proposition from the Board of Missions the Bishop laid before the Council. The Council adopted the following: "Resolved by the Council of the Diocese of Virginia, That while we do not feel at liberty to accept their offer (tender of funds) we acknowledge it with gratification, and return our thanks to the Domestic Committee for the fraternal spirit and liberal disposition manifested in their action."]
But these things had touched his heart, and had satisfied him that the Church in the South had nothing to fear in taking that course to which his feelings impelled him. He was an eloquent man, and had a singularly clear view of true ethical principles and of their application to Christian conduct. He put before his Council with great persuasive force the duty of terminating at once the separation which had been caused by the unhappy exigencies of a state of war. Bishop Atkinson had spoken with the power of a Christian patriot and Catholic Bishop. Bishop Johns, a sound and subtle casuist, in the best sense of the words, spoke with the searching discrimination of a wise and loving pastor, detecting and exposing the cunning deceits of the human heart. Beginning with the general agreement that ultimate reunion was to be desired, he exposed the weakness of the plea for postponing action:
"If, as a people, we are solicitous for a speedy civil reunion, why should we not, as a Church, be equally desirous of a speedy reestablishment of our ecclesiastical relations?
"Are there any sensibilities which may be disregarded in the one adjustment, but which require to be consulted and indulged in the other?
"May we be more implacable as Churchmen than as citizens?
"If time is necessary to compose our feelings, how much must be taken? Whose experience is to determine the measure? Is there any other scriptural limit than the 'going down of the sun'?
"Are not such feelings better disciplined by immediate, resolute mortification than by indulgent allowance?
"Would it not be more becoming in us to assume that those with whom we are willing to be reunited will do what is right without being held to it by a pledge, especially as the doing what we desire would be compatible with their principles; but a pledge to that effect would involve a recognition irreconcilable with their known convictions of ecclesiastical order, and which therefore, as they cannot consistently give, we ought not to propose?
"Is not resumption of former relations, without concessions or promises, the only way in which reunion is practicable, and would it not furnish surer hope of a peaceful and profitable future than any formal concordat attained by diplomatic negotiation?
"If the endeavor to present a correct view of our position and of the policy which it suggests, reveals the inclination it has given to my own judgment, it has but done what I have no desire to avoid. I trust it has been effected without even the appearance of presumption, or a word that would produce any other excitement than such as is inseparable from a subject of paramount interest... .The tempest might readily be reproduced by a simple recital of wrong and suffering which have been endured. These, indeed, may not soon or easily be forgotten, nor is this required, but they may and must be forgiven... .Christians are to be peacemakers. Their heaven-descended motto is, 'On earth peace, good will toward men.' In 'following after the things which make for peace,' as they are commanded, they care not to calculate how long wounded sensibilities may be expected to weep, or memory be allowed to eliminate their wrongs. The proffered hand may be accepted before the lacerations it has inflicted are healed, or often it would be impossible to do so at all, for there are lacerations which the heart cannot cease to feel till it ceases to beat. We are to be imitators of Him Who, 'whilst we were sinners' died for us; Who when pierced in every limb, prayed for the forgiveness of His persecutors whilst they were rending Him in their rage. 'Even as Christ forgave you, so do ye,' is the rule and measure for His followers. And with this pattern of prompt and unsolicited forgiveness of complicated violence and wrong, infinitely surpassing all that man can experience from his fellow-man, it would ill become those who profess and call themselves Christians to nourish resentment by dwelling upon injuries, or to plead sorrow, which it is proper to feel, in delay of reconciliation, which it would be wrong to defer,--a plea which, if it is allowed, may be in force for life, and adjourn reunion for the consideration of a generation unborn."
So much of the Bishop's address as referred to the reunion of the Dioceses was referred to a distinguished committee, and after some debate a series of resolutions was adopted, cordially approving the course of the Bishop, in his correspondence with the presiding Bishop of the Church in the United States and others upon the subject, expressing the desire of the Council to respond cordially to every sentiment of fraternal regard conveyed to them by the Bishop, but wholly unresponsive to the Bishop's eloquent appeal for immediate reunion. That whole matter was referred to the General Council of the Church in the Confederate States, to meet in Augusta on the second Wednesday of the following November.
Though the formal action of the Council, as recorded in the Journal, was entirely non-commital, and no allusion was made to the urgent appeal of the Bishop, the ineffectiveness at the time of the Bishop's earnest words is not mere matter of inference from the silence of the record. Bishop Johns commanded in a high degree the love and confidence of his Diocese, but in this matter he could not carry them with him. There was a strong sentiment in the Council earnestly opposed to his views and to his hopes. There were some, it cannot now be known how many, who anticipated, and ardently desired, the perpetuation of an independent Southern Church. By one speaker at least the position taken by Bishop Wilmer and Bishop Green was strongly commended; and the hope was indulged that those Dioceses which had seemed favorable to reunion might be won back by the influence of those which should stand for permanent separation. [One speaker said: "A bold course by this Council today would induce Texas to come back, and the Bishop of Georgia would never go out."] It is probable that this was a fleeting sentiment only, not representing any fixed purpose or definite policy, but merely an instinctive impulse to hold on to a fair but vanishing image, an ideal consecrated by the sufferings and sacrifices of the preceding four years of struggle and of hope. Strong and earnest natures sometimes find it a difficult task to adjust themselves readily to the changing demands of even duty and necessity.
Of the Bishops only the Bishop of South Carolina; seems to have continued to cherish the scheme of a permanently separate organization. His Pastoral, presently to be quoted, belongs to this period. In his thought this scheme had a definite purpose, and his sentiment was associated with serious convictions of truth, and a distinct, though elusive, hope. The impoverished and desolated state of his Diocese made it impossible to assemble his clergy and people in a Diocesan Council. He therefore addressed them in a Pastoral letter, dated October 5, 1865. He set before them the situation of the Church, and opened to them his hopes and his fears. He says in part:
"No sound mind can suppose that the separation of the Southern from the Northern Church, under the influence of the political revolution which has passed over the country, can be schismatical... .There had been therefore no schism. The Southern Church is now rightly constituted, and is an independent and integral branch of the Church Catholic. As such she can, of right, shape her own course. She is, also, free to return to her union with the Church at the North. Which shall she do? This is the great proposition. In determining it, brethren, we should look deeply into ourselves. Unchristian sentiments may prove as injurious as false petitions. Let us make the severe mental effort of severing ourselves from all feelings and purposes not purely Christian. Let no fanaticism of independence disturb the spirit of Catholic concord and union; nor any want of Christian courage diminish our supreme regard for purity and truth. To plant ourselves on the true basis is our lofty purpose. The Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the head corner stone. To this we will strive to adhere.
"We cannot but perceive that the age is political and secular in its tendencies. Its ruling powers are those of combination. This secures dominion, but is dangerous to truth. We must think, too, that a territory so immense, with a population so heterogeneous and discordant, as that comprehended between the Atlantic and Pacific, the Lakes and the Rio Grande, is too much for any one Church. Our Southern country is limited, homogeneous, and not given to speculations. Does it not appear then that here is our surest foundation for peace and truth?
"I declare to you, brethren, my strong desire is, that, under the mercy and guiding providence of God, the Southern Church may be enabled to maintain her present independent and Catholic position. This I will seek, and to this give my best efforts. But should this be otherwise ordered by counsels stronger than our own, let the motto of the Diocese of South Carolina ever be:
"A Church divine, not human;
A Gospel pure and perfect."
Bishop Davis alludes to the subject again in address to his Council of February 14, 1866: "I had hoped that it might be the will of our God that we should have an independent, united, self-sustaining Southern Church. To such hope my sympathies and affections strongly clung; I thought I could see, too, a purer atmosphere for faith; this I signified to you in a late Pastoral letter."
Bishop Davis was a man of singular purity, elevation of character, and spiritual intensity. He was one of the best examples of a type of old-fashioned Evangelical, with perhaps a mild infusion of Calvinism, after the manner of John Newton and Cowper, a little toned up in churchmanship by the early influence of Bishop Ravenscroft, and by his years of service under Bishop Ives. He was naturally inclined to introspection, a tendency probably strengthened by the gradual failure, and final total loss, of his eyesight. He seems to have been much depressed at this time by the changes which he saw coming over the world and over the Church. He had dreamed a beautiful dream of a Southern Church, in which the simplicity and piety of an earlier age might be renewed, and in which modern doubt and restlessness and innovation should be unknown: "I thought I could see a purer atmosphere for faith." There was no element of bitterness or of ill-will to any in his thought. As in 1861 he had put forth the most acute and philosophical argument to support his theory of separation, so now he alone seems to have had some definite and noble aspiration in his fleeting hope of an independent Southern Church; not of a Church divided from the communion and fellowship of his Northern brethren, but a separate legislative and administrative branch of the One Catholic Church, to be the first real Province, and so to be the beginning of a reorganization, of the Church in the United States, demanded by the immense extent of our territory, the variety of our population, and the multiplicity of our interests. This seems to have been the idea dimly showing itself to the anxious mind of the saintly blind Bishop. [There was nothing of temper or self-will in Bishop Davis's desire for this separate Southern Church. Those who knew him did not need to have any proof of this; to those who did not know him his ready compliance with the demands of the situation was ample proof. He said to his Council, February 14, 1866: "God has otherwise determined: we will follow the Divine determination. It is enough for the Christian to know what the Divine will is. ... Let us rise up to our new responsibility, not sluggishly, reluctantly, or opposingly, but with clear judgments, the spirit of alacrity, and Christian confidence. I advise the immediate return of the Diocese into union with the Church in the United States."]
The net result then of all these meetings and discussions was, that, of the Dioceses still in doubt, North Carolina alone, and its Bishop, were committed to the policy of immediate reunion, subject to the judgment of the Bishop, after consultation with his Episcopal brethren of the South. Bishop Atkinson felt that to stand apart, and to demand terms, and to impose conditions, whether by the one party or the other, would, in the then sensitive state of the public mind, be to insure incalculable strife, dissension, and ill-feeling. On the other hand he felt that, face to face with his brethren, it would be possible to ignore difficulties, and to find a solid foundation for mutual agreement in the development of mutual good-will and personal affection and confidence. This relationship being established, a way would certainly be found to compose all matters of difference necessary to be arranged, which were few indeed; and all matters of difference, not demanding adjustment, would instinctively be avoided in the satisfaction of renewed fraternal communion. In the old established Dioceses on the Atlantic Coast it was not to be expected that such instantaneous transition could be effected, back and forth, as seemed to have taken place in the new and scarcely organized Diocese of Texas. And, moreover, Bishop Atkinson most thoroughly repudiated the theory of ecclesiastical law upon which the Bishop and Diocese of Texas had acted. He felt that if the Southern Dioceses returned, they must do so by their voluntary action, and not by some automatic effect of a political change. And he had, against much popular feeling, secured such action by his Diocesan Council as enabled him to pursue that course which he believed to be right in principle and prudent in policy.
Thus trusting in the Christian affection and courtesy of his brethren, it must have been with great satisfaction and with renewed confidence that he read in the public press the report of the Diocesan Convention of New York, which met September 27. In his address to that Convention, Bishop Horatio Potter thus refers to the anticipated presence of representatives of the Southern Church at the sessions of the approaching General Convention: "It will be a reunion that will arouse the tenderest sensibilities of every Christian heart. It will show that old affections have been restrained, not extinguished, and that feelings long pent up claim a more than ordinary indulgence in demonstrations of love, respect, and sympathy. I verily believe, as I do most fervently hope and pray, that not one word of reproach or bitterness will be heard, not one look of coldness appear, to mar the dignity and loveliness of the touching scene. In that much longed-for welcome hour we shall need no declaration of principles, no formal vindication of the peaceful character of the Christian ministry. Divine Providence has spoken. Any words that we can use in reference to the past, whether persons or things, will be mere impertinence, adding nothing to the lessons that come to us from above, and only tending to change celestial harmonies into the miserable, discordant sounds of earth-born passion." In response to this appeal the following action was recorded:
"Resolved, That the Convention cordially respond to the sentiments of the Bishop respecting the return of peace to our land, and the treatment of our Southern brethren in view of this contingency."
It happened that the Rev. Dr. Quintard, late chap-Iain in the Confederate army, and at this time Bishop-elect of Tennessee, was in the city of New York, and being presented to the Convention met a most cordial reception, as an illustration of the sentiments expressed in their resolution spread upon the record.
It has been mentioned that Bishop Elliott had summoned the Southern Bishops to meet for mutual counsel and advice in Augusta on the 27th of September. The Diocesan Council of North Carolina probably had this meeting in mind, as affording Bishop Atkinson a convenient opportunity of conferring with the other Bishops. But shortly after the adjournment of his Council, Bishop Atkinson received notice from Bishop Elliott that the proposed meeting would not be held, on account of the difficulty and expense of travel. It had been ascertained that the Bishops could not be gotten together. Bishop Atkinson himself was at this time quite unwell, and his health was a source of some anxiety to his family and Diocese. It is quite probable that he had already found himself unable to attempt a journey to Augusta.
Thus it seemed impossible to comply with the condition expressed in the resolution authorizing the diocesan representation in the General Convention, and all the fair hopes based thereon seemed in a moment blasted. But Bishop Atkinson knew that, while it had been the desire of his Council, as it had been his own desire and suggestion, that all kindly respect should be shown to their Southern brethren, the issue in the Council had been, whether or not the Diocese should be represented in the General Convention; and the Council had accepted his interpretation of the significance and gravity of the crisis, and had decided that it should be so represented. It had not been understood that the condition expressed could make such representation impossible. He felt that to allow this would be to disappoint the expectation of his people who had trusted him; and he believed that it threatened infinite damage to the best interests of the Church and of the country. He therefore determined that he would proceed to Philadelphia, so that he might be prepared to act as the necessity of the situation should seem to demand; and he called upon his clerical and lay deputies to meet him in Philadelphia at the time of the opening of the General Convention, October 4. He had not fully determined upon his course; he would be guided by the development of the situation.
The opening of this Convention, as it relates to our subject, may be given in the words of an eye-witness, the Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr., in the Life of his Father:
"On the morning of the first Wednesday in October that year, as I was going up the southern flight of stone steps to the porch of St. Luke's Church, Philadelphia, to attend the opening of the General Convention, I saw, leaning against the iron railing at the half-way landing, the beloved Bishop Atkinson, of North Carolina, and round him a group of clergy and laity, welcoming him most cordially. He was the first Southern Bishop I had seen since the war began; and while joining my congratulations to those of the others, my father came up the steps, and I had the delight of witnessing the greeting between the two, when both their hearts seemed too full to permit of easy utterance. All united--none more strongly than my father--in urging the Bishop of North Carolina to return at once to his own place, and enter robed in the procession with his brethren. But he steadily refused; giving as his reason his delicate regard for his Southern brethren who had not come on. He was unwilling, even in appearance, to separate himself from them or act in so important a matter without them; and he therefore took his seat in the body of the church with the congregation. But when in the midst of the service, the call was again made upon him, openly and by name, he could refuse no longer, but rose, advanced, and was welcomed at the Altar with joyful thanksgiving."
The printed journals of the General Convention do not show just what took place. They mention the presence of Bishop Atkinson, of North Carolina, at the opening service, and in noting the service on the morning of the second day, the record is: "Present as yesterday, with the addition of the Right Rev. H. C. Lay, D.D., Missionary Bishop of the South West," etc. But it cannot be discovered from the record that any unusual circumstances marked their appearance or attendance upon the sessions. As a matter of fact, although Bishop Atkinson yielded to the affectionate importunity of his brethren, and joined them in the opening service, yet he hesitated about taking his seat in the House of Bishops until he had some assurance of the disposition of the house towards his absent brethren. Bishop Lay seems to have arrived after Bishop Atkinson, and upon being pressed to resume their seats, they took Bishop Potter, of New York, into their confidence, and especially desired to be assured of the course likely to be taken in the case of the Bishop of Alabama. During the recess of the House of Bishops, Bishop Potter communicated informally with influential members of the house, and carried back to the two Bishops an invitation to take their seats, and "to trust to the honor and love of their brethren." Such a basis of union appealed to both men, and they promptly entered the House of Bishops, and were received with most cordial expressions of joy and affection. The same day the clerical and lay deputies from North Carolina took their seats in the lower house, doubtless by the advice of the Bishop. [The Hon. Kemp P. Battle, late President of the University of North Carolina, was in 1865 the youngest of the lay deputies from his Diocese attending the General Convention in Philadelphia. He said to Bishop Atkinson, on the first day of the Convention, that he was satisfied, from what he had experienced and observed in personal intercourse with the members, that they might safely take their seats at once. The Bishop replied pleasantly that the enthusiasm of young men must be held in a little,--or something to that effect.] Texas and Tennessee were also represented by deputies in both orders, and the reunion of the Dioceses had in a measure been effected.
We of this day can hardly realize what a venture of faith it was for a Southern delegate to undertake that trip to Philadelphia in October, 1865. That city was thought to be one in which anti-Southern feeling had been most intense. It was in Philadelphia that the Episcopal Recorder had been uttering its bitterness; and some of its leading Churchmen were of national reputation and influence as leaders in all those matters in which the North and the South had been arrayed in arms against each other. And although they held fast to their trust in that Christian fellowship, which drew them on to make this venture for its preservation, they had many anxious thoughts; and we, who remained at home, looked with mingled hope and fear for the first letters which should tell us how they fared. They had acted against the judgment and the wishes of the great body of their Southern brethren. They had followed their Bishop; it was to be proven whether he had again led them aright.
There remained no more doubt after the second day of the session. On all sides they met kindly welcome and hearty greetings. Not only in the sessions of the Convention and in the general intercourse among the members, but generous citizens of Philadelphia, especially John and William Welsh, par nobile fratrum, made them at home in their houses, and without their knowledge paid their hotel bills, and carried them off to be their honored guests for the rest of the session, loading them with every courtesy and kindness which their generous hearts could devise.
The Rev. Dr. Hubbard, one of the deputies from North Carolina, writing from Philadelphia during the session of the Convention, to The Church Intelligencer, of which he was editor, says of their reception and treatment: "There was in word, in look, in act, a sincerity that could not be mistaken of joy that we were once more reunited. We felt that we were taken to their hearts again, not as reconciled after an estrangement, but simply as brethren met after long absence, brethren whose early love was unbroken, and between whom had never been suspicion or mistrust. They seem to have risen above all considerations of worldly interest, to have realized that the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world, and to have allowed no earthly sympathy to interfere with their affection for us as brethren in Him." [In Dr. Brand's "Life of Bishop Whittingham" is the following statement: "At a meeting of the Board of Missions, on the announcement by a member that the two Southern Bishops had that day taken their place in the House of Bishops, the Gloria in Excelsis was sung."]
This exuberance of emotion and sentiment, which quite justified Bishop Potter's very sanguine anticipations, as expressed in the quotation on a previous page, was soon put to the test, and well did it stand the test. Bishop Atkinson and Bishop Lay had felt that Southern men should be present in that Convention, not merely, perhaps not chiefly, because they believed that their presence would call out the strong fraternal sympathies of their former association, but because they knew that, face to face and under the influence of mutual sympathy and respect engendered by personal contact, the few delicate matters which had to be considered and settled would be better managed than if each party, even with the best and most generous purposes, stood off and looked only at its own side of the case.
Bishop Lay's case was easily disposed of. The Convention would readily have admitted Arkansas as a Diocese, and accepted him as its Bishop, if that had been practicable in the actual condition of affairs. But the results of the war in the South West had left little or nothing of the scattered congregations which had organized as a Diocese in November, 1862; and so Bishop Lay was simply recognized in his old position as Missionary Bishop of the South West.
The case of Bishop Wilmer gave little real trouble, although his relations with the military authorities in Alabama just at that time created a good deal of prejudice in the minds of some Northern men. By a joint resolution of the two houses it was declared that he should be recognized as Bishop of Alabama, upon making the Declaration of Conformity contained in the Ordinal, and forwarding to the Presiding Bishop the proper evidence and testimonials of his Consecration. There was some discussion of the proper form of the resolution, with messages back and forth between the two houses, but no real difficulty, and, so far as appears or as is remembered, no immoderate development of sectional feeling.
The real trouble came with the introduction of resolutions for the appointment of a joint service of thanksgiving for the restoration of peace, and its accompanying blessings of restored unity. The record shows the gradual process by which elements of difference and of contention were eliminated, and a form of resolution agreed upon, in which the South as well as the North could cordially unite. And looked at with an eye of discrimination, and remembering the situation of affairs, it is a very wonderful record. It is easily accessible in the Journal of the General Convention, and so need not be gone over here, save in a brief summary of the chief points. Bishop Burgess first prepared the draft of a resolution which he showed to Bishop Lay, who pointed out that, by including a reference to the abolition of slavery, he had made it difficult for Southern men to adopt it, whatever might be their feelings, without putting themselves into an embarrassing position. The resolutions also contained an emphatic sentence upon the reestablishment of the authority of the United States government over all the land. Upon his own request, Bishop Burgess was afterwards allowed to amend his resolutions by omitting the reference to slavery. Subsequently the whole matter was referred to a committee consisting of the five senior Bishops, thus making Bishop Hopkins chairman of the committee. This committee reported resolutions appointing a special service of thanksgiving "for God's manifold mercies to our country and His Church, especially in giving us deliverance from the late afflicting war, in reestablishing the authority of the National Government over all the land, in restoring to our country the blessings of union and concord, and in bringing back the unity of the Church as represented in this Convention." This report, with the accompanying resolution, was adopted by the House of Bishops.
During all the discussions of this question, Bishop Atkinson and Bishop Lay had absented themselves from the house. Upon the assembling of the House of Bishops in its next session, after having adopted the report and resolution of the committee just mentioned, it became known that the two Southern Bishops present felt that they could not join in the service of thanksgiving in the terms adopted by the house; and, in order to give them an opportunity of expressing themselves and declaring their position, Bishop Odenheimer moved a reconsideration of the vote, and the question was once more before the house. The words of Bishop Lay will best describe what followed:
"All eyes were upon Bishop Atkinson, as he answered the appeal made to him. He knew that he had that to say which must needs be distasteful to men full of exultation at the Southern downfall. With no diffidence and with no temper, rather with the frankness of a child uttering his thoughts, he opened all his .mind:
"'We are asked,' said he, 'to unite with you in returning thanks for the restoration of peace and unity. The former we can say, the latter we cannot say.
We are thankful for the restoration of peace. War is a great evil. It is clear to my mind that in the counsels of the All-wise, the issue of this contest was predetermined. I am thankful that the appointed end has come, and that war is exchanged for peace. But we are not thankful for the unity described in the resolution, 'reestablishing the authority of the National Government over all the land.' We acquiesce in that result. We will accommodate ourselves to it, and will do our duty as citizens of the common Government. But we cannot say that we are thankful. We labored and prayed for a very different termination, and, if it had seemed good to our Heavenly Father, would have been very thankful for the War to result otherwise than it has resulted. I am willing to say I am thankful for the restoration of Peace to the country and unity to the Church.'"
Thereupon, Bishop Stevens, of Pennsylvania, moved the following substitute for the report of the five Bishops:
"Resolved, That the House of Bishops, in consideration of the return of peace to the country and unity to the Church, propose to devote Tuesday, the seventeenth day of October instant, as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God for these His inestimable benefits; and that an appropriate service, prepared under the direction of the Five senior Bishops, be held in St. Luke's Church.
"Resolved, That the Bishops affectionately request the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies to join with them in the observance and services of the proposed Thanksgiving."
An effort was made to lay these resolutions on the table, but it was defeated by the decisive vote of seven for and sixteen against the motion to table. The resolutions were then adopted, and being the same day communicated to the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, that house promptly adopted the following resolution, proposed by Mr. Hunt of Western New York:
"Resolved, That this House, recognizing with profound gratitude the goodness of Almighty God manifested in the restoration of national peace and union, will cordially unite in the thanksgiving services appointed by the House of Bishops on Tuesday next."
There were those who felt much dissatisfaction that the restoration of the authority of the Federal government, and the abolition of slavery, were not emphasized in the appointment of this day of thanksgiving; and efforts were made once and again to inject into the action of the Convention terms which should express those ideas. We are told that political newspapers took up the matter, and in other ways outside pressure made it hard for many of the deputies to adhere to the position they had taken. But they stood nobly by their determination to sacrifice their own feelings, and to restrain their natural impulses, in order that their Southern brethren present and absent might be fully assured of their Christian love and respect. They promptly and decisively voted down every attempt made to alter the terms of the resolutions adopted, and they gave thanks to God for restored unity and love in words which might come free and warm from every heart.
Thus in spite of the weakness and perversity of human nature, and the faults of human prejudice and temper, and the opposition even of some good men both North and South, the Spirit of Christ ruled in the Body of Christ, and made men at last "to be of one mind in an house."
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States was again One, as the result of the meeting of the General Convention at Philadelphia, in October, 1865. When that Convention adjourned, it was felt that the cause of unity in the Church was safe.
There is but little to add in the story of the Church in the Confederate States. The Dioceses of the South had said in 1861 that they withdrew from the Church in the United States only because of the necessity arising out of a state of war. When the War had passed by, it proved to be even as they had said. They could not remain apart, not even when some of them thought that they wished to do so. The unity of the One Head drew the divided members together, and before they knew it they were again One.
The General Council of the Southern Church, according to the provisions of its constitution adopted in 1862, was to meet the second Wednesday in November, 1865. The place originally appointed had been Mobile, but it was changed to Augusta on account of the military order closing the Alabama churches. On the day appointed the Bishops of Georgia, Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama met in St. Paul's Church, Augusta, with clerical and lay deputies from Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama, and clerical deputies alone from South Carolina and Mississippi. On the second day one lay deputy from South Carolina appeared. Only Virginia had a full delegation; South Carolina had only two clergymen and one layman; Alabama the same; Mississippi, one clergyman; Florida had no representative; eighteen deputies in all.
The Rev. Charles C. Pinckney was chosen President of the House of Deputies, and the Rev. John M. Mitchell, secretary. The Rev. W. H. Harrison was chosen secretary of the House of Bishops. Resolutions were passed substituting the word "United" in the place of "Confederate," in the Prayer Book, and one or two other resolutions seeming to imply the possible continuance of one or more Dioceses in a condition of separation; and the two houses united in a dignified and manly protest against military interference with the rights of the Church in Alabama, where General Thomas's order closing the churches was still in force.
But the really significant and important action by this Council was contained in Resolutions I and V, of a series of preambles and resolutions adopted jointly by the Bishops and Deputies, as follows:
"Resolved, I. That in the judgment of this Council it is perfectly consistent with the good faith which she owes to the Bishops and Dioceses with which she has been in union since 1862, for any Diocese to decide for herself whether she shall any longer be in union with this Council."
V. "That whenever any Diocese shall determine to withdraw from this Ecclesiastical Confederation, such withdrawal shall be considered as duly accomplished when an official notice, signed by the Bishop and Secretary of such Diocese, shall have been given to the Bishops of the Dioceses remaining in connection with this Council."
After a session of three days the Council adjourned sine die, and the Church in the Confederate States had ceased to be.
The dissolution of this organization was the direct result of the Christian love and courteous consideration manifested at the General Convention in Philadelphia. No one, after that, could really desire to perpetuate division. In the preamble to the joint resolutions of the Council at Augusta, it is recited:
"Whereas, the spirit of charity which prevailed in the proceedings of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, at its late session in Philadelphia, has warmly commended itself to the hearts of this Council; therefore, Resolved," etc., as given above. And in every Diocesan Council, as one by one they met, and took the necessary action to effect their reunion with the Church in the United States, either in the very body of the record of the change made, or in the address of the Bishop, or report of the committee recommending the change in the relation of the Diocese, mention is made of the spirit of love and unity manifested at the General Convention, in such a way that it is plain to be seen that the course of events at that General Convention was the determining factor in the problem as worked out in each Diocese. Well may it be claimed for those who attended from the South, and especially for the great-hearted and Catholic-minded Bishop of North Carolina, that they were the providential instruments through whom reunion, as it actually came about, was accomplished. To Bishop Atkinson, more than to any other one man, we owe, under God, the peace and unity which the Church entered upon and enjoyed so immediately upon the close of the great War between the States.
One by one the Southern Dioceses met in their Diocesan Councils, and in resolutions setting forth the necessity under which they had acted in making their separate organization in 1861, and recognizing the removal of that necessity, withdrew from their temporary association, and renewed their connection with the Church in the United States. And Southern Churchmen still recall with pride, and with humble gratitude to God, the history of that brief episode. As their fathers repelled the name and the thought of schism, in connection with that Southern Church, so we believe that the true story of their conduct does abundantly show that they were fully justified in their claim to have preserved throughout its brief existence the Catholic Faith and the Catholic spirit. And we believe that the page which records the history of the "Church in the Confederate States" is one of the fairest and brightest pages in the history of our American Church, and of our American Christianity.
The following are the dates on which the Dioceses of "The Church in the Confederate States," not represented at Philadelphia, renewed their connection with the Church in the United States:
The Diocese of Georgia, January 3, 1866
The Diocese of Alabama, January 17, 1866
The Diocese of South Carolina, February 16, 1866
The Diocese of Florida, February 22, 1866
The Diocese of Mississippi, May 9, 1866
The Diocese of Virginia May 16, 1866
STATEMENT BY BISHOP ATKINSON AND BISHOP LAY
The following letter was sent to leading clergymen and laymen throughout the Southern Dioceses, and was published in the Church papers, upon the adjournment of the General Convention of 1865.
TO OUR BRETHREN IN THE SOUTHERN DIOCESES
In resuming our seats in the General Convention of the Church in the United States, we have taken a step in advance of those with whom we have been for some years associated. We were aware that we ventured much: but we were prepared to venture much in order to secure the reunion of the Church, and to obviate the evils which were likely to grow up in the absence of frank and personal conference.
It seems proper that we should make known to you what has happened during this memorable session.
We demanded no formal guarantees: the assembled Bishops offered us no pledge save that of "their honor and their love." As a House and as individuals they welcomed us with cordial greeting.
There has been in the House of Bishops a careful avoidance of what might give us pain. Painful things were sometimes spoken, but even then the speakers used studied moderation and self-restraint.
The results arrived at are as follows:
Bishop Lay, although he held that the erection of Arkansas into a diocese, and his election as diocesan, were valid acts, preferred to waive that question. By the calamities of war the Church in that State has been so enfeebled that it is no longer able to exhibit an organization. He therefore answered to his name, and was received by the House, as Missionary Bishop of the Southwest.
In the matter of Bishop Wilmer, no official documents were before the Convention, and the case was complicated by an unhappy conflict between the military and the ecclesiastical authorities in the State of Alabama. And yet, after elaborate discussion, his consecration was ratified on conditions not liable to objection, unanimously in the House of Bishops, and with only one negative vote in the House of Deputies, which vote was subsequently withdrawn.
The Bishop-elect of Tennessee was accepted with great unanimity, and consecrated without delay to his high office.
In celebrating a thanksgiving, the Convention abstained from disputed topics, and confined its expression of gratitude to the mercies which we recognize in common, viz., peace in the country and unity in the Church.
In devising measures to provide relief for sufferers in the South, the action of the Church was marked by sympathy and delicacy.
In establishing a system for the instruction of the freedmen, our advice was sought, and Episcopal authority duly respected.
In general, while the Bishops and other members of the Convention have in no wise denied or concealed their sentiments on the questions political and social brought by the war to a practical solution, they have not required of us any expression of opinion on these topics. They have carefully discriminated between the political and the ecclesiastical aspects of these questions, and have confined their expressed judgments and their action to the latter. They are content with the assurance that we render for conscience' sake, allegiance honest and sincere, to the Government of the United States, and will teach others so to do.
We see nothing now to hinder the renewal of the relations formerly existing in the Church.
We feel bound to acknowledge that we have been greatly indebted to many of the Bishops for the warm fraternal feeling manifested by them, and for their generous exposure of themselves to censure because of their efforts to promote peace and unity; nor ought we to withhold our conviction that the great body of the House of Deputies have deserved well of the Church, because of the manliness with which they have encountered reproach, and perhaps subjected themselves to suffering, in the cause of peace and holy moderation.
In conclusion, we desire to record our deep conviction and our reverent acknowledgement that the results now related are the doing, not of man but of God.
Our profound gratitude is due to Him Who, as we trust, in this perilous juncture, has interposed effectually to heal the divisions of the Church, and to calm the passions which threatened to rend it asunder.
Bishop of North Carolina.
Henry C. Lay,
Missionary Bishop of the Southwest.
House of Bishops, Philadelphia, October 20, 1865.
In all the statements and conclusions of the Bishops of North Carolina and the Southwest I most heartily concur; and with them desire to record my deep conviction that the results related are the doing, not of man but of God.
Charles Todd Quintard, Bishop of Tennessee.