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Protestant Episcopal Church



A.D. 1861,


Protestant Episcopal Church



A.D. 1865.



A Lay Deputy from the Diocess of North Carolina.



Weldon, N.C.

Printed at Harrell's Cheap Book and Job Printing House,



Having seen several inaccurate statements published in reference to the organization of the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States" in the year 1861, and of its re-union with the Church in the United States in the year 1865, it has occurred to me that a full statements of the facts, from one who was a participant in one of the Diocesan, and in the General Councils of the Southern Church, and afterwards a Delegate at its re-union with the "Protestant Episcopal Church" in the United States, in the year 1865, would be acceptable to the great body of Churchmen, and put upon record what might otherwise be lost, I have written this pamphlet.

I shall endeavor to avoid any reference to the civil divisions of that day, and shall refer to them, only so far, as they may be necessarily connected with the action of the Southern Church, leaving to the future historian the privilege of passing an impartial judgment on the mighty questions involved.

After the Secession of the States of South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas, from the Union, there was a diversity of opinion amongst Southern Churchmen, whether the severance of the National Union, did of itself, and without any act of the Church in the several Diocesses, produce a disruption of the bonds which bound the Diocesses together under the Constitution of 1789. Bishop Atkinson in his address to the Convention of the Diocess of North Carolina, in the year 1861, held that it did not--but "as the states had seceded and adopted the government of the Confederate States, as a Church, she must acknowledge and pray for and obey that government," "for as [1/2] to her, its officers are "the powers that be," that St. Paul bids her obey." At the same time changes in the Liturgy, prayers for the Confederate States Congress, when assembled, and the appointment of clerical and lay deputies to a meeting of deputies from all the Diocesses in the seceded States were recommended. In obedience to a circular letter, issued early in the year 186, the Bishops of South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and Texas, with clerical and lay deputies from all the above States, except Texas, met in Convention in Montgomery Alabama on the 3rd day of July 1861, at the time that the call for this Convention was made, the States of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas, had not seceded, and their Dicoesses were not represented.

The most important matters acted upon and adopted at this Convention were the draft of a Constitution and Canons, the appointment of Agents to receive and disburse Missionary contributions, and a resolution for sending the proposed Constitution to the several Diocesses in the Confederate States declaring that when seven or more shall have adopted it, the President shall declare the Union complete and the Constitution in force over those adopting it. After a Session of three days, the Convention adjourned to meet in Columbia, S.C., on the 16th of October ensuing.

The Convention met in Columbia agreeably to adjournment. Bishop Elliott of Georgia, took the Chair. On a call of Bishops ten answered to their names, viz: Bishops Elliot of Georgia; Green, of Mississippi; Rutledge, of Florida; Davis, of South Carolina; Gregg, of Texas; Meade, of Virginia; Otey, of Tennessee; Atkinson, of North Carolina; Johns, Assistant Bishop, of Virginia; and Lay, Missionary Bishop of the South West. Clerical and lay delegates from nine States were present. The Convention having been duly organized Bishop Elliott retired from the Presidency of the Convention and called to the Chair, the Rt. Rev. Wm. Meade, the senior Bishop present. Bishop Elliott, Chairman of the Committee appointed at Montgomery to prepare a Constitution and Canons reported a draft of a Constitution which was considered article by article, and after amendments was adopted on the 8th day of the Session. A resolution was passed to send it to the Diocesan Conventions within the Confederate States and if ratified to send three clerical and three lay deputies to a general Council to be held in Augusta, Ga., on the second Wednesday of Nov. 1862. It was further resolved, that whenever seven Diocesses shall have adopted the Constitution, the presiding Bishop shall declare the Union of those Diocesses complete, and the Constitution in force over them, at the same time a resolution was passed, declaring that until more permanent action can be had, the Canons of the [2/3] Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, should be provisionally adopted so far as they did not come in conflict with their political relations with the Confederate States.

On the 8th day of the Session a Committee consisting of Bishops Meade, Otey and Elliott, to whom was referred the petition of the delegation from Alabama, in reference to the consecration of Bishops, made a report from which the following extract is taken.

"All the Confederate States by the goodness of God, possess the privilege of Episcopal supervision, except Alabama. The ordinary course of canonical proceedings for the election and consecration of a Bishop has been sopped by the interruption of all intercourse between the Northern and Southern States in the late Federal Union. This interruption, however, of social and ecclesiastical intercourse between brethren of the same communion, however much to be regretted, has been occasioned by circumstances, over which the Church in its ecclesiastical organization has had no control, and it is still highly desirable and earnestly wished that the "unity of the spirit" be preserved by us all "in the bond of peace," and that the same spirit of love and peace which our Lord so earnestly inculcated in his first followers be cultivated and cherished among us." While therefore, we propose no change in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church in the organization which has existed among us for eighty years past, we think no alterations should be made in our forms and offices, further than shall be found indispensable in consequence of the political changes which force them upon us. "We would therefore advise, that the Diocess of Alabama proceed under such regulations as have heretofore existed and still exist in the Diocess for the election of a Bishop, and, as the Canons now prepared for the government of the Church in the Confederate States, require to lay the evidences of election before the standing Committees of the several Diocesses in the Confederate States, which shall be transmitted to the "Senior Bishop in the same, who shall take order for the consecration of the Bishop elect according to the usages and Canons of the Church."

In accordance with the recommendation of the above report, Richard Hooker Wilmer, D.D., was consecrated Bishop of Alabama in St. Paul's Church, Richmond, Va., on the 6th day of March 1862, by Bishops Wm. Meade of Virginia, Stephen Elliott of Georgia, and J. Johns, Assistant Bishop of Virginia.

The changes made in the Constitution in the "Church in the United States" cannot better be given than they are in the report of a Committee made to the Convention of the Diocess of North Carolina in the year 1862.

[4] 1st. Change ofnames.

(A.) From Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, to Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America.

(B.) From General Convention to General Council.

(C.) From Diocesan Convention to Diocesan Council.

(D.) A new article proposing the institution of ecclesiastical Provinces and Provincial Council. Extract from article IV, of the Constitution of the "Church in the Confederate States of America," viz: "Whenever any one the Confederate States shall contain more than one Diocess, said States may with the consent of all the Diocesses in said Sate, constitute an ecclesiastical Province, in which a Provincial Council may be held at least once in every three years, which Provincial Council shall be made up of all the Bishops having jurisdiction within the Province and of such representatives, clerical and lay, from the Diocesses within the Province, as may be determined upon by the Diocesan Councils thereof. If there be more than one Bishop within the province, the Senior Bishop by consecration shall preside in the Provincial Council, and when there shall be three, or more than three Bishops, they shall form a separate house, whenever such Council shall legislate, its acts shall be of force within all the Diocesses embraced within the Province.

2nd. Time of meeting in General Council.

From the first Wednesday in October to the second Wednesday in November.

3. Representation in General Council, from four clergymen and four laymen, to three clergymen and three laymen.

4. Formation of new Diocesses. There is no specification in the old Constitution of any number of Parishes and Presbyters requisite for the admission of a new Diocess in any State or territory not already represented in General Convention while in the proposed Constitution six officiating Presbyters, regularly settled, are required in such Diocess.

5th. Division of a Diocess.

(A.) From consent of both Diocesses concerned, together with that of the General Convention, to consent of Diocesan Council and Bishop or Bishops only. A like consent is required when a new Diocess is formed out of two or more.

(B.) From requiring not less than fifteen self-supporting Parishes and fifteen Presbyters in the new Diocess, to not less than ten self-supporting Parishes and ten Presbyters.

(C.) From no new Diocess to be formed if any existing Diocess is thereby reduced, so as to contain less than thirty self-supporting Parishes, or less than twenty Presbyters, to less than fifteen self-supporting Parishes and fifteen Presbyters.

6th. Changes in the Constitution from requiring a majority of Diocesses to requiring two-thirds, for the ratification of any change."

On the 19th of September 1862, Bishop Elliott of Georgia gave notice that the Seven Diocesses of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas having adopted the Constitution, the Union of those Diocesses was complete under the name of the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America" and that the first General Council would meet in Augusta, Ga., on the second Wednesday of November 1862. Agreeably to the above notice the General Council met on the day and at the place named. Seven Bishops and clerical and lay deputies from seven Diocesses were present, on a subsequent day the Diocess of Arkansas was admitted into Union with the General Council. The election of the Rt. Rev. Henry C. Lay, to be Bishop of the Diocess was confirmed and deputies admitted to seats in the House.

At this time there were eight Bishops and three hundred and seventy-five clergymen in union with the "Church in the Confederate States" and three Bishops and seventy-three clergymen whose Diocesses were represented in the preliminary Convention, but had been prevented by hostilities from ratifying the Constitution.

After the adoption of a body of Canons, the election of a Treasurer, and other officers, the Convention adjourned to meet in Mobile, Ala., on the 2nd Wednesday of November 1865.

The temper and spirit of the first General Council can best be judged of by its acts, for this purpose extracts are freely made from the pastoral address and other papers published in the Journal of the Sessions.

Extract from the address of the Rev. Christian Hankle, D.D., President of the House of Deputies.

"We have entered brethren, upon a very important and interesting stage in the history of our Church on this continent. We are about, not to detach ourselves from the Church Catholic, but to put forth a new bud from the parent stock. Indeed, by our proceedings thus far, we have already developed the elements of a full, perfect and complete branch, which, I trust, may grow and spread till it cover the whole land and reach, and bless, by its precious influences, the remotest parts of our Confederate States. We aim at no change in the faith and polity of the Church Catholic; nor even in the worship and discipline of our beloved Church, except what our peculiar condition may require. And, herein, we are doing no more than our forefathers did, when they organized our Church in the old United States."

[6] "We are only claiming and exercising the privilege which they claimed and exercised."

Extract from the report of the Committee on the State of the Church.

"In the course of events we have been separated from brethren, with whom we have been associated in the same ecclesiastical communion, since the Protestant Episcopal Church was fully organized and set in operation on this continent. Though now found within different political boundaries, the Church remains essentially one. In this respect we are no more separated from them, than from he members of any Protestant Episcopal Church throughout the world. In matters of this kind, neither geographical bounds, nor civil relations, nor any temperal cause whatsoever, can have effect, so long as in doctrine, discipline and worship we are substantially the same, and as ecclesiastically our unity is to this extent thus preserved, so we would endeavor, in spite of any temptation to the contrary, to cultivate to the utmost towards our former associates, the "unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace."

Extract from the report of the Committee on the Bible and Book of Common Prayer.

"3rd Resolved, The House of Bishops concurring, that a Committee of three Bishops, three Presbyters, and three Laymen, be appointed with instructions to prepare during the interval between the adjournment of this Council and the meeting of the next, and to report to it such alterations in the Book of Common Prayer as may be deemed proper: Provided, such alterations involve no change in the doctrine or discipline of this Church."

Extract from the Pastoral Letter. "Seldom has any Council assembled in the Church of Christ under circumstancesneeding His presence more urgently than this which is now about to submit its conclusions to the judgment of the Universal Church. Forced by the providence of God to separate ourselves from the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States--a Church with whose doctrine, discipline, and worship we are in entire harmony, and with whose action, up to the time of that separation, we were abundantly satisfied--at a moment when civil strife had dipped its foot in blood, and cruel war was desolating our homes and firesides, we required a double measure of grace to preserve the accustomed moderation of the Church in the arrangement of our organic law, in the adjustment of our code of Canons, but above all, in the preservation, without change, of those rich treasures of doctrine and worship which have come to us enshrined in our Book of Common Prayer, cut off likewise from all communication with our sister Church of the world. We [6/7] have been compelled to act without any interchange of opinion even with our mother Church, and alone and unaided to arrange for ourselves the organization under which we should do our part in carrying on to their consummation the purpose of God in Christ Jesus, we trust that the Spirit of Christ has indeed so directed, sanctified and governed us in our work, that we shall be approved by all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and in truth and who are earnest in preparing the world for his coming in glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead.

The Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States, under which we have been exercising our legislative functions, is the same as that of the Church from which we have been providentially separated, save that we have introduced into it a germ of expansion which was wanting in the old Constitution. This is found in the permission which is granted to existing Diocesses to form themselves by subdivision into Provinces, and by this process gradually to reduce our immense Diocesses into Episcopal sees, more like those which, in primitive times, covered the territories of the Roman Empire. It is at present, but a germ, and may lie, for many years, without expansion, but being there, it gives promise in the future of a more close and constant Episcopal supervision than is possible under our present arrangement.

The Canon law, which has been adopted during our present Session, is altogether in its Spirit, and almost in its letter, identical with that under which we have hitherto prospered. We have simplified it in some respects, and have made it more clear and plain in many of its requirements, but no changes have been introduced which have altered either its tone or character. It is the same moderate, just and equal body of ecclesiastical law by which the Church has been governed on this continent since her reception from the Church of England of the treasures of an apostolic ministry and liturgical form of worship. The Prayer Book we have left untouched in any particular save where a change of our civil government and the formation of a new nation have made alteration essentially requisite. Three words comprise all the amendment which has been deemed necessary in the present emergency, for we have been unwilling in the existing confusion of affairs, to lay hands upon a Book, consecrated by the use of ages, and hallowed by associations the most sacred and precious. We give you back your Book of Common Prayer the same as you have entrusted it to us, believing that if it has slight defects, their removal had better be the gradual work of experience than the hasty action of a body convened almost upon the outskirts of a camp."

The civil war having been ended by the submission of all [7/8] the seceeding States to the General Government, it was found impracticable for the second General Council of the Confederate States to assembled in Mobile, and the Southern Diocesses were left free to send delegates to the General Convention of the Church in the United States, which was to assemble in October 1865.

In pursuance of resolutions adopted by the Diocesan Conventions of North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, deputies from those Diocesses were in attendance at the Convenion in Philadelphia in October 1865, and were received with the utmost cordiality. I will specify particularly the presiding Bishop Hopkins of the House of Bishops and the lay deputies, Messrs. Seymore and Hunt, from Western New York.

As soon as it was known that deputies from three of the Southern Diocesses were in attendance, the following resolution was offered by the Rev. George D. Cummins, a clerical delegate from the Diocess of Illinois.

"Resolved, That this House offers its profound gratitude to God, that we have among us our brethren, the clerical and lay deputies from the Diocesses of Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, and that we recognize their presence in our midst as a token and pledge of the future and entire restoration of the union of the Church throughout the length and breadth of the land."

A motion to lay the above resolution on the table was voted down, and it was adopted by such an overwhelming majority that it seemed the matter was forever settled. See House Journal 1865, page 38. On the 9th day of the Session a message was sent down from the House of Bishops as follows:

"Resolved, That the House f Bishops in consideration of the return of peace to the country and unity to the Church, propose to devote, Tuesday, the 17th inst., as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God for these His inestimable benefits; and that an appropriate services be prepared under the direction of the five senior Bishops, to be held in St. Luke's Church."

On motion, this was adopted. See Journal, page 64. On the next day the 10th, a resolution was offered by a lay deputy from Penn., that in most cordially concurring in the resolution from the House of Bishops "especial thanks be offered to Almighty God for the re-establishment of the national authority over our whole country, and for the removal of the great occasion of national dissention and estrangement to which our late troubles were due."

On a call for the ayes and nays it was tabled by the following vote by Diocesses: Ayes 20, nays 6, of the clergy ayes 15, nays 7, of the laity. Journal, pages 63, 64 & 65.

[9] The above extracts from the Journal are quoted to sow the feelings of the House, how heartily the re-union of the Church was received, and how averse the great majority was to introducing into the Thanksgiving services anything that would hinder the Southern deputies from most heartily engaging in them.

The action of the House of Bishops cannot be as well described as it is in the memorial sermon of Bishop Lay, of the Diocess of Easton, delivered before the Convention of North Carolina, May the 18th, 1881.

Extract pages 33.

"The General Convention of 1865. I have been admonished that any memorial of Bishop Atkinson would be imperfect which should fail to make mention of the coming together which he chiefly promoted, of the Diocesses, temporarily separated by civil war. I may not here rehearse the story in order: the time forbids: but some of its incidents may well be revived.

The war ended, the South lay prostrate and disorganized, and communication, even by letter, was dilatory and uncertain. But it happened that the Bishops of North Carolina and of Arkansas had an opportunity of personal Conference. It needed but a moment or two to discover that we were alike convinced, that after the fall of the Confederate nationality, there no longer existed any "raison d'etre" for a Confederate Church, and that no time should be lost in seeking a resumption of our organic relations. Thus Bishop Atkinson set forth to the General Convention, while I was glad to follow him, "haud passibus aequis." We were presently in very delicate and embarrassing circumstances. We knew well that we exposed ourselves to the suspicion of courting the winning side, and of leaving in the lurch brethren in misfortune, especially in Alabama, where the Churches were closed by military edict.

We came into a community exultant with victory and enthusiastic with loyalty, disposed to take for granted that to return was to ask forgiveness. To the tact, the gentleness, the manly outspokenness of Bishop Atkinson, the Church is indebted for the honorable result of this venture. To Bishops Potter and Whittingham, who with friendly violence brought us back to our seats in the House of Bishops, standing guard over us to shield us from any possible annoyance: to Dr. Kerfoot now the Bishop of Pittsburg, and then a deputy from Pennsylvania, who resisted any action discourteous to the few delegates from the South: to John and William Welsh, who laded us with hospitable kindness, we came under lasting obligations.

It soon appeared that the Convention cheerfully acquiesced [9/10] in all that we desired in behalf of our absent brethren.

At the hours appointed for this discussion the Southern Bishops were not present. During a recess, Bishop Burgess came to my desk and complained affectionately yet earnestly, of the marked reflection upon the Bishops, despite the evidence given of their fraternal consideration, in thus declining to attend the debate. I replied, that but a few moments before, Bishop Atkinson had said to me, that the brotherly kindness of the Bishops had been such as we could delight to remember to our dying day, some of them. (Bishop Burgess knew that the allusion was to himself.) We shall never see again. They are now discussing a resolution in which we cannot agree, and will utter sentiments which cannot but pain us. It is best that we should not hear all the words spoken.

But what of the expected peccavi? This issue could not be avoided. Presently Bishop Burgess, of Maine, then in very failing health, offered a resolution appointing an early day to be observed as a Thanksgiving for the results of the war. Among these results as specified in the preamble, were "the universal establishment of the authority of the National Government" and also "the extension among all classes and conditions of men of the blessings of freedom, education, culture, and social improvement."

Bishop Burgess was moved by these kind words. Presently he asked, "what is there in this resolution that can possibly grieve you? I pointed to the words "extension of freedom," I trust in God, I said, that freedom may bring to the colored race all the blessings you anticipate; but wiser men than I, and Northern men at that, honestly doubt whether freedom will prove to them a blessing or a curse. Why should this House commit itself, in a matter wherein it has no authority?

He considered a moment, dropped down into a seat and taking a pen, erased from his resolution the words objected to. Subsequently he asked leave to amend it by inserting the clause, "and gratefully acknowledging the special, loving kindness of the Lord to this Church in the re-establishment of its unity throughout the land, as represented in this National Council."

Upon the sixth day, Bishop Whittingham offered a substitute, and on the motion of Bishop Clarke the whole matter was referred to a Committee consisting of the five senior Bishops. After two days, this Committee reported a preamble and resolutions. In these would not possibly concur.

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 most distasteful to men full of exultation at [10/11] the Southern downfall with no difference and with no temper, rather with the frankness of a child uttering his thought, he opened all his mind.

"We are asked," said he, "to united 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 Allwise, the issue of this contest was pre-determined. 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 "re-establishing 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 a common government. But we cannot say 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 thankful for the war to result otherwise than it has resulted. I am willing to say that I am thankful for the restoration of peace to the country and unity to the Church."

These words, which I feel very sure are substantially accurate, will illustrate how he labored for peace, and yet without any unmanly concession whatsoever. His language "in consideration of the return of peace to the country and unity to the Church," was incorporated in a substitute offered by Bishop Stevens, and adopted by a vote of sixteen to seven, the Southern Bishops being excused from voting.

Those of us who were actors in these proceedings were ever after at a loss suitably to express our admiration of the consideration for the scruples of the few unfortunates displayed by the majority of the Bishops.

I will add in conclusion, that I was a delegate to the Convention, that was held in Columbia, S.C., when the Constitution of the Southern Church was adopted and that neither in the proceedings or debates did I hear any bitterness expressed towards the Northern branch of the Church and but one sentiment of entire harmony with it in doctrine, discipline and worship.


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