Tobias Haller has a great article online today that discusses the background to the aborted schism in the Episcopal Church during the Civil War, the reason for its cause, and the implications for today:
“So the reason for the ‘division’ in the church was not disagreement over slavery, but the concept of the integrity of a national church — the very thing Duncan’s movement contradicts. To our shame, slavery was not the issue that ‘divided’ the church — the church had, on the contrary, refused to take a national position on slavery in the interests of keeping the peace. As Tiffany put it,
The Episcopal Church as an organization had, from the beginning, determined to keep aloof from party politics, and, more fully that other ecclesiastical bodies, had done so. Her membership was very varied among the influential classes of society. Many of the distinguished statesmen of all parties were of her communion. They acted in their several political spheres as citizens and as churchmen, neither gave nor withheld their countenance in political action. The triennial meetings of the General Convention had made the clergy and laity of the North and the South familiar and friendly with one another. The sectional institution of slavery, which occasioned the secession movement, had not been made the subject of general ecclesiastical legislation. It was left to the regulation of the dioceses in which it existed. (494)
Thus, by allowing for local option on the question of slavery, The Episcopal Church was enabled to remain united, until the matter boiled over in the secular arena.
Finally, it is fascinating to me to see that Bishop Duncan appears to think that our present divisions over sexuality are of quite a different moral significance — and obviously far more important — than the question of slavery. It seems to me that this sad past chapter of our national history offers little to support his present pressure for division.”
Read the rest here: In a Godward direction: Duncan: History Lesson