Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America was an Anglican Christian denomination which existed from 1861 to 1865. It formed from parts of the Episcopal Church in the United States during the American Civil War. When the Southern states seceded from the Union and established the Confederate States of America, it was not unusual for Christian churches to split along national lines also. The Episcopalians were different as their separation was made only after the Confederacy was created and ended within six months of the South's surrender when southern Episcopalians reunited with their counterparts in the North.
As Southern states began to secede from the Union, beginning with South Carolina in December 1860, dioceses struggled over the issue of their status in the Episcopal Church. The first diocese to separate was that of Louisiana, whose bishop Leonidas Polk issued a proclamation on 30 January 1861, stating, "The State of Louisiana having, by a formal ordinance, through her Delegates in Convention assembled, withdrawn herself from all further connection with the United States of America, and constituted herself a separate Sovereignty, has, by that act, removed our Diocese from within the pale of 'The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States'". While other bishops disagreed with Polk's view that a diocese's relationship with the wider church was automatically severed by the actions of the civil authorities, they agreed that there was a separation but not a division. The bishops also maintained that this was a separation forced upon them by the changing political realities.
On March 23, 1861, as the two senior bishops, Polk and Stephen Elliott of Georgia requested the Confederate dioceses send representatives to Montgomery, Alabama, for a meeting on July 3. All invited dioceses were represented except Texas. Virginia and North Carolina dioceses were not represented as their states had not seceded at the time the meeting was called. At this meeting, a committee was chosen to write a draft constitution and canons. This meeting ended with a resolution stating: "That the secession of the States ... from the United States, and the formation by them of a new government, called the Confederate States of America, renders it necessary and expedient that the Dioceses within those States should form among themselves an independent organization."
From October 16–20, a convention was held at Trinity Church in Columbia, South Carolina, which recommended the proposed constitution to the dioceses for ratification. The constitution was essentially the same as that of the Episcopal Church in the United States. It differed in that it introduced a provincial structure (the Episcopal Church USA would later create provinces as well), and the diocesan and General Conventions were renamed diocesan councils and General Council respectively. By November 1862, most dioceses had ratified the constitution. The Dioceses of Tennessee and Louisiana were not able to hold diocesan conventions until after the war and were never officially a part of the Confederate church. The first General Council was held November 12–22 in Saint Paul's Church, Augusta, Georgia. A meeting of the Southern bishops was held there on September 27, 1865, and a second and final General Council was held there on November 8–10, 1865.
After the South's defeat, the Southern dioceses rejoined the Episcopal Church in the United States at its 1865 General Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The only southern bishop consecrated during the separation, Richard Hooker Wilmer, was accepted into the re-united church.
- Diocese of Alabama
- Diocese of Arkansas
- Diocese of Florida
- Diocese of Georgia
- Diocese of Mississippi
- Diocese of North Carolina
- Diocese of South Carolina
- Diocese of Texas
- Diocese of Virginia
- Bearden Jr., Robert E. L. (Winter 1945), "The Episcopal Church in the Confederate States", The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 4 (4): 269–275
- Cheshire, Joseph Blount. The Church in the Confederate States: A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States (New York, London, Bombay and Calcutta: Longmans, Green and Co., 1912), Chapter 1, n. pag.
- Cheshire, Chapter 2.