Church nixes pew hon­or­ing Con­fed­er­ate pres­i­dent

Texarkana Gazette - - METRO/SOUTH - By Jay Reeves

BIRM­ING­HAM, Ala.—An Alabama church has re­moved a pew hon­or­ing Con­fed­er­ate Pres­i­dent Jef­fer­son Davis, say­ing the memo­rial had no place at a time when rebel sym­bols have been adopted by white su­prem­a­cists.

The pas­tor of St. John’s Epis­co­pal Church, Robert C. Wis­newski Jr., posted a mes­sage on the church web­site last week say­ing the wooden pew was ded­i­cated more than 90 years ago at a ser­vice fea­tur­ing a pro-lynch­ing seg­re­ga­tion­ist.

Af­ter learn­ing of the pew’s his­tory at a re­cent plan­ning re­treat, church lead­ers dis­cussed it and then voted to re­move the pew from the sanc­tu­ary and place it in the church ar­chive, he wrote.

“Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments and sym­bols have in­creas­ingly been used by groups that pro­mote white supremacy and are now, to many peo­ple of all races, seen to rep­re­sent in­sen­si­tiv­ity, ha­tred, and even evil,” Wis­newski wrote. “The mis­sion of our par­ish is di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to what these sym­bols have come to mean.”

The mostly white church is in Mont­gomery, where Davis lived briefly be­fore the Con­fed­er­acy moved its na­tional cap­i­tal to Richmond, Vir­ginia, in 1861. Church lore main­tained that a pew marked with a bronze plaque hon­or­ing Davis dated to the start of the Civil War, the pas­tor wrote.

The pew ac­tu­ally wasn’t in­stalled un­til decades af­ter the war, when whites were try­ing to main­tain con­trol in the South, Wis­newski wrote. Ten­nessee writer John Trot­wood Moore, who sup­ported seg­re­ga­tion and op­posed an anti-lynch­ing law, spoke at the ded­i­ca­tion ser­vice in 1925.

“Davis was a po­lit­i­cal fig­ure, not a church fig­ure, nor even a mem­ber of the par­ish. Act­ing to re­move the pew and plaque is the cor­rec­tion of a po­lit­i­cal act,” the pas­tor’s mes­sage said.

A St. John’s Epis­co­pal on­line his­tory says the con­gre­ga­tion dates to the 1830s. South­ern churches that sup­ported se­ces­sion by the slave-hold­ing states met at the con­gre­ga­tion’s for­mer build­ing in 1861, and the cur­rent church was built af­ter the war ended.

A star marks the spot on the steps of Alabama’s Capi­tol were Davis took the oath as Con­fed­er­ate pres­i­dent. Across the street from the Capi­tol stands the “First White House of the Con­fed­er­acy,” where Davis lived for about three months in Mont­gomery.

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