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LS: "We Are Family" and Tom Myers
South Carolina is still deep behind the Cotton Curtain. I have lived
there twice, both times as a professor at Claflin, a tiny United Methodist
College, built in 1867 for freed slaves.
I was treated as a pariah by Bishop Temple in 1971-73, and by Bishop
Allison in 1988-89. Fortunately I was much loved by my nurturing black
parish (St. Paul's in Orangeburg). I pressured Bp. Allison to let me meet
with the Standing Committee, and when at last I did, I was not cordially
received, except by Tom Myers. Tom treated me with gentle kindness and
respect. He is one of my dearest friends.
While I lived in South Carolina, Tom, Marcy Walsh (on Executive Council at
the time), our own Peter Lee in Columbia, and the members of the Pineville
site of the Order of Holy Cross were the few white Episcopalians who would
have anything to do with me. (The Sons of the American Revolution chapter
in Orangeburg cancelled its meetings the entire time I was there for fear
that I might attend, as I later learned from one of its other gay members.
The irony is that I am embarrassed that Mother enrolled me, and have been
officially 'inactive' in SAR for several decades!)
Students on my campus were massacred in a peaceful demonstration just
behind St. Paul's a year before I first taught at Claflin: they wanted to
integrate a bowling alley!
Once a student asked me what I meant by 'a mass,' and I replied, "It would
be easier to show you. Would you like to go with me to the weekday mass
right now?. It starts in 5 minutes."
Only the white church had weekday communions, and only about 10
blue-haired ladies and I were ever there. When my student and I arrived,
several persons refused to receive communion "with a Nigra," and the
rector stayed away from work for about a month after. He reported to
Bishop Temple that I had brought on again a recurring heart condition, and
Bishop Temple accused me of "disturbing the good order of the church." I
wrote up the episode and sent it to *The Episcoplian*. Judy Foley, the
editor, replied that they would love to publish the piece but could not,
lest they lose diocesan orders. She suggested that I find some "endowed
Tom Myers serves faithfully, indefatigably, and lovingly in that lonely
vineyard day after day, year after year. He has sold all to follow Christ.
Tom is a most important lifeline that Jesus has sent, not only to people
in South Carolina, but to the uttermost parts of the earth.