Harris and DuBose: additions and a subtraction proposed for Lesser Feasts and Fasts

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The Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee heard testimony about 11 resolutions on February 19 at its first hearing ahead of General Convention. The most discussed topic was whether the late Bishop Barbara Harris should be added to the Episcopal Church’s calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion, Harris was a fighter for social justice and a role model for many women priests and bishops who followed her.

“Barbara Harris’s impact has been groundbreaking and trailblazing,” said Deputy Glenna Huber of the Diocese of Washington.

However, General Convention has repeatedly affirmed guidelines that establish a 50-year waiting period for inclusion on the calendar. Deputy Liza Anderson of the Diocese of Minnesota, a former member of the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music, proposed instead to first commemorate Harris’s consecration as a preface to considering including her in Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

The preponderance of testimony was in favor of Resolution D012. “Let us not live for the rules, because our church has been full of rulebreakers. Thank you, Jesus,” said Alternate Deputy Guy Leemhuis, Diocese of Los Angeles.

The committee also heard testimony in favor of removing the Rev. William Porcher DuBose from the calendar. DuBose, a professor and dean at the University of the South’s School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee, who died in 1918, came from a slaveowning family, defended enslaving people and wrote favorably of the Ku Klux Klan.

The school has distanced itself from him and Dr. Benjamin King, a professor of Christian History at the school, read from a letter signed by all five tenured faculty members in support of Resolution D011, to remove DuBose from the church calendar.

“DuBose did not merely hold an ideology of white supremacy, he praised those who used violence and intimidation to enact it,” Dr. King read from the letter.

The committee also heard testimony favoring Resolution D017, to add the Juneteenth anniversary of the end of slavery to the calendar and on Resolution A011, to develop a process for local commemorations of candidates as a prerequisite to being added to the church calendar. And it heard testimony favoring a Resolution C007, to set March 10 as a date around which churches are encouraged to honor abolitionist Harriet Ross Tubman. Tubman, born enslaved, rescued an estimated 70 people from slavery using the Underground Railroad.

Witnesses also testified on Resolution A007, Resolution A008, Resolution A010, Resolution A013, Resolution A014, Resolution C006 and Resolution D010.