Sunday, February 09, 2014

Letter to the Rectors, Vestry, and Ministers of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia

The following is the letter which I am sending by certified mail to the rectors, vestry, and ministers of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, tomorrow on Monday. The letter is address to Rev. Adams-Riley and copied to the others listed at the end. I wish the leadership to be entirely informed about this issue.

At this blog posting I have the email I sent last weekend.

I don't think they will want to be know as America's leading church for hosting neo-Confederate groups.

I will be sending a copy to the Episcopal bishops also, along with a letter addressed to them.

                                                                       February 10, 2014

                                                                       Edward H. Sebesta

Rev. D. Wallace Adams-Riley - Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
815 E. Grace St.
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Rev. Adams-Riley:

I am an investigative researcher of the neo-Confederate movement. I am published internationally in peer reviewed academic journals and by university presses as well as in Black Commentator. I enclose a copy of my online resume which is also available at

I am writing you to request that your church stop hosting the neo-Confederate groups the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

The 2014 UDC national convention is scheduled to be in Richmond, Virginia. From the year 2000 St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has hosted the UDC national convention services every other year, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012. Please see the Excel table enclosed. From 1990 to 2013 St. Paul’s Episcopal Church hosted the UDC national convention services 9 times, out of the 12 times an Episcopal Church has hosted the UDC from 1990. If you look at the enclosed bar graph of denominations hosting the UDC from 1990 to 2013 you can see that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has by itself made the Episcopal Church the most frequent UDC convention hosting denomination, more than all the other denominations combined.

The 2015 SCV national convention is scheduled to be in Richmond, Virginia. Though St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has only last hosted the SCV in 1996, Episcopal churches in general are tied with Roman Catholic churches for hosting SCV national conventions since 1990. I enclose an Excel table of the churches that hosted from 1990 to 2013 and a bar graph of hosting by denominations.

The bar graphs and Excel tables mentioned above are also online at

One concern I have developed in investigating neo-Confederate groups is how they are enabled by mainstream organizations such as corporations, churches, government bodies and others. So I have decided to ask these groups to reconsider their relations with specific neo-Confederate groups. It is all well and good that I have written on extremist Confederate Christian nationalist for the Canadian Review of American Studies (, but I have realized that the enabling of a racist historical consciousness in the general public and racist neo-Confederate groups by mainstream churches is as detrimental to America as these fringe churches. The Christianity advocated by the SCV is largely similar, you can review their Chaplain’s Chronicle online at

 The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is an extremist and racist group of which is extensively documented in a Black Commentator article which is available online at a free guest link at  (Link is also in my online resume.)

In the summer of 2013 I had a successful campaign getting corporations to stop supporting the SCV as reported in a Black Commentator article which is available online at a free guest link at (Link is also in my online resume.) It took eight days for this campaign to succeed. I regret to say that so far the temples of Mammon were much more willing to give up neo-Confederacy than the churches of Christ.

The SCV often selects a historic and architecturally impressive church to hold their national convention service. When a faith group allows the SCV to use their church there is an implied endorsement to the extent that the SCV is an acceptable group to be using their facilities which normalizes them despite their extremist and racist agenda. The use of a historic and architecturally impressive church lends the prestige of the church building to the SCV.

I ask that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church not enable the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 2014 or in any other year by allowing them the use of their facilities.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy has a lengthy history of supporting white supremacy going back to the early 20th century shortly after they had finished organizing. You can see many primary documents regarding their racism at and use the search term “daughters.”

However, their racism is not confined to the past. This is an organization that currently runs a Red Shirt Shrine to glorify a violent white supremacist group in 19th century South Carolina and of which they are proud of as documented in the June/July 2001 UDC Magazine article, pages 23, 24, and the cover of their magazine. In an article in the Dec. 2012 UDC Magazine, pages 11-14, is an appalling racist article in which the infamous post-Civil War Black Codes of the former Confederate states are defended, African American men are represented have been potential rapists, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution is argued to be misguided, freed African Americans are asserted to have been incompetent to be citizens. The article asserts, “Newly liberated Negroes were not prepared for their freedom…” These are but two contemporary examples of the UDC’s racism. Documentation enclosed.

Allowing the UDC the use of a prominent historical and architectural church such as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church enables the UDC by lending the UDC the use of the building the prestige of the building as well as the prestige of the Episcopal Church.

Finally the SCV and the UDC exist to glorify the Confederacy a government created to perpetuate slavery and white supremacy.

The British academic, Michael Billig in his landmark book, “Banal Nationalism,” discusses the fact that the discussion of nationalism usually revolves around extremists to the exclusion of seeing the banal nationalism in everyday life. Billig contrasts the focus of the usual analyst of nationalism to the analyst of banal nationalism as follows:

The analyst of banal nationalism does not have the theoretical luxury of exposing the nationalism of others. The analyst cannot place exotic nationalists under the microscope as specimens, in order to stain the tissues of repressed sexuality, or turn the magnifying lens on to the unreasonable stereotypes, which ooze from the mouth of the specimen. In presenting the psychology of a Le Pen or Zhirinovsky, ‘we’ might experience a shiver of fear as ‘we’ contemplate ‘them’, the nationalists, with their violent emotions and ‘their’ crude stereotyping of the Other. And ‘we’ will recognize ‘ourselves’ among the objects of this stereotyping. Alongside the ‘foreigners’ and the ‘racial inferiors’, there ‘we’ will be – the ‘liberal degenerates’, with ‘our’ international broadmindedness. ‘We’ will be reassured to have confirmed ‘ourselves’ as the Other of ‘our’ Other.

By extending the concept of nationalism, the analyst is not safely removed from the scope of investigation. We might imagine that we possess a cosmopolitan broadness of spirit. But, if nationalism is a wider ideology, whose familiar commonplaces catch us unawares, then this is too reassuring. We will not remain unaffected. If the thesis is correct, then nationalism has seeped into the corners of our consciousness; it is present in the very words which we might try to use for analysis. It is naïve to think that a text of exposure can escape from the times and place of its formulation. It can attempt, instead, to do something more modest: it can draw attention to the powers of an ideology which is so familiar that it hardly seems noticeable. [ Billig, Michael, Banal Nationalism, Sage Publications, London, 1995.]

I extend Billig’s concept to a concept of banal white nationalism. My paper on it is online at The presentation of racist groups in sensational media reports are of largely marginal individuals who we will socially never run into, who have belligerent attitudes and behaviors, use racial slurs, have poor middle class decorum, and who perhaps wear funny clothes. Like Billig’s extremists, they reassure us that we aren’t racist since we are not like them. However, if we realize that racist attitudes and practice need not be confined to belligerent individuals shouting racial slurs or confined to physical assaults, we should not be so self-assured ourselves and have to examine a much wider range of practices and consider if we are involved. Suddenly it can be people that we know and who socially circulate in the circles we circulate or it can be us circulating in those circles.

The UDC as a well mannered genteel group is largely not perceived as racist despite their ongoing practice as mentioned earlier in this letter.

There is a great opportunity for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to take a leadership role among American churches and set an example by stopping the hosting of neo-Confederate groups.

Again, I ask you not to host either the SCV or UDC. Additionally, I am asking for your help in my campaign against mainstream enabling of neo-Confederate groups by setting an example by not hosting either the SCV or UDC.


Edward H. Sebesta

CC: Senior Warden & Vestry member Mark Gordon, Junior Warden & Vestry member Steve Micas, Vestry Advocate Spiritual Formation Board Christie Montgomery, Vestry Advocate Faith In Action/Outreach Board Bruce Cruser, Vestry Advocate Worship Board Brian Levy, Vestry Advocate Faith In Action/Outreach Board Michaelle Justice, Vestry Advocate Parish Life Board Dick Carlton, other Vestry members: Kia J. Bentley, Tom Smith, Barbara Davis, Chip Jones, Missy Benson, Sid Jones, Jennine Sherrill, and Cindy Wofford, Associate Rector Rev. Kate Jenkins, Downtown Missioner Rev. Melanie Mullen, Minister of Christian Formation Rev. Claudia Merritt.

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