Slain Civil Rights Worker Jonathan Daniels Named a Martyr in Church Calendar; Nightingale and Others Postponed

Episcopal News Service. July 25, 1991 [91162]

James H. Thrall

An extensive lobbying effort on behalf of slain civil rights worker Jonathan Myrick Daniels paid off as both houses approved his inclusion in the church calendar as a martyr (B-006s).

Daniels, a seminarian at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, was shot to death by a deputy sheriff on August 20, 1965, in Hayneville, Alabama, while trying to protect the life of a young black woman. As with other additions to the church calendar, the decision must be ratified a second time at the next General Convention.

Another decision on a list of honorees who were up for a second reading at this convention -- including Florence Nightingale -- was postponed until the 1994 General Convention (A-118s/a).

Daniels wins praise from bishops

Bishop Douglas Theuner of New Hampshire, who stood at the microphone with Bishop Robert O. Miller of Alabama, his cosponsor of the move to add Daniels to the list of martyrs, called the joint sponsorship of the resolution "a great act of reconciliation."

Daniels was from Keene, N.H., and died in Alabama while working as a civil rights worker, but at the time of his death more than 25 years ago "the mind of the church in those two dioceses was not a common one around the issues over which Jonathan Daniels gave his life," Thuener said.

The bishops of New Hampshire and Alabama at the time, he said, "did not agree as to what the response to his death should be, or how he should be remembered."

The consideration of Daniels was particularly important at this General Convention where "we are focusing on the issue of racism 25 years later still in the life of our church and the life of our nation," Theuner said.

Given the small percentage of minorities in New Hampshire, people there may "think we have no problem with racism because we have no black people," he said. When the question is raised, "Why should we raise up a white person in our calendar when so many people of color gave their lives?" in the civil rights movement, Theuner said, such an action speaks to the people of New Hampshire "who need to know that racism is something that affects all of us."

Bishop Miller stressed that Daniels needs to be remembered as more than just a civil rights worker. "John was not simply a civil rights worker who happened to be a Christian," he said. "He was a person whose mature formation in Christ led him to the prophetic ministry that led him to his death."

Bishop Donald P. Hart of Hawaii said that he was rector of the parish in Keene from which Daniels came. "The people of Keene remember Jonathan not as perfect," he said. Yet "most of all they remember the witness that he made, coming out of a small New England town that in many ways had very little to do with the civil rights movement. He brought that to them in a very special way."

Nightingale defended

Bishop Robert L. Ladehoff of Oregon, chair of the bishops' committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy, reported that the committee was sticking by the recommendation of the Standing Commission on Liturgy that Florence Nightingale not be included in the list of persons up for the second reading. This year's Blue Book had inadvertently printed her name in the list ratified by the commission, forcing an amendment of the Blue Book resolution.

"No one that I talked to would deny the importance of Florence Nightingale," Ladehoff said. "Like many in the calendar, there is much to admire, but there is also a flawed human being."

Ladehoff said the committee was moved by testimony that had been received, "particularly by a letter received from Mary Donovan," (an historian of women's issues in the church and wife of Bishop Herbert Donovan of Arkansas) but felt there were ways to commemorate her without making her a part of the calendar. "We spent considerable time on this," Ladehoff said.

Bishop Otis Charles, however, spoke in defense of Florence Nightingale, calling her a "person who from the very outset of her life was moved by God to do what she did.

"It was out of her leading by God that she was moved to do what no woman of her class and time would have done, which was to move into the sick wards and care for people," he said, dealing with 'people who had no status, no place -- outcasts in society."

Nightingale "took on the whole of the cultural system to prepare a new way for caring for people," Charles said. "She may have been flawed. That is true of all the saints and all of us. Florence Nightingale was a hero among human beings, a woman who dared to lead the way for other women. To exclude her from the calendar is to exclude the victories women have made by simply being willing to be not told no, and to press forward."

Questions raised about commemorations

Retired Bishop John M. Krumm, however, raised questions about how the qualifications for persons to be commemorated are established. "We really are rather fuzzy about when canonization is appropriate," he said. "Some of the names here seemed not to be so much examples of what we call 'heroic sanctity,' as of people who would be nice to honor."

Another woman on the list, Julia Emery, "as far as I know, was not known for heroic sanctity," Krumm observed. "She just developed the United Thank Offering. Well, that's all right. Let's have a resolution saying 'thank you' and honor her. Why do we have to call her a saint?" He proposed that the standing commission report to the interim meeting of the House of Bishops with "a rationale for decisions about this list."

"To include Florence Nightingale in a list of important human beings who have made great contributions to the human race, and especially furthering the cause of nursing is totally appropriate," agreed Bishop William Wantland of Eau Claire. "To include her as a saint of the church worthy of emulation in Christian life is a travesty."

Saints preserved them

The bishops voted to refer the entire list of proposed names up for a second reading for addition to the calendar -- with the exception of Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle -- back to the Standing Liturgical Commission. That commission will be instructed to report to the next meeting of the House of Bishops in 1992, and to include a study of how people are considered for the next General Convention. The church asks that additions to the calendar come before two conventions so that the church has a chance to respond.

When the House of Deputies opened debate on the substitute resolution from the bishops, the Rev. Anne Robbins of Southern Ohio observed that, despite the mandate of the 1988 Genelal Convention to find the names of women to include in the calendar, no women passed muster at this year's convention. Committee chair George McGonigle of Texas responded that sufficient biographical material wasn't available to the committee on all of the names.

Then the Rev. Gaylord Hitchcock of Newark moved an restore Brigid of Kildare, an Irish abbess, and Evelyn Underhill, an English mystic and writer, to the "A" list. During a vote by cards, Marge Christie of the Newark deputation ran from her seat at the rear of the hall to join the Fort Worth deputies two tables forward -- a rare instance of collegiality between the liberal Newark and traditionalist Fort Worth deputations. To laughter and applause, vice president Pam Chinnis deadpanned, "Unity has finally been achieved in this House." The deputies voted to concur with the amendment.