M003 Renouncing the Theology of Slavery held by the Rev. James Craik, 11th PHoD and Rector of Christ Church, Louisville

To the Deputies and Bishops of The Episcopal Church assembled at the 81st General Convention:

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

In 1862, then Rector of Christ Church, Louisville, Kentucky (1844-1882), one-time President of the House of Deputies (1862-1877), and noted enslaver, the Rev. James Craik published a pamphlet entitled, “Slavery in the South; or, What is our Present Duty to the Slaves?”[1]  We, the Bishop and Deputies of the Diocese of Kentucky bring this awful text to your attention so that we might know the truth and the truth will set us free.

In his pamphlet, Craik, a Unionist, argues that slavery is, in fact, an evil institution.  Among his reasons, it is an economic hardship to the enslavers, it relegates the working class to an inferior status, while inciting pride and contempt for labor in the children of slave-owners, and the responsibility of caring for the enslaved is “a burden grievous to be borne.”  “But,” he goes on to write, “it is not often that God permits an evil to exist long, and on a large scale, out of which he does not bring some corresponding good.”

The evils, Craik says, fall only upon the white race, while the enslaved receive all the benefits because “a race of barbarians, gradually degraded by many thousand years of ignorance and brutishness to the lowest stage of humanity, has thus been place in intimate contact, and under the constant and authoritative superintendence and government, of the most enlightened and civilized race upon the globe.  Humanity, religion, and interest concur to make the cultivated and master race the friends, protectors, and instructors of the inferior race.”

It does not get better from there, and in the interest of not triggering anyone more than necessary, we will invite you to read the whole text on your own, only after having steeled yourself with prayer.  Ultimately, Craik’s argument is that the institution of slavery, while a burden to whites and a blessing to the enslaved, must continue to protect the social order of America and to continue bestowing upon the enslaved “the blessing of religion, moral, and intellectual culture.”

Christ Church Cathedral and The Diocese of Kentucky are taken steps to repudiate these horrific words from a former priest of this Church.  We invite the 81st General Convention, gathered in Louisville some 162 years after Craik felt comfortable putting this pamphlet to print, to acknowledge the role our leadership played in the institution of chattel slavery, to repent of the ongoing benefits procured unto us by the same, and to publicly renounce the thoughts, words, and actions of the 11th  President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. James Craik.

Respectfully Submitted,

The Deputies and Bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky

The Rev. Barbara Merrick, Chair
The Rev. Dr. Steve Pankey, The Rev. Benjamin Hart, The Rev. Dr. Lee Shafer
James Moody, Camille Norman, Shelley Carter, Christopher Amiot-Funk
The Rt. Rev. Terry Allen White, VIII Bishop of Kentucky


Endorsed by,

Alternate Deputies of the Diocese of Kentucky
The Rev. Clinton Wilson, The Rev. Becca Kello, Christine Thorowgood


[1] The full text is available as a PDF at https://credo.library.umass.edu/view/pageturn/murb003-i288/#page/1/mode/1up <accessed March 19, 2024>.