Shiloh Baptist Church In Canton, Ohio, To Hold Emancipation Proclamation Service This Sunday

Rev. Charles Prince of Shiloh Baptist Church talks about today’s Emancipation Proclamation service at the church. (CantonRep.com / Julie Vennitti)

The Rev. Charles Prince believes that history holds lessons for us today, so much so that he’s hosting a special service to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation.

It will be at 4 p.m. Sunday at Shiloh Baptist Church, 700 Market Ave. S. The guest speaker will be the Rev. Gary Martin, pastor of True Light Christian Ministries.

Prince said the service is in recognition of a seminal event in American history, in conjunction with Black History Month.

“Even though I’m a pastor, I still believe in the role of trying to be part of something that impacts the whole community,” Prince said.

Lincoln initially proposed the proclamation in July 1862, but the North was struggling to defeat the South, and he was advised by his Cabinet to wait for a victory. Following the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) he issued the document on Sept. 22, 1862, which ordered the Confederacy to cease fighting by Jan. 1, 1863, or their slaves would be set free.

When the South refused, Lincoln re-issued the order on Jan 1, 1863. It was read in churches across the country at the stroke of midnight, thus starting the black church tradition of “Watch Night” services.

Jay Case, an associate professor of American history at Malone University, said some Christians had long-pressed Lincoln to take action.

“In the summer of 1862, a lot of clergy and Christian abolitionists wrote letters to Lincoln urging him to issue some sort of Emancipation Proclamation,” he said. “That sort of petition was not new — Lincoln had faced it as early as 1858 when he was running against Stephen Douglas for senator. But the heat was turned up in 1862 because the war was going so badly for the Union at that time.”

Hard to Measure

“The ethical argument for emancipation had been made before, quite often, but now it was embedded in the pragmatic argument that emancipation will help defeat the Confederacy by weakening the slave system that the South depended on.”

Case said Lincoln was antislavery, but not an abolitionist.

“Like most Americans, he thought them too radical, but his concern to save the Union was paramount to him, so this argument had more weight by the summer of 1862,” Case said. “He had to balance it against the political drawbacks, which included losing support for the Union cause from northerners who did not want to fight for slaves and possibly losing official governmental support from the loyal border states, who might just pull out of the Union cause. So how much impact did this pressure from church leaders and clergy have on him? It was there. I think it was important. But it is hard to measure.”

Lincoln’s mindset was “incredible,” Prince said.

“What the Emancipation Proclamation did, it caused Lincoln to understand that he needed the African American people, that we were more important than just as slaves. The war caused him to start thinking that way. ”

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SOURCE: Canton Rep – Charita Goshay