Stained-glass windows honoring Confederate Generals Robert Lee and Stonewall Jackson will be removed from the Washington National Cathedral. In August 2016, the cathedral quietly removed the panels depicting the Confederate flag and replaced them with red and blue panes to match surrounding glass. Photo courtesy of Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral to remove windows honoring Confederate generals

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Following "considerable prayer and discussion" prompted by last month's white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va., Washington National Cathedral has decided to remove stained-glass windows honoring two Confederate generals.

The leadership of the landmark church in the nation's capital had planned to spend a lengthy period discussing race-related issues before deciding what to do with the windows. That plan was made after the fatal shooting of nine members of a Bible study group at a black church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.

But a statement released Wednesday (Sept. 6) said that "after considerable prayer and discussion," the cathedral's board, or chapter, voted a day earlier "to immediately remove the windows."

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“The Chapter believes that these windows are not only inconsistent with our current mission to serve as a house of prayer for all people, but also a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation,” reads a letter from Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, Washington National Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith and Cathedral Chapter Chair John Donoghue.

In August 2016, the cathedral quietly removed the panels depicting the Confederate flag and replaced them with red and blue panes to match surrounding glass. But the overall glass and stone bays honoring two generals, Robert Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, remained.

People gather inside the Washington National Cathedral before the start of the National Prayer Service on Jan. 21, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“These windows will be deconsecrated, removed, conserved and stored until we can determine a more appropriate future for them,” the leaders wrote. “The window openings and stone work in the Lee-Jackson Bay will be covered over until we determine what will go in their place.”

The side-by-side windows honoring the Confederate generals were added in 1953 with the support of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group that sought to honor the memory of veterans who fought for the South.

Under the Robert E. Lee window there is language etched in stone that calls him “a Christian soldier without fear and without reproach.” And under Jackson, it says he “walked humbly before his Creator whose word was his guide.”

A stained-glass window honoring Confederate General Stonewall Jackson installed at the Washington National Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Washington National Cathedral


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The church officials said they hope the windows may serve to be a teaching tool elsewhere but were no longer appropriate for the cathedral’s sanctuary.

“We want to be clear that we are not attempting to remove history, but rather are removing two windows from the sacred fabric of the Cathedral that do not reflect our values,” they said.

As recently as late June, the cathedral’s dean had said there was still another year to go before a decision about the windows would be made.

But the officials said their decision-making process concerning the windows sped up after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last month, when neo-Nazis clashed with counterprotesters. But they also acknowledged that the windows’ removal is not sufficient for addressing racial injustice.

The cathedral held a series of public programs focused on the Confederacy and the two generals and about racial justice.

“We recognize that there are people of goodwill who disagree with our decision, and also others who have been hurt or confused by the amount of time it took us to reach it,” the leaders concluded. “We trust, however, that what unites us in Christ is greater than our differences.”

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Other prominent houses of worship have also considered what to do with their Confederate memorials since the mid-August events in Charlottesville. Duke University removed a statue of Lee from its chapel entrance. Members of R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington, Va., mulled whether to change its name but decided against such a move at an Aug. 21 meeting.

Comments

  1. Frankly, apart from this particular issue, I have always found it bizarre that in any church there is a place of “honor” for those who donate big to the church such as stain glass windows. Money I guess can even buy an unofficial “sainthood” through these self glorifications. I would like to see, if we are going to pick at this scab, all reference that is not about God, Jesus, and the heavenly hosts are removed as well.

    Why should Mr/Ms Moneybags believe that because they donate, which should be given without strings attached anyway, be allowed a placard in a place of worship to God for something as carnal as having money. Do we know who they are, what kind of life they lived, state of their sinfulness?

  2. I believe it is time to no longer have a “national cathedral”. The Episcopal church as I understand it is certainly not the “church” of the United States. If we have a “national cathedral” it should not be managed by any faith group alone.

  3. I’m okay with them calling themselves what they want, but I am a little uneasy about the semi-official status Congress has given it. It’s hard to imagine such designations happening today, not because of First Amendment concerns, but because the Episcopal Church has become so liberal the Republicans in Congress would never allow it.

  4. More politically correct non-sense. Dumb down history. Our kids are already stupid enough

  5. No, the ignorance promoted by the reactionary bigots is the PC non-sense. The truth is honoring those who committed treason in the name of preserving slavery is anti-American and anti-Christian. The right wing snowflakes can not longer limit history education to their twisted warped version and they are fighting to maintain the lies.

  6. My church has only “become so liberal” since we are following the teachings of The Christ. A reactionary certainly would not have thrown the business men out of the Temple court yard, however a liberal did so.

  7. Christ was radical, not a radical. Christ was liberal but not a liberal. As to the Episcopal Church adhering to the teachings of Christ, in some measure that can be legitimately challenged.

  8. I’m morbidly curious as to what they will replace these windows with, and I don’t feel sanguine about it.

  9. History is history. Some history is not pleasant but if we do not know about it we are going to repeat the same mistakes. I admire the Jews for keeping the history of their suffering at the hands of the Germans alive. If they had not more would believe today that it never happen. You would like for us to forget the history you do not like

  10. No, I do not advocate forgetting our ugly history of slavery and racism….But I think statues or other manifestations of those who advocated for it or fought for it should be removed to museums of history, not elevated in stained glass in any church or cathedral. They do not deserve to be awarded positions of honor. It boggles the mind to think that Lee and Jackson would be installed in stained glass in a Christian church. along with panes representing Jesus the Christ or Peter or Paul or St. Francis, etc.

  11. To me it says the people of the church can contribute to the problems society faces so be aware the men and women of the church can be naive and wrong. So thing for yourself

  12. Hopefully a return to the medieval tradition of these functioning as the poor man’s bible.

  13. ““The Chapter believes that these windows are not only inconsistent with our current mission to serve as a house of prayer for all people, but also a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation,” reads a letter from Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, Washington National Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith and Cathedral Chapter Chair John Donoghue.

    As a Southerner, I have no great former or lingering affection for the Civil War, nor the generals who led that bloody fight in hopes of the triumph of the Confederacy. However, it’s an inescapable–if ugly, piece of our national history, and as such, should be preserved and taught as such to American young people.

    There are many violent and bloody stories in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) which are quite unsavory as well. However, the pages containing those stories shouldn’t be ripped out and burned, much like the Episcopal bishops are proposing to do with the beautiful stained glass windows depicting those Civil War generals. The ugly stories in the Hebrew Scriptures are an important part of the history of a people’s journey toward a better understanding of God, and much better ways of treating each other.

    Keeping the stained glass windows in our great National Cathedral holds forth the same possibility for us today.

  14. Some history is outright manufactured for effect. Like the “honorable confederacy” myth which grew in prominence with the rise of the second generation KKK in the early part of the century. I am glad you are properly equating American slavers with modern Nazis. But neither require public commemoration.

  15. Evil you are not aware of and reminded of society tends to repeat. These statues give me an opportunity to point out how evil men sometimes with good intentions. My ancestors own slaves and their Baptist preachers told them it was okay. They were not mean people but misguided people. Staunch Democrats. I was fortunate my parents wanted us of that family church Demicrat indoctrination. I can remembe my day sayung who is that statue of anwering,”someone you never want to be and tell me the story”.

  16. Which is why Germany has so many statues to Nazis and Russia kept all its statues of Lenin and Stalin. /s

    “My ancestors own slaves and their Baptist preachers told them it was okay. They were not mean people but misguided people”

    I have ancestors who fought for the Union side. One of them a staunch abolitionist. They believed your ancestors were bad people who perpetuated an evil which had to be ended.

    History judged mine to be the ones with the moral cause.

  17. I take no position on the merits of whether the Episcopal Church is following Jesus’s teachings, only to point out that they are certainly more liberal on many matters than they were 100 years ago.

  18. Evolution also takes place in the understanding of Christ’s message. As the church matures it too changes learning a deeper and fuller message from The Christ allowing The Christ within to come forth.

  19. Not many know that function of the windows. They also helped teach the illiterate which included most people .

  20. At Cathedral, window remains honoring Charles Warren, one of the founders of the “Immigration Restriction League”; against admitting into the United States. people from southern and eastern Europe.

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