The Washington Post reports,
Washington National Cathedral, one of the country’s most visible houses of worship, announced Wednesday that it would remove Confederate battle flags that are part of two large stained-glass windows honoring Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Cathedral leaders said they would leave up the rest of the windows — for now — and use them as a centerpiece for a national conversation about racism in the white church.
The announcement comes a year after the cathedral’s then-dean, the Rev. Gary Hall, said the 8-by-4-foot windows have no place in the soaring church as the country faces intense racial tensions and violence, even though they were intended as a healing gesture when they were installed.
The windows were installed in 1953 to “foster reconciliation between parts of the nation that had been divided by the Civil War,” Hall said last year. “While the impetus behind the windows’ installation was a good and noble one at the time, the Cathedral has changed, and so has the America it seeks to represent. There is no place for the Confederate battle flag in the iconography of the nation’s most visible faith community. We cannot in good conscience justify the presence of the Confederate flag in this house of prayer for all people, nor can we honor the systematic oppression of African-Americans for which these two men fought.”
The announcement comes almost one year since the killings at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Those killings prompted the state to remove the battle flag from the state house grounds.
The cathedral recently announced the Rev. Randolph “Randy” Marshall Hollerith as its new dean effective later this summer.
Washington National Cathedral will convene a series of public forums and events on issues of racism, slavery and racial reconciliation as part of the next phase of considering the future of stained glass windows memorializing Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
The events – meant to engage the public in an open and honest dialogue – were a recommendation by a five-member Task Force charged by the Cathedral Chapter to consider the status of the windows.
The Task Force’s report, which was presented to and unanimously accepted by Chapter on June 3, also states that “whatever the Chapter’s final decision, ultimately, the windows will not live in the Cathedral in the same way they have in the past.”
“The Lee-Jackson windows call the question of race and the legacy of slavery, and instead of turning away from that question, the Cathedral has decided to lean into it,” said the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, the Cathedral’s Canon Theologian and a member of the Task Force. “Instead of simply taking the windows down and going on with business as usual, the Cathedral recognizes that, for now, they provide an opportunity for us to begin to write a new narrative on race and racial justice at the Cathedral and perhaps for our nation.”