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National Cathedral to remove Confederate battle flag from windows

National Cathedral to remove Confederate battle flag from windows

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.

From the cathedral’s announcement of the decision to remove images of the battle flag:

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.”


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Fr. Will McQueen

“the evils of the “southern way of life”,”

No offense taken.

Robert Button

Glad to hear this. The confederate battle flag has no more place in a house of worship than a swastika. As one who has lived in southern states my entire life and who has listened to excuses for the evils of the “southern way of life”, I am glad to see our Church taking this action. Its about time.

Bob Button

Fred Loving

This church has a lot of members that are descendants of Confederate soldiers and are very much in to history. We are being made to feel like we are no longer welcome. We are blasted on Internet blogs. When we ask questions we are treated rude by clergy. So, do you want to us to leave?

Gwen Palmer

I don’t think there’s a backlash against us descendants. I’m both a descendant and history buff, and someone who finds that war hideous and horrifying.

Those who want Confederate soldiers and the cause they fought for honored in God’s house don’t also want a window depicting bloody lashing of a slave in agony, or a lynching, do they? Should we recreate in glass a Brady photo of mass bloated death on a battlefield? These are history too. One-sided history is a problem, and a war that nearly destroyed this country and slaughtered a generation and set former friends and fellow soldiers and families against one another is nothing to honor. It disturbs me to hear people think it belongs, glorified, on a church window.

Marcus Mason

@GwenPalmer Well, said.

Fr. Will McQueen

Yes, actually they do want you to leave. Tolerance only works in one direction.


Fred, the Civil War included virtually the entire country, so everyone who had ancestors here back then would have been involved or impacted.

White people are not being excluded or unwelcomed when we face the uglier bits of our history and choose a more inclusive, hospitable, and just direction.

Jerald Liko

Comment policy requires respect, so I say respectfully: this is stupid. It’s 2016. The snake-handling-est snake-handling church on the dirtiest dirt road in the poorest poor county in Alabama would refuse to display a confederate flag these days. Just take it down and move on.

Rod Gillis

The National Parks Service guide at Fort Sumner told us that the Confederate battle flag was never flown over Confederate era public buildings. The ‘Stars and Bars’ would have been flown. The use of the Confederate battle flag is tied to racism. Removing it is not to “re-write” history. Rather it is its use in the 20th C and 21st C that is a re-writing of history in favour of racism. Good for the National Cathedral with regard to its removal of the battle flag from pre-civil rights era windows. If you visit the Cathedral, see the Lincoln memorial. Lincoln’s hand is rubbed raw from folks touching it.

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