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R.E. Lee Memorial now Grace Episcopal in Lexington, VA

R.E. Lee Memorial now Grace Episcopal in Lexington, VA

After two years of disagreements, the vestry of R. E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington, Va., voted Monday night to return to the parish’s original name, Grace Episcopal Church, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“It’s been a very divisive issue for two years,” said the Rev. Tom Crittenden, the church’s rector. “But Charlottesville seems to have moved us to this point. Not that we have a different view of Lee historically in our church, but we have appreciation for our need to move on.”

The discussion was not easy, dividing congregants and prompting a vestry member and the church’s treasurer to resign their leadership posts in protest of initial inaction.

“People have left the church,” said vestry member Doug Cumming after the body’s 7-5 vote, which followed a parish meeting where members on both sides of the issue spoke. “People have felt exhausted by it. And many people have felt hurt.

“He was the senior warden of our church, we’re proud of that, it’s part of our history, but we’re not going to put that on a sign out on the street because it’s misunderstood.”

The discussion was first prompted by Dylann Roof’s attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C., but was galvanized by recent events in Charlottesville, Va., in which a young woman died counter-protesting against white supremacists:

The events in Charlottesville, however, led church leaders to reconsider.

Last month, the vestry issued a statement objecting “strenuously to the misuse of Robert E. Lee’s name and memory in connection with white supremacy, anti-Semitism and similar movements that he would abhor. Lee was widely admired in both the North and the South as a man of virtue and honor and as among the leading reconcilers of our fractured land.”

After Monday’s vote, Cumming said he’s hopeful parties on all sides of the debate within the parish will be able to come together and move forward.“My ancestors were very proud, brave and articulate southerners, and like Robert E. Lee, I think they’d be very proud over what our church has done tonight,” he said.

Southwestern Bishop Mark Bourlakas met with the church recently,

The decision had been backed publicly by Southwestern Virginia Bishop Mark Bourlakas, who spoke to the congregation earlier this month.

The vestry’s past inaction on the name had prompted some to leave the church. Others were steadfast in favor of keeping the name to honor Lee. Episcopalians on both sides of the issue filled the church when Bourlakas spoke there Sept. 7, and they again gave competing views this week before the vestry’s vote.

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JC Fisher

TBTG!

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Terri Patillo

There are no Christians in that so-called "Church". For there is no love, forgiveness, understanding, or historical perspective there. #Shameful

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Fred Loving

If Robert E Lee is a traitor, what did he do that was any different than what George Washington did ?

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Helen Kromm

"Shame on you for taking Gen. Lee's name out of your church name."

I have to wonder by what logic you feel the Episcopal Church is obligated, as a church, to maintain a parish named after Robert E Lee in the first place? Also, I don't know whether you are a member of an Episcopal Parish, since you use the descriptive "your". If you are not, please explain to me why you feel it is appropriate to condemn members of a church not your own for the manner in which they name their parishes?

Obviously, and almost certainly unknown to you, this church was formerly named "Grace". It was renamed for Lee at the turn of the century, and not coincidentally, at precisely that same moment when the state of Virginia instituted a new state Constitution that eliminated the voting right of over eighty-thousand black citizens.

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Laura Jones

So glad to hear that you have chosen to give your church a Christian name. It seemed like idolatry to ignore Jesus and use a secular name instead. I am also glad that you have decided not to glorify a traitor responsible for thousands of casualties.

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Leroy J Delionbach

Seems to me that a lot of folks are applying today's standards retroactively. The Civil War resolved an issue that was both commonly accepted and hotly debated, namely that if a group of polities voluntarily associate, one or more may voluntarily withdraw from that association. Interestingly, the US Constitution said nothing that implied that association was not dissolvable. As any "guard house lawyer" can tell you,"If it isn't prohibited it's permitted. " Having said all that...am I a Southerner? Yes. Did I have some ancestors who wire the Grsy? Yss. Were they slave owners?No.So why did they fight? They believed Alabama and North Carolina were exercising the right to withdraw from a voluntary association, and did not believe the other members of that alliance had the right to compel them to remain.

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