Washington National Cathedral dean calls to remove Confederate-commemorating stained glass

The Very Reverend Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, has announced that the cathedral will be removing two stained glass windows, installed in 1953, that honor Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and include the Confederate flag:

“The Cathedral installed these windows, in part, because its leadership at the time hoped they would foster reconciliation between parts of the nation that had been divided by the Civil War. Because this Cathedral is the ‘national’ cathedral, it sought to depict America’s history in a way that promoted healing and reconciliation.

“It is time to take those windows out. Here, in 2015, we know that celebrating the lives of these two men, and the flag under which they fought, promotes neither healing nor reconciliation, especially for our African-American sisters and brothers.

“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 and died.

“In the aftermath of a year of racial tensions and violence—from killings of unarmed black men by police to the shootings of nine members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston—the Confederate battle flag has emerged as the primary symbol of a culture of white supremacy that we and all Americans of good will must repudiate.

“That’s why I’m calling on the Cathedral’s governing bodies to remove these windows, and to initiate a process by which we may discern what kind of contemporary stained glass windows could adequately represent the history of race, slavery, and division in America.

National Public Radio’s Scott Simon interviewed Hall on Weekend Edition Saturday. From that report:

In his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln noted that both the North and the South “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other …”

“How do you explain that Confederates, as Lincoln suggested, prayed to the same God as Lincoln, as Harriet Tubman, as Sojourner Truth?” Simon asks Hall.

“I think this is an important moment for church leaders, including myself, to stop, you know, giving God the credit or the blame for everything,” Hall responds in part.

“In other words … a lot of stuff is done in God’s name; I think we need to be a little bit clearer about what’s our own will and what’s God’s will and be a little bit more willing to suspend our judgment about what God is really doing until we’ve had a chance for that judgment to play out.”

The dean’s entire statement can be read here.

Posted by Cara Ellen Modisett


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