After a two-year debate, the stained glass windows depicting Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are coming down at the Washington National Cathedral. Though for some time the general consensus was to keep them up as a nod to history and as fodder for a national debate on historical racism, leaders now say the windows are “a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation.”
A statement was released:
Whatever their origins, we recognize that these windows are more than benign historical markers. For many of God’s children, they are an obstacle to worship in a sacred space; for some, these and other Confederate memorials serve as lampposts along a path that leads back to racial subjugation and oppression.
The recent violence in Charlottesville brought urgency to our discernment process. We find ourselves compelled by the witness of others, moved by the presence of God in our midst and convicted that the Holy Spirit is pointing us toward the answer. The continued presence of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate in our nation cannot be ignored — nor will they be solved simply by removing these windows or other monuments. The racial wounds that we have seen across our nation compel us to renew our commitment to building God’s beloved community.
Prior to this decision, the task force slated with the job of debating the windows stated, “The windows provide a catalyst for honest discussions about race and the legacy of slavery and for addressing the uncomfortable and too often avoided issues of race in America. Moreover, the windows serve as a profound witness to the Cathedral's own complex history in relationship to race."
The United Daughters of the Confederacy lobbied the cathedral to add the windows, which it did in 1953. However, since Charlottesville, the calls for removing these historic symbols has become louder and statues and memorials are disappearing everywhere.