(WASHINGTON) — For more than 60 years, two stained glass windows at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. have displayed the image of the Confederate flag. Now, the church’s dean is advocating to have the windows removed.
The windows — showing Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson — were installed in 1953.
According to the dean of the Cathedral, Rev. Gary Hall, the church’s leadership in the 1950s thought the windows “would foster reconciliation between parts of the nation that had been divided by the Civil War,” he said in a statement.
But last week — after nine people were killed inside an African Methodist Episcopal church by a suspect who is believed to have posted a racist manifesto online — Hall started to get questions about the windows and took a closer look, Eckstrom told ABC News Saturday.
Each window has an engraved inscription, Eckstrom said — the inscription on Lee’s window describes Lee as a man “without fear and without reproach.”
“We’re not so sure that in 2015 we can say that Robert E. Lee and the cause that he fought for was without reproach,” Eckstrom said.
“Stained glass windows exist to tell a story,” Eckstrom said. They are “intended to let the light of God into the assembled worshipers. And right now, with these windows, that light is being filtered through a symbol that we all know is associated with racial supremacy, violence and racism. And the dean doesn’t feel like at this point … that those windows should continue to be a part of the Cathedral’s life.”
Hall’s statement Thursday said: “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.”
“It’s not just about the flag,” Eckstrom said. “It’s not just about the windows or the inscriptions. It’s … the message that all of it sends together. … It’s about what kind of history we’re going to tell.”
“There’s a difference between observing history and celebrating it,” Eckstrom added. “And the dean does not feel this is a part of our history that’s worth celebrating.”
According to the dean’s statement, a group will meet to discuss the future of the Jackson and Lee windows. For now, the Cathedral will put up a display next to the windows to explain their historical context.
The dean also plans to address the windows in his sermon Sunday.
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