WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.”
The Cathedral will begin the public dialogue on Sunday, July 17 at 4:00 p.m. with a panel discussion on “What the White Church Must Do.” The session will be moderated by Canon Douglas and will include the Rev. Dr. Delman Coates, Senior Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md.; the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and Interim Dean of the Cathedral; and other religious leaders. The program is also part of the March on Washington Film Festival.
As a first step, the Chapter voted unanimously to remove the two images of the Confederate battle flag from the windows, to be replaced by plain glass. Cathedral leadership is determining the timeline and cost for the removal of the flags, which will be paid for by private donors.
In its report, the Task Force wrote that it “is unanimous in its decision that 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 windows will remain in place, for now, for the duration of the public discussions. The report goes on to say the Chapter should “revisit the issue of how the windows live in the Cathedral no later than two years from the date of this report.”
“The Task Force has provided a roadmap that challenges us to engage the complex history of race in the nation, the church and here at the Cathedral,” said Budde. “Questions regarding the Lee-Jackson windows and the Confederate flag’s place in the Cathedral have led us to an even more important discussion about racial justice and reconciliation, to which the Cathedral leadership is committed. For that I am grateful.”
Canon Douglas and Bishop Budde are available for interviews upon request. Interested media should contact Ari Geller at West End Strategy Team at (202) 776-7700 or via email at [email protected].