“We do not seek to eliminate reminders of a painful past. Rather, we seek to represent that past honestly in a manner that matches our shared aspirations for a diverse, just, and compassionate nation.” – The Very Rev. Gary Hall
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 25, 2015) – Following is a statement from the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral:
“In 1953, Washington National Cathedral installed stained glass windows honoring the lives and legacies of Confederate Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Both windows display the image of the Confederate battle 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.
“Let me be clear: We do not seek to eliminate reminders of a painful past. Rather, we seek to represent that past honestly in a manner that matches our shared aspirations for a diverse, just and compassionate nation.
“Because changing windows in a Gothic building takes time, energy and money, the Cathedral will begin by mounting a display adjacent to the windows to explain them in their historical context. We will gather a representative group to work with us to imagine how new windows can best represent our shared history of war and peace, racial division and reconciliation. We will also discuss the future of the Jackson and Lee windows.
“I express my own personal sorrow at learning of the existence of windows that I and so many others find offensive. And I pledge our willingness to examine our own history in a way that helps our nation come to terms with its own history in healing and reconciling ways.”
Editors: High-resolution images of the two windows are available upon request. Video of Dean Hall addressing the stained glass windows in his sermon at the Cathedral on Sunday, June 28, 2015 is available via the Cathedral’s YouTube Channel.