June 30, 2017
In recent weeks, as several institutions and jurisdictions have taken steps to remove Confederate monuments, several people have asked about the status of the Cathedral’s action on stained glass windows that honor Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Where are we? When will the decision be made?
These are fair questions.
Our nation is confronting its past and present racism in ways that I would have thought were impossible only a few short years ago. We at the Cathedral have been wrestling with our own racial history — both in terms of our fabric (including the Lee-Jackson windows) and our role in too often turning a blind eye to racial injustice in our society as well as within our church community.
As we confront these issues of racial injustice and the questions raised by the windows, many feel we have come up short. Although we have removed the Confederate battle flags from the windows, there is real frustration that we have not yet decided the ultimate disposition of the windows.
I want you to know I hear that frustration, and I appreciate that many people have good reasons for feeling that this decision-making process is taking too long.
Last summer, the Chapter unanimously accepted the report of a task force that called for the Cathedral to spend two years in intentional discussion, programming and dialogue about the questions raised by these windows. We are now half way through that process. Over the last year, we have convened public forums about the Confederate flag and these two generals; we have initiated research about the stories told and untold in our iconography; we have convened public programs and worship services around issues of racial justice; and we spent Lent probing Scripture for God’s challenge to us regarding issues of racial justice.
Yes, we have started the work, but we have not yet finished it.
The truth is, we are in this work for the long haul. Regardless of what happens with the windows, these windows have forced us to look anew at the stories we tell about ourselves, and what it means to be a house of prayer for all people. These windows, and these questions, have exposed emotions that are raw and sometimes wounds that have not yet healed. They have helped to reveal how much we still have to learn as we work toward repairing the breach of racial injustice, and building the beloved community.
Over the next year, we will spend time together in prayerful conversation, giving people a chance to share their experiences, their truth and even their pain.
Whether we agree or disagree, the opinions expressed and the feelings shared reflect a deep passion for this Cathedral and all that it represents. Everyone in this conversation is a beloved child of God. Throughout this process, we will remain committed to our baptismal covenant to “respect the dignity of every human being.” We all must continue be open to the movement of the Spirit in our midst and make space for all of God’s children as we learn and grow together.
It’s not always easy and it is rarely comfortable, but it is the challenge of our time.
I appreciate that this is a sometimes painful and frustrating undertaking for many of us. I ask you all to allow us the time to work through the process. For those who have joined us on this journey, thank you for your commitment. For those who have yet to join us, know that we value and welcome your thoughts, suggestions and passion and I look forward to you joining us. Our commitment to learn from one another and to grow together will result in a stronger community and a better shared understanding of our call in these troubled times.
As the next series of programming comes together, stay tuned to cathedral.org/windows and cathedral.org/racialjustice for updates on the ways you can join the conversation. In all things, God promises to be faithful; we pray that we, too, may be faithful to our call as stewards of this blessed Cathedral.
The Very Rev. Randy Hollerith