Sunday 16 August 2020

Idaho Church Removes ‘Divisive And Hurtful’ Stained-Glass Robert E. Lee Window

An Idaho church removed a stained-glass window featuring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee last week after voting in June to modify the image that some found “divisive and hurtful.”
First United Methodist Church in Boise, Idaho, also known as the “Cathedral of the Rockies,” took down the image of Lee during a deconsecration ceremony last Friday, after having originally covered the image with a black banner that read, “We repent.” The church had been contemplating removing the Confederate general from one of their stained-glass windows ever since Dylann Roof murdered nine black congregants at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
“Following the Charleston tragedy, we began a process to engage this community in deep questions of racial justice and God’s call to us in the 21st century, acknowledging our own sin with a stained glass window panel in the right transept of the Cathedral,” the church said in June. “This windowpane honors Presidents Washington, Lincoln, and Confederate General Robert E. Lee. We have heard from deeply passionate voices who have engaged with us and held us accountable to this process, and we thank them.”
The church went on to explain that engaging in conversation with members of their community “brought greater focus on the key question facing us: Is this section of window, installed in 1960, an appropriate part of our sacred space?”
After explaining how “after considerable prayer and deliberation, your Cathedral of the Rockies Church Board has voted to immediately modify the window and remove this divisive and hurtful image,” they continued:
“There are several things that we know to be true,” the church said:
  • We recognize this section of our window is more than a benign historical marker. For many of God’s children, it is an obstacle to worship in a sacred space; for some, this and other Confederate memorials serve as lampposts along a path that leads back to racial subjugation and oppression.
  • Admittedly, we have spent too long being indifferent, and comfortable in privilege. We have concluded that this portion of our right transept window tells an incomplete, misleading, and racist account. We are committed to finding ways to offer a richer, more balanced expression of our history.
  • We want to be clear that we are not attempting to remove history, but rather are removing a piece of a window from the sacred space within the Cathedral that does not reflect our Christian values. We believe this action can yet have a second life as an effective teaching tool in a context yet to be determined.
  • The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor brought long-overdue urgency to our discernment process. We are reminded of our privilege. We have waited too long. 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 and other forms of hate cannot be ignored – nor will they be solved simply by removing a portion of a window. The racial wounds that we have seen across our nation compel us to renew our commitment to building God’s beloved kingdom.
“We have all participated in one way or another in systemic racism,” Rev. Duane Anders, the senior pastor, told The Christian Post. “It’s time to take action to live as anti-racist. This is a step toward anti-racism. We continue to listen and learn from each other.” According to The Idaho Statesman, the church also held a “service of repentance” for the window and systemic racism on June 21, and held a small group discussion on “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo over Zoom.
The window with Lee was installed in 1960 because of what then-pastor Rev. Herbert E. Richards called “the strong Southern influence here in Boise.” Lee will be replaced with a person of color, though the church has yet to determine who that will be. The project will cost about $26,000, the church said.
The church’s action comes as Confederate monuments are being removed nationwide. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the mayor of Richmond, Virginia — the former capital of the Confederacy — ordered all Confederate monuments on city property to be taken down. A large equestrian statue of Lee remains standing on Monument Avenue because it lies on state property and judges have repeatedly blocked Democratic Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam’s attempt to remove it.

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