One year after Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall called for the removal of stained glass windows featuring the Confederate flag from the gothic church, cathedral officials have announced an intention to remove the small flags from the windows, but not replace the windows entirely.
A five person Cathedral task force charged with studying the matter released a recommendation on June 2 that the windows not be removed at this time, but to revisit the matter within two years. The Episcopal Cathedral’s leadership body, known as the Chapter, voted to receive the report and to remove the flags.
The windows, which feature depictions of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, were installed in 1953.
“After considering the Task Force report, the Chapter came to a consensus that the Confederate battle flag–whatever its history–has become, for many Americans, an image of hatred and racial supremacy,” wrote Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop and interim Cathedral Dean Marianne Budde. “As such, it represents values in direct opposition to the gospel of Christ and the Cathedral’s mission. Thus the Chapter directed that the two depictions of the Confederate battle flag be immediately removed from the windows; the flags will be replaced by plain glass.”
Budde wrote that Cathedral officials are determining the timeline and cost for the removal, “which will be paid for by private donors.” No further information was given about who the potential donors might be.
The cash-strapped cathedral already is seeking tens of millions of dollars to complete a second phase of needed earthquake repairs. Complete removal and replacement of the windows would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“No final decision on the future of the Lee-Jackson windows will be made until the conclusion of this deliberative process,” Budde explained.
Hall, who stepped down as Cathedral Dean in December, has since returned to All Saints Episcopal Church, a progressive activist parish in Pasadena, California. Budde replaced Hall as interim dean, and will vacate the role as the cathedral’s top official when incoming dean Randolph “Randy” Marshall Hollerith assumes office in August.
Update [9/29/2016]: Religion News Service reports that the two panes of glass containing the confederate battle flag were quietly replaced on August 26, with no public announcement by the Washington National Cathedral. “[a cathedral committee] decided, rather than further exacerbate tensions around the flag in the windows, to just do it and get it done and move on to the next phase,” Cathedral Spokesman Kevin Eckstrom told RNS. “They didn’t want the flags themselves to become a distraction from the larger conversation that they’re having around race, which in the cathedral’s mind is much more important than the windows.”