Institute on Religion and Democracy Press Release
November 3, 2017
Contact: Jeff Walton, office: 202-682-4131, cell: 202-413-5639, E-mail: jwalton@TheIRD.org
“Christianity, based on the example of St. Paul, usually judges lives based on their trajectory and conclusion, not the sins of earlier life.”
-Mark Tooley, IRD President
Washington, DC—A Virginia Episcopal parish in which George Washington regularly worshiped has announced that it will remove a plaque marking the former U.S. President.
Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia announced it is relocating out of the sanctuary two nearly 150-year-old marble plaques that memorialize its two most famous parishioners.
Washington as a parish vestryman facilitated Christ Church’s construction and was later a regular worshiper, also participating at Pohick Church near Mount Vernon, the Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia and Truro Parish in Fairfax, Virginia. Robert E. Lee was a nearly lifelong parishioner at Christ Church, where he was baptized and confirmed in middle age after a personal religious rebirth. His daughter left the church a large endowment. Washington himself bequeathed the church a Bible.
In a statement, parish officials wrote that the plaques “make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome”.
According to Episcopal Church statistics, Christ Church attendance has declined by approximately 25 percent in the past decade, while giving at the church has dropped by 20 percent.
IRD President Mark Tooley commented:
“Count me skeptical that Christ Church loses potential members over the plaques. Likelier the ties to Washington and Lee attract tourists and other visitors who wouldn’t otherwise attend.
“Washington’s faith almost certainly guided him toward opposition to slavery and emancipation for his own slaves. Christianity, based on the example of St. Paul, usually judges lives based on their trajectory and conclusion, not the sins of earlier life.
“Christ Church’s form of Episcopal liberalism invariably attracts a demographic that is nearly all middle and upper class, educated, socially liberal urban white people. Churches that stress their welcome-welcome-welcome message of inclusion over a firm orthodox theological message typically are, whether realizing it or not, actually welcoming some and discouraging others.
“In my visits to Christ Church I have noticed the well-dressed congregation is not very diverse. Removing the Washington and Lee plaques will not likely expand its demographic.”