‘A step toward anti-racism’: Idaho church removes Robert E. Lee from stained glass window

Confederate General Robert E. Lee honored in stained glass window at Cathedral of the Rockies of Boise, Idaho. In June 2020, the church announced that it was removing Lee from the window. | Courtesy of The Cathedral of the Rockies

An Idaho congregation of the United Methodist Church has removed an image of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a stained glass window.

First United Methodist Church of Boise, also known as the Cathedral of the Rockies, held a deconsecration service outside last Friday to remove the Lee image.

Those in attendance at the service of deconsecration included Cathedral pastor the Rev. Duane Anders, Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the UMC Greater Northwest Episcopal area, Phillip Thomson of the Idaho Black History Museum, and Church Council Chair Susie Pouliot.

“We believe continuing to have a window that includes Gen. Lee, who led the Confederate army in a war that was fought over slavery is inconsistent with our mission as a church and our values as Christians,” stated Pouliot, as quoted by the UMC Oregon-Idaho Conference.

“We cannot have a banner above our door that says, ‘all means all – you are welcome here’ and continue to have a symbol of white supremacy in the form of Gen. Lee’s visage just a few feet away.”

In an interview with The Christian Post, Anders hoped that the decision to remove Lee and eventually replace him with a different historical figure will send a message of anti-racism.

“We have all participated in one way or another in systemic racism,” said Anders. “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.”

Anders explained that the removal and eventual replacement of Lee with another historical figure will cost around $26,000, the fundraising of which is presently underway.

The church has not yet decided which person to replace Lee in the window, with Anders noting that they were “taking time to receive names of persons of faith, reformers that could be placed in the window.”

Some figures in consideration are Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Leontine T.C. Kelly, who was the first African-American female bishop in the UMC.

The stained glass window dated back to 1960 and featured Lee alongside George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, reportedly as a way to appeal to Southerners who had moved to the area.

In June, church leadership decided to remove Lee from the window, concluding after “considerable prayer and deliberation” that the image was “divisive and hurtful.”

“We believe this section of our window to be inconsistent with our current mission, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” stated church leaders at the time.

“Further, such display is a barrier to our important work resisting evil, injustice, and oppression. Symbols of white supremacy do not belong in our sacred space.”

The church conceded that “there are people of goodwill who may disagree with our decision,” noting that they were hopeful that “what unites us in Christ is greater than our differences.”

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