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‘The Gospel of Christ Jesus compels us’: Idaho church to remove Robert E. Lee from stained glass window

‘The Gospel of Christ Jesus compels us’: Idaho church to remove 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 church has decided to remove Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a stained glass window in its sanctuary that also features George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

The leadership of the Cathedral of the Rockies, a United Methodist Church congregation located in Boise, announced the decision to change the window, which dates back to 1960, in a recently released statement.

“The Gospel of Christ Jesus compels us and our Baptismal vows embolden us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,” stated church leadership.

“Our pastors and staff have spoken and speak against systemic racism, study to understand, and work with leaders of color to listen and learn.”

The church board went on to note that they came to the decision following “considerable prayer and deliberation,” labeling the Lee image “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,” they continued.

“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 board conceded that “there are people of goodwill who may disagree with our decision,” but added that they hoped “what unites us in Christ is greater than our differences.”

A "Black Lives Matter" banner outside of the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise, Idaho. | Courtesy The Cathedral of the Rockies

The Rev. Duane Anders of the Cathedral told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday that the window was first created to help welcome southerners who moved to the area.  

“The only documentation we have from the committee that chose this in around 1958,” explained Anders, “said that it was a nod to inclusion for the southerners who had moved to Boise.”

Anders noted that an oral tradition at the church said that another reason for the window was to showcase reconciliation.

“It was a way to say ‘in Christ we reconcile,’” he continued. “So that’s the oral tradition but we don’t have that in print.”

The plan at present is to just remove Lee from the image and to do so by the summer, with the stained glass company overseeing the project expected to begin within a couple of weeks.

The church will replace the Confederate military leader with an African-American figure still to be determined, with the change expected to be completed after about six weeks.

Regarding who will replace Lee, Anders told CP that popular names include Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Leontine T.C. Kelly, who was the first African-American female bishop in the United Methodist Church.

In recent years, the debate over Confederate monuments, flags, and names on both public and religious property has stirred passionate debate that has periodically resulted in violence.

In 2017, white supremacists came to Charlottesville, Virginia, in part to protest the possible removal of a Lee statue at Emancipation Park.

Amid the protest, white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. drove a car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring more than a dozen others. 

Weeks later, leadership of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Church of Lexington voted to change the congregation name to Grace Episcopal Church in light of the controversy.

In addition to planning on removing the Lee stained glass image, a satellite campus of the Boise church will hold a church service centered on repenting of racism this coming Sunday.  

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