The Washington National Cathedral will remove two stained-glass windows honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Leaders of the cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Church in the United States, debated what to do about the two 4-by-6-foot windows for two years, the Post reported, amid a national debate over the proper place of Confederate monuments.
A spokesperson for the cathedral said in a statement that the debate was prompted by the fatal shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
A majority of the cathedral’s governing body voted Tuesday to remove the windows, and the removal process began Wednesday. The Post noted the windows were installed 64 years ago.
Bishop Mariann Budde, the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, told The Post, “This isn’t simply a conversation about the history of the windows, but a very real conversation in the wider culture about how the Confederate flag and the Old South narrative have been lively symbols today for white supremacists.”
“We’d be made of stone ourselves if we weren’t paying attention to that,” Budde said.
According to the Post, the cathedral is the second largest church in the country and is often the site of events such as presidential funerals and interfaith prayer ceremonies.
Budde and Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith told the Post that the governing board voted “overwhelmingly” to remove the windows, but said some wanted to place the windows in context rather than have them removed.
Kevin Eckstrom, a cathedral spokesman, told the Post that the problem with the windows is that the two men “are shown as saints.”
“People ask: ‘Are we whitewashing history and trying to forget reality?’ But the truth is that slavery is as old as the Bible. But we believe in a God that liberates slaves,” he said.
Eckstrom said that the cathedral plans to keep the windows and display them in historical context.
According to its website, the cathedral has 215 stained glass windows.