In case you have not heard, an Episcopalian church in Alexandria, Virginia is taking down a plaque memorializing George Washington. When Christ Church opened in 1773, Washington owned a pew. He attended the church whenever he was in town to conduct business. It is located about nine miles from Mount Vernon. Washington also served as a vestryman in the church.
According to this piece in The Washington Times, Christ Church will also be removing a memorial marker dedicated to another famous parishioner: Robert E. Lee.
Here is a taste:
While acknowledging “friction” over the decision, the church’s leadership said both plaques, which are attached to the front wall on either side of the altar, are relics of another era and have no business in a church that proclaims its motto as “All are welcome — no exceptions.”
“The plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome. Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques,” the church leaders said in a letter to the congregation that went out last week.
The decision was also announced to parishioners on Sunday.
The backlash was swift, with the church’s Facebook page turning into a battleground. Some supporters praised the church for a “courageous” stand, while critics compared leaders at the Episcopal church leaders to the Taliban or the Islamic State.
Read the entire piece here.
Let’s remember that Christ Church is a functioning congregation. If the leadership of this congregation believe that people will be offended by commemorative material related to Washington or Lee, or if they believe that these plaques will somehow hinder the advancement of the Gospel in their midst, then the materials should definitely be removed from the sanctuary. Finally, I am not sure political figures or military generals belong in a church sanctuary. I would say the same thing about the American flag.
I am also glad to see that the church will be creating a separate space where the commemorative items can be explained and contextualized:
The new display location will be determined by a parish committee. That location will provide a place for our parish to offer a fuller narrative of our rich history, including the influence of these two powerful men on our church and our country,” she said in the email. “We look forward to this opportunity to continue to learn more about our own history and find new ways to introduce it to the wider community.
Read the statement from the Senior Warden of Christ Church here.