The Washington National Cathedral will remove two stained glass windows featuring Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the church said Wednesday, joining a growing list of cities and institutions that have removed statues of Confederate figures in the wake of last month's violence in Charlottesville, Va.
The National Cathedral said the Cathedral Chapter, its governing body, voted Tuesday to immediately take the windows down. Scaffolding was erected Wednesday morning as crews began the process of removing the stained glass windows, according to the Washington Post.
The windows of Lee and Jackson were installed in 1953, and the National Cathedral began debating their removal after the 2015 shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C.
But the National Cathedral said it felt an urgency to act after white nationalist groups clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville last month. One woman died after a suspected Nazi sympathizer drove his car into a crowd of people protesting the white nationalist groups.
"The Chapter believes that these windows are not only inconsistent with our current mission to serve as a house of prayer for all people, but also a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation," the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, who serves as dean of the National Cathedral, and Chair of the Cathedral Chapter John Donoghue said in a letter Wednesday.
"Their association with racial oppression, human subjugation, and white supremacy does not belong in the sacred fabric of this Cathedral," they said.
The three National Cathedral officials said the windows will be deconstructed, removed, conserved and stored until officials find a place for them. The window openings where the panels of Lee and Jackson once were installed will be covered until they're replaced.
In their letter, Budde, Hollerith, and Donoghue said the windows of Lee and Jackson were "an obstacle to worship in a sacred space" and served as "lamp posts along a path that leads back to racial subjugation and oppression."
The National Cathedral also said the stained glass windows provided an "incomplete and misleading" account of the country's history, and argued it wasn't trying to erase history, but rather felt the windows didn't reflect the National Cathedral's values.
The National Cathedral joins cities like Baltimore and New Orleans, and institutions including the University of Texas at Austin, that have removed statues and tributes to Lee, Jackson, and other Confederate figures following the violence in Charlottesville.
While some cities have taken action to remove such monuments, others are debating whether to take down statues of Confederate figures.