Deputies vote: Remove the Confederate flag

By Pat McCaughan
Posted Jun 30, 2015
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, has vowed to remove the stained glass window bearing the Confederate flag.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, has vowed to remove the stained glass window bearing the Confederate flag.

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] The House of Deputies on June 29 approved in an overwhelming voice vote Resolution D044, which “strongly urges all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions, to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag.”

The deputies join a growing number of people in sacred and secular organizations calling for discontinuation of the flag, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama called for the flag’s removal while eulogizing the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine African-Americans killed during a Charleston, South Carolina, Bible study by a self-described white supremacist.

In recent weeks the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, has also vowed to remove images of the Confederacy from the cathedral, the official seat of the presiding bishop.

Deputy Betsy Baumgarten of Mississippi urged the house to support the measure, noting that symbols “help to shape our belief and our continued understanding of God and the world. To continue to allow the Confederate flag to have a place in our churches says something about The Episcopal Church.”

The Mississippi state flag incorporates the Confederate battle flag in its design, while the Georgia state flag is a modification of the Confederate “stars and bars” flag. The National Cathedral displays the flags of all the states in its nave.

While acknowledging that the symbol is for some a sign of their heritage, “for many more it has and continues to be a symbol of slavery, racial injustice and violence – and now more than ever, a sign of the white supremacist movement. The Confederate Battle Flag has no place in a church that calls all baptized persons to respect dignity of every human being.”

The resolution went a step further, challenging “us to get out of our churches and engage our public and government institutions in a conversation about such a toxic symbol of hate having any place in our current civic life,” she said when presenting the measure to the house.

Several other deputies, including the Rev. Susan Haynes of Northern Indiana and the Rev. Canon Victoria Heard of Dallas, also urged approval.

Recently, the Very Rev. Anthony P. Clark, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando, Florida, said in a statement that, after removing flags for cleaning, he would not return the Confederate flag to the cathedral proper, according to the Rev. Jabriel Ballentine.

“If the church is to be one like it’s supposed to be, then this is a divisive issue,” said Ballentine, 34, rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Orlando. “How can we be authentic unless we do everything we can to uproot it from ourselves?

“If one group is saying they’re not bound by the prayers of the people, when we pray that we all may be one, what are we really saying?”

Baumgarten said that removal of the flag “is only a step in starting the hard conversation we need to have about racism, and about acceptance of diversity in dismantling institutions that tear down some while lifting up others.

“It shows that The Episcopal Church is on board with the conversation that is happening on a national level right now,” Baumgarten said.

“As a deputation from Mississippi, we felt we needed to speak to this issue. But it isn’t just our issue. We call on the whole church as the people of God to join with us to remove this symbol of hate and oppression and to work towards bringing equality to all people.”

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and part of the ENS team reporting on the 78th General Convention.


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Comments (56)

  1. Marjorie McKee says:

    I don’t think it’s necessary to destroy the windows. They serve as art/pictorial history of our nation, good or bad. Those who want to change the truth of our nation will be like those who say that the concentration camp never happen, Jews and gypsy never were killed. We say that God can forgive, but yet as a church we are having a PR campaign. We need to own it. not cover it up for the future.

    1. Michael Mangiapane says:

      The windows wont be destroyed. Rev. Hall said they would be put on display about the windows and their context. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/25/washington-national-cathedral-dean-its-time-to-remove-stained-glass-windows-with-confederate-flags/

    2. Vivian Ruth Sawyer says:

      If we do not remember the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

      Leave the windows! Put a plaque on the wall explaining that we want never to forget our history and we want always to be able to learn from it.

      In Berlin, they have a memorial everywhere in the city where a Jewish person was murdered. They are everywhere. Should they whitewash their past? I would feel very uncomfortable if they did.

      1. Vivian Ruth Sawyer says:

        Here is an alternative to how history can be handled:
        http://dreammarcheson.com/#Home

      2. Bob Adams says:

        I’m willing to bet that those memorials in Berlin do not display the swastika! That the flag down!

        1. shannon Fontsinr says:

          To compare an American flag to the swastika is a jnee jerk liberal farce. It was ships flying the striped flag that brought slaves to our shores. The Government of the south committed no holocaust. Nor did it invade any country. Why did the U.S. Congress pass a resolution that it was fighting the war for union not slavery. Read Lincoln’s inaugural address he said he would invade the South for taxes…

    3. George Crump says:

      I agree! History is a record of our past. We can’t out run it, nor should we. The windows stand as a pictorial history of our country. As such it just like a museum piece, and the cathedral is partly museum. Let it be! Lest we all forget and commit the same mistakes again.

    4. robert Hunter says:

      In Austria they are now preparing to demolish Hitler’s House so it will not grow to be a place of pilgrimage for neo-nazis—the same needs to happen to all confederate memorials

  2. Jay Roberts says:

    What a shame, trying to erase history is not the way we move forward. We need to recognize it for what it is, the past of our country. Removing the stained glass windows is not going to erase what has happened. Should we remove all the images of our founding fathers that were also slave holders? Jefferson, Washington, Madison and countless others were all slave owners. Should we remove their statues and images because they engaged in this horrible institution?

  3. Joseph F Foster says:

    1. If they take the stained glass windows out of the Cathedral Church of Sts. Peter & Paul, how are they any better than the Moslem extremists who destroy statuary of previous regimes?

    2. I will continue to fly the Battle Flag on General Robert E Lee’s birthday and on Confederate Memorial Day. My kinsmen fought in the 3rd Arkansas Infantry, I Corps, Army of Northern Virginia — and so far as we know, none of them owned any slaves.

    1. Joyce Wood says:

      Joseph I so agree with you. You can Not rewrite history, We are all sheep following now. Let it be. We are being racially divided now.

      I did read that the vows to marry will be changed to ‘couple’ instead of husband and wife?? I am sorry…why would I have to change who I am?

  4. Ron Wendell says:

    I agree with the comments above. Removing the stained glass windows is not necessary nor will it change the past. We know slavery was wrong and it is too easy for people to pass judgment on history. I do not think it’s fair to the people back then, and I don’t think it’s useful to us now. Joseph makes a great point. Should we obliterate history because we don’t like it?

  5. John Townsend says:

    Art works in the Cathedral tell stories, so we are now modifying the story?
    Art Museums need to watch their back, before people who don’t understand art want to paint over objections material.
    Will those who destroy the art in places of worship give the person or their estates back their donation that paid for the art.

    I am pretty sure there is a gargoyle at the National Cathedral depicting a Peeping Tom(at children)… Is that coming down???

  6. Willard Deal says:

    “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Go ahead and display your CSA battle flag in private to honor your traditions. Doing such in public violates this (your) baptismal covenant and “flags” the bigots amongst us.

    1. Andrew Poland says:

      That’s ludicrous and rather immoral of you.

      1. Scott Elliott says:

        Thank you, Andrew. Obviously, the commenter to whom you responded knows not the first thing about those windows. Or much else pertinent, either, it seems.

    2. Judith Clausen says:

      I agree. They need to come down.

      1. George Crump says:

        Do you have a list of books you want us to burn also! Any private archives that reside in our churches or our libraries and museums that need to be rounded up and piled up and burnt, like Hitler had done in Germany? Those windows need to stay as part of our history. The window as a whole tells a larger story that needs to be remembered.

  7. Alton Aimar says:

    The Christian faith itself is full of less than stellar behavior, sordid history and the like, so for TEC to be singling out the War Between the States, The Southern States and the actual history of the United States for its less than Stellar past seems very disingenuous to me. Hate hypocrisy on any level, but from TEC, I find interesting.

  8. C. Brooks Stamm says:

    I have family from the North & the South, I do the history of both of these families. Records are being found from that time & I am also meeting family members with records from that time.
    History has always been a very, very important subject. Now you want to wipe out one of the major parts of the history of the United States. You know no matter what you do it will always be part of our history.
    I am an a Episcopalian, I ask do we really have the money to waste doing this?
    I also ask since Mr. Obama is not a Christian where does he have any right to come in a church & say “Take out that window.”
    I will end with that the National Cathedral is still & will always be a Episcopal Church.

    1. Judith Clausen says:

      Where do you get the idea that President Obama is not a Christian? He is a Christian and was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ (of which I am an ordained minister) for 20 years. He’s a devout Christian.

  9. Ginger OConnemm says:

    It’s history. This is an over reach, rediculious and calls attention to micro portion of an amazing structure. Personally, I detest the star and bars. This removal of tiny panes of glass just seems hopelessly lost in the “letter of the strong urging.” This “teachable moment” will be lost when the glass is changed. We can discuss race without sanitizing reality.

  10. Douglas Kearley says:

    Let’s not stop here! Let’s completely white-wash history! Remove the windows and also have the General Convention excommunicate Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, and all other southerners who supported the Confederacy and were slave owners. Then, we will have altered history, ended racism, and feel better about ourselves! Oh, and while you are at it, let’s remove Dean Hall!

  11. The Flag is a part of my heritage and in itself is not evil. It is unfortunate it was that it has become a symbol of hate. You could also look at it as a symbol of freedom because without the Flag and the Confederacy there would be no Emancipation Proclamation. I don’t understand the wisdom in attempting alter presenting history.

  12. Fred Loving says:

    Does this mean I am a racist if I place a flag on the grave of my great-grandfather on Memorial Day?Will I be turned away at the church door if a flag is on my lapel pin? Will the priest refuse the burial rite if a flag is on my coffin and a uniformed Confederate honor guard is present? Those of us that honor our Confederate ancestors feel we are following the commandment ” honor thy father and thy mother”.

    1. Charlotte Payne Wright says:

      Christ Church in Old Towne Alexandria, VA stopped Sons of Confederate Veterans in CSA replica uniforms from going onto their property, as well as their flags, during a planned and approved memorial service on Confederate Memorial Day, 2013. They allowed a wreath laying on the Confederate Mound (which contains the remains of some 30-33 dead, mostly Confederate military, but at least two civilians, who died during the war period when the City of Alexandria was occupied by Yankee forces) which was performed by members of UDC and others who were not clad in Confederate attire. The church has advised that flags will not be permitted on church grounds. I wrote the rector a letter asking if this included a U. S. Flag (covering the coffin of a U. S. veteran), but did not receive a reply. A wreath is laid at the mound each year (with red and white flowers and ribbons) and a wreath is laid inside on or near Robert E. Lee’s birthday. If you want a Confederate flag and/or a uniformed Confederate honor guard, you might think about going somewhere else.

  13. Martha Dudrow says:

    I think that Jay Roberts expressed very well the problem with removing the stained glass window that depicts a small Confederate battle flag, et al is that it is a ¨slippery slope¨– who else do you start removing from display in museums and historic sites? I do not deny that the emblem has become associated with hate and hate groups. I do question the wisdom of this flurry of political correctness that dances along the surface of our real racial problems. Denying history, as has been elequently stated in many of the comments above, does not move us forward, Keep the windows where they are.

  14. Jim Welsh says:

    The Egyptians tried to erase history a time or two. I think Amenhotep IV, or “Akhenaten” may have been the victim of such an attempt. It is better to preserve history than to destroy it unless it becomes an idol of worship.

  15. Doug Desper says:

    As a Southerner with a written Virginia family history of 11 generations I DO agree that the Confederate battle flag needs to find a rest. It has been co-opted and used by hate groups and people ignorant of history. However, as it rests one needs to recall that the Civil War was so multi-faceted that to single out the now over-used/poorly used battle flag is a drop in what should instead be a comprehensive look.

    The Northern States were by no means pure as snow. Northern and Southern accounts all tell of Northern army plunder and intentional destruction of Southern civilian targets and homes. “The Burning” by John Heatwole tells of the sheer theft, destruction, sadism, and disregard of Gen. Sheridan’s Union troops through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in October 1864. What did the Union flag look like to those countless thousands who entered the winter of December 1864 with no homes, no food, no mills to earn money — nothing left as smoke pyres billowed from Winchester down to Roanoke? Ban the Union flag now? Where were/are the Episcopalian cries for reparations for countless thousands of Virginia non-combatants who were ruined? It didn’t happen…and won’t so long as Political Correctness is the main information source of life. The Emancipation Proclamation gave the guarantee by President Lincoln that the Southern states could KEEP slaves so long as they came back into the Union within 100 days. It did not end slavery where it existed in the North. So, why is that document so celebrated? Selective reading to look for a hero and justification… the fine print didn’t catch enough attention, though.
    The greatest draft resistance of the War happened in New York’s multi-day draft riots where African Americans were lynched in the city, and a black children’s orphanage burned down with many fatalities. So, ban the US flag waved through the streets during that riot?

    General Lee inherited slaves, deplored slavery and wanted a decent end to it rather than the impetuous “NOW!” yelled for by abolitionists and loud voices in Washington — with army bayonets to back up their cause. The South resisted through its militias because of the chaos that such a massive upheaval would create: collapse economically, socially, and as an independent nation. The North benefited as much from slavery as the South and there were very few in the North that wanted to be a part of restructuring their lives to absorb millions of instantly freed slaves and ruined Southern families. BTW: Lee freed his inherited slaves right after the War and knelt down with a former slave in St. John’s Church, Richmond to receive Holy Communion. General Grant held on to his slaves much longer after the War.

    My main gripe with symbolic gestures is that 150 years later our moral “high ground” is really not so “high” after all. It has reduced – insultingly simplistically so – that War to celebrated Union liberators and ignorant racist Southerners. It forgets these glaring truths…and this next one:

    Our lives are just as thoroughly wrapped in the misery of others who provide our common goods and services as ancestors 150 years ago. Today’s hidden slaves work for pennies to make our clothing and other goods — a new captive servitude. Like 150 years ago we can’t just “stop it NOW” because we are so intertwined and dependent on their futile lives. One wonders what our United States flag means to them.

    So, friends — we ARE right now just like the South of the Civil War. We rely on the misery of others in every fabric of life. They – and we – are trapped together. Should the Federal Government arm itself today (as 150 years ago) to forcibly ruin millions of lives to create social change NOW? Are you willing to be ruined? Are you willing to create a refugee plan for the millions who will have lost their labor? How many can come and live with you if the Federal Government declares today that it all ends…NOW.

    In sum, my plea is to be more comprehensive and less proud of our own high ground. Yep, put the battle flag away…but also let’s bury any pretense of moral superiority over the people of that time. It just ain’t so bumper-sticker …or GC Resolution simple.

    1. Andrew Poland says:

      Bravo!

      This was remarkably well written. I wish my fellow Episcopalians in the New Orleans area (who have been trolling Facebook with holier-than-thou garbage) could read and accept this.

      I have only one point of contention here. The flag. I feel that if a local community wishes to eliminate the flag, then so be it. If a local community decides to keep it in memory of all of the pain, suffering and human wretchedness that not only was perpetrated then but after and today, then they have the right to have their decision respected.

      The self-righteous, do-gooder crap that the church tries to push on everyone else all the time needs to stop. People deserve to have agency and communities ought to be respected as having agency.

  16. Jeffrey Jones says:

    Reading Rev. Hall’s own words on the matter is a must:

    “These windows (along with their inscriptions) seek to reframe the Civil War and present the two generals as saintly, exemplary Christians. . . .

    “The Lee-Jackson bay was installed in 1953 after a long campaign by the United Daughters of the Confederacy both to fund and approve them. The United Daughters of the Confederacy is a group mainly concerned with fostering respect for southern heritage. But in proposing these windows they went beyond heritage and created a memorial that puts a decidedly saintly spin on two leaders of the Confederate Army. The inscriptions portray them as exemplary Christian gentlemen. But the windows contain no reference to the sin of slavery which both men fought—and one died—to uphold. . . .

    “It is time for those windows to go and live elsewhere in our buildings as part of a HISTORICAL DISPLAY. It is time for us to commission new ones for the nave that will tell the full, painful, yet hopeful story of race and justice in America. . . . (emphasis mine)

    “Washington Nation Cathedral is called, as our nation’s most visible church, to lead the faith community and our nation in healing America by facing into racism, its history, and its encampment in our own hearts. We cannot do that if our building only tells one side of the story. We cannot do that while the Confederate battle flag shines in our windows. All our artworks, like our scriptures and those who preach on them, must always strive to tell the truth. And sadly, our understanding of truth emerges only over time. . . .

    “Do we have the courage to revisit our assumptions and admit when they are inadequate or false? Can we risk admitting that we can no longer live with the contradiction between justice and oppression, that we can no longer celebrate both slavery and freedom in the same space?”

    http://www.cathedral.org/worship/sermonTexts/grh20150628_1115.shtml

    1. Doug Desper says:

      This is coming from a Dean whose cathedral charges $10 admission, employs evil statuary (gargoyles), and who hosted Muslim prayers with CAIR as invitees? Nothing incongruent about that…..

      1. Susan Irwin says:

        Doug, if gargoyles are “evil statuary,” to quote you, then why do they adorn all the major European cathedrals dedicated to the glory of God and His kingdom on earth? Come on, do your homework. Janson’s History of Art…

  17. Bill Simpson says:

    Simply replace the confederate flag with the one that mattered historically: the white one.

  18. Andrew Poland says:

    So I guess Suwannee should be torn down and all degrees from it rendered invalid right? I mean after all, it was built by Confederate Generals.

    This is ridiculous and stupid. The church wants to waste time on a vote like this, and bickering over crap like this when we have much bigger issues at hand. The past happened. It’s there. You cannot delete it, you cannot take it back. It is what it is. Move on.

    How can we even expect to be taken seriously?

  19. Laurie Welch says:

    This is the wrong way to go about righting a bad thing. The National Cathedral is proving the old adage, history is written by the victors. In this case, it is re-writing it, pretending it never happened. That is dangerous. This flag, as awful as it today, is part of our history. We need to know where we came from, SO IT DOES NOT HAPPEN AGAIN. Instead of removing it, there should be discussions about it.

  20. Rick Gibbs says:

    I am a life long Episcopalian , I have been disappointed on several fronts this week as we look at an ever evolving church. I am conservative by nature and always was proud of the inclusive nature of the church.I have found less tolerance for my view point this week. I think removing the windows is not necessary and try’s to eliminate part of the history of our nation unnecessarily …. I think this level of cleansing losses the balance we are looking for….. Not sure there is a place in the Episcopal church for my way of thinking. I think the changes being made at General Convention are less about what’s good for the Anglican communion than capitalizing on a win at SCOTUS and instead of discerning what’s best we move forward because its expedient …. Sad day for me. May God Bless the Episcopal church

  21. The Rev.Canon John E. Lawrende says:

    I have no choice but to equate the Confederate Flag with the Nazi Flag. Should either of them be flown, shown, adored? If it’s in a stained glass window, it’s not just a matter or history’; it becomes a matter of worship. The Dean is absolutely right in removing it, and the Bishop should refuse to enter the Cathedral until it is gone.

    1. C. Brooks Stamm says:

      To equate the Confederate flag with the Nazi flag, is a horrible thing to even think of.
      In Germany it was so horrible:
      1. There was not a dictator, Hitler.
      2. There was not a goal to own the world.
      3. There was not a goal to destroy a entire religious group, the Jewish nation.
      Need I say more at this time.
      I am so very sorry you have this idea.

    2. Mark Bigley says:

      John,
      You have no understanding of history. Do some reading of period documents. Never heard of anyone worshipping the flag.

  22. Vaughn Wolff says:

    Really? So, there is only one way out of this folks. Forgiveness! To forgive and be forgiven are both acts of love, kindness and mercy, which puts us on the path of healing, individually and collectively. I agree with Doug Desper’s comments, but if people choose to be offended by their own understanding of symbols and history there is nothing you or I can do to make difference.

    I love Jesus’ statement “if your eye offends you, pluck it out” and I think it was meant to be taken as absurd advice, which is designed to help us change the outcome of our own thinking. Who in their right mind pluck out an eye; but more importantly this ridiculous proposition of Jesus places the pure benefit of being offended entirely upon the one feeling the offense. How can the one who retains the offense ever be free to “respect the dignity of every human being?” To put it kindly, some people retain the memory of pain for any type of gain that there is essentially no insight.

    While I, myself, taking inventory could point to events in my own life where the natural and human reaction would be magnify the offense, I am still the only one who has the ability to get over my feelings of anger, self pity, resentment, and despair which leads to a limited world view that others are responsible for my misery, low self esteem, feeling of unworthiness. I really believe God loves us and wants to see the creation live in harmony where everyone succeeds at living, Oh, sure, there is such a thing as real victims, victimizers, and heroes; but the drama only serves a function of definition and as soon as we realize we don’t have to be stuck, then we are finally becoming moving into maturity. The real measurement of our success is the shortening interval of time it takes to realize that we have been playing and living out these very dangerous roles; I don’t think I’m too presumptuous to say that there are too many heroes at convention that want to “treat the symptom” by the simple removal of an “evil” symbol.

  23. LTC Gene Moser says:

    So – are we going to sponge the name of Robert Edward Lee from the list of vestrymen of the Episcopal church in Lexington, Va, and perhaps others?

  24. Ellie Lopez says:

    There are three models of the “confederate flag” and all were used at different times for different reasons. Perhaps one of the other models that are more acceptable could replace the one most disliked. The remainder of the window would be maintained.

  25. Michael J. Brembs says:

    This sounds like a inherent nationalism or political correctness run amok. The American flag stirs the same emotions and feelings to Central Americans who knew the US flag as the power behind military dictators, coups and killings. It is also the power behind the drone guided missiles that tear apart Pakistani and Afghani families. Also let’s not forget Native Americans being exterminated and forced onto reservations by the power behind the US flag. Yes if we are going to be guided by history let’s not forget the negative history behind the U.S. Flag and we can remove that flag as well.

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