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.


Comments (53)

  1. David L. Hagen says:

    Why specialize in political correctness instead of affirming Jesus call to: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
    Instead of removing it, teach the principle of reconciliation embodied in the window.
    Teach also the principle of God’s Covenant represented. The Civil war was caused as much by the North breaching covenant (consitution.)
    Jesus warned: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

  2. Charles Brown says:

    When do we start burning the books?

    Funny we want to remove all symbols related to the confederate side of the war between the states because some find it offensive, however, we are not trying to remove rap music, which is equally divisive (ever heard the words used in rap music?).
    How about the Christian Flag which was a symbol of terrorism during the Crusades.
    How about the American Flag that terrorized the Original Americans during the Indian and the Mexican Wars, as we took their properties?

    There were atrocities that occurred on both sides.

    People, we are not using good head work. While some of our historical acts may not have been the most Christian thing to do at the time, it formed who we are today, Let them remain if for no other reason than as a symbol of our history, so as not to repeat it.

  3. C. Brooks Stamm says:

    Last words on all of this.
    1. As I see Episcopal churches struggle to survive, the waste of a enormous amount of money to please individuals who have no understanding of history, makes me very sad.

    2. I remember hearing a statement about, “Division between Church and State.” I guess that has changed.

    3. Last, the Flag that possibly should be flown over our churches, should be the Episcopal flag and no other.

  4. John Payne says:

    These windows were placed so that people with ancestors from both sides of the civil war would be honored. They also commemorate the struggles and hardships of the southern people during and after the war, including the 250,000 who died. If we remove everything that people find offensive then we must remove a lot more as well. Atlanta Georgia was burned by General Sherman during the Civil. He also burned a 65 mile strip between Atlanta Savanna. Because of this act many people from Georgia are still offended by the actions of the Union. They are also very resentful of those responsible. Sherman is still talked about daily in Atlanta and mentioned by DJ’s on the radio regularly (in a very unflattering light). Removing these windows gives Georgians precedent to call for the removal of the saintly looking statue of Abraham Lincoln. Yet they are not calling for the removal of anything. I am of a southern heritage and I feel that all should be represented in this, the house of prayer for all people. Please do as Dean Garry Hall suggests and build a memorial to race relations. It islong over due. But Please leave these windows alone.

    The Lee Jackson windows are not one window but rather four large windows with a series of smaller windows. These windows are then set in two stone bays that are 20 ft tall and have inscriptions chiseled in them. The two bays then open up into the nave of the world sixth largest cathedral, complete with a 100 foot high stone ceiling. All of these elements together form a complete and cohesive package. That package is the memorial, rather than merely the glass itself. Removing the windows destroys the memorial as well as its historical context that Dean Hall has promised to preserve. There is also no way to remove these series of windows from where they were originally intended to be displayed and still preserve the effect that the artiest had in mind while they were designing and crafting this grand showcase of what is now architectural and art history. Removing these windows destroys a great reminder of the feelings that were (and still are) left over from the war. Atlanta has no above ground structures left with from before the war. Our memorials and monuments are all that we have left. Please don’t destroy a monument to the valor of the men who fought do defend our homes against General Sherman. They were not perfect people and neither was Lincoln, but at least now can you see why we view them as saints for defending our homes and families?

    Removing these windows has a very creepy similarly to the Burring of Atlanta, the actions of Isis, the Taliban and, the invasion of Roam by the Barbarians and the Vandals. And here is that similarity: If you don’t like someone else’s history as they see it then destroy those people’s art, art history and, the reminders of their history as they see through their own eyes. Then replace what you destroyed with their history as you see, rather than as they see it. Then you don’t have to be offended. Its very effective and gives a great deal of thought and sympathy to ones self, if not to everyone involved. It works extremely effectively every time and cause people like the Barbarians to be remembered for the remainder of written history.

    The Very Reverent Garry Hall implied that the reasons for this memorial have changed over time. I will leave you now with words from Dean Bashinsky, Dean of the Cathedral at the time the memorial bays and windows were dedicated. Please read his eloquent words and ask yourself, do these memorial bays and windows still hold their original reliance?

    “Only a memorial commensurate with General Lee’s position among the nation’s great men would be acceptable to the Cathedral. In keeping with the memorial to Washington and [Woodrow] Wilson, the Lee Niche was proposed.”

    “To Washington, Wilson, Jefferson, and Madison great personal memorials have been erected already,”

    “[H]ere, where the nation’s heroes are to be honored side by side, the patriotism of the Confederacy shall have recognition. No boy from either side of the line must ever stand in this great gathering of soldiers and wonder at the absence of a Southern hero. One must be there lest the question be: were the men who wore the Gray really patriots; did they fight for their country”

    The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
    Vol. 57, No. 3 (Jul., 1949), pp. 301-306

  5. David Michaels says:

    With knee jerk reactions like this it’s no wonder our Episcopal churches are closing their doors at a frightening rate and our pews are empty. My Sunday offertory is earmarked for “local use only” so as to not encourage our wayward national Church.

  6. Susan Irwin says:

    There is no reason to mutilate a building. I agree with those suggesting putting a retrospective plaque nearby explaining the symbolism of the window AT THE TIME OF ITS INSTALLATION. Be wise and use this as a teaching moment.

  7. James Boyd says:

    Why is the Very Rev. Gary Hall trying to wage war on our history? It looks like the Episcopal Convention is trying to do the same.

    He called for the removal of the Lee and Jackson windows that have been in the National Cathedral since 1953 because they have a Confederate Battle Flag in them … since 1953.

    I agree we must pay attention to the words of the Very Rev. Gary Hall. In a sermon from this past June 28th he said: “There simply is no excuse for the nation’s most visible church to display a symbol of racism, slavery, and oppression. None.”

    Why doesn’t he also remove the Lewis and Clark windows? They were both slave owners and even took a slave with them on their trip.

    Why doesn’t he remove the Thomas Jefferson window that’s in the National Cathedral? He was a slave master.

    Why doesn’t he remove the James Madison window that’s in the National Cathedral? He was a slave master.

    Why doesn’t he remove the tomb of known racist and segregationist Woodrow Wilson from the National Cathedral? Is it because Dean Francis Sayre was the grandson of the known racist and segregationist Woodrow Wilson?

    Why doesn’t he remove the statue of the slave master George Washington that’s in the National Cathedral?

    Why is the National Cathedral still in Washington DC, a place named after a slave master?

    Why is there a memorial to General Nelson Miles the man that slaughtered countless native Americans honored in the National Cathedral?

    Why does the National Cathedral still accept money with slave masters on it? You’re good with pennies, $5’s and $10’s, everything else has a slave master on it. That goes for the gift shop and the entry fees you charge tourists too.

    Why is the National Cathedral’s Elementary School named after the retirement home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis?

    Did the Very Rev. Gary Hall mean what he said, or is this all for the news media and a new capital campaign?

    Lee and Jackson did not slaughter those innocents in Charleston, nor did the Confederate Battle Flag. Lee and Jackson would pray with us for them and their families if not lead those prayers themselves.

    Please leave the Lee and Jackson windows as they were.

    James Boyd

    “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
    – George Orwell, 1984

  8. Rob Michaels says:

    Southern apologists are misleading the entire “short” history of the S. Carolina flag, and the “modern” confederate battle flag. It was not displayed at the capitol until 1964 (hmm. Civil rights, not CIvil War. It has a broad white border, unlike the real Battle flag to display that whites are the supreme/superior race, and its purpose is not to celebrate the history of the Civil War, but rather to show traitorous attitde sincer the passage of Civil Rights. You want to commemorate the “glories” of illegal secession and the hundreds of thousands of deaths it caused, fine. But don’t pretend that that flag, in modern times, represents that War. It represents 20th century hatred and white supremacy. History lessons about it should teach THAT.

  9. GarySmith says:

    Perhaps we should remove the Confederate symbol from the Episcopal shield(?).

  10. Charlie Schiller says:

    The window should stay. It is our history like it or not. Political correctness has gotten way out of hand. It is everywhere. The window should become a teachable moment. Are we going to abandon places like Gettysburg just because it is an ugly part of our history? What about Darth Vader? His is the persona of all that is evil.

Comments are closed.