The centuries-old Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, is removing two plaques — one honoring former President George Washington and another for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — because the memorials make visitors “feel unsafe or unwelcome.”
Never mind the fact that both Washington and Lee were frequent parishioners of the Episcopalian church, The Republican Standard reported. Alas, the church’s board voted unanimously this week to rip out the plaques, which indicated where the two men often sat when they attended services.
Initially, the church was only considering removing Lee’s plaque, but later added Washington because he, too, owned slaves (at a time when everyone owned slaves). Here’s the church’s statement, in part:
Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.” Christ Church lives into this call, feeding the hungry with our Lazarus ministry, welcoming the stranger in our refugee ministry, and inviting all to worship with us. 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.
Many in our congregation feel a strong need for the church to stand clearly on the side of, “All are welcome — no exceptions.”
Certainly, Washington’s slave ownership and Lee’s defense of slavery were in no way acceptable, but that was the time in which both leaders lived.
The church, which was founded in 1773, said, “all are welcome,” but it appears some of the nation’s most prominent leaders are excluded from the “no exceptions” clause.
Washington’s sin — the darkest sin on America’s record — shouldn’t erase the significant role he played in establishing what would become the freest and most prosperous society the world has ever seen.
The presence of both Washington’s and Lee’s plaques on the pews of Christ Church beautifully showcase the arc of human history, displaying how the U.S. has grown because of their bold visions and despite their darkest sins.
Nevertheless, the church voted to relocate the understated memorials.
The plaques will be moved to a yet-to-be-determined space “no later than the summer of 2018,” the church stated. They will remain in the building “until they can be relocated to a place of respectful prominence where they will be fully visible to parishioners and tourists alike.”
“And ultimately,” the statement continued, “they will be incorporated into a more complete presentation of our long and many-faceted history.”