The Washington National Cathedral has decided to get rid of stained-glass windows depicting two Confederate generals, saying the images are "inconsistent" with its mission and "a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation."
On Wednesday, Cathedral authorities announced that the stained-glass windows that feature the images of Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson will be removed and stored until the cathedral can find another use for them.
"After considerable prayer and deliberation, the Cathedral Chapter voted Tuesday to immediately remove the windows," Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde wrote, as reported by CBS News.
"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. Their association with racial oppression, human subjugation and white supremacy does not belong in the sacred fabric of this Cathedral," he continued.
According to Religion News Service, the stained-glass windows honoring the Confederate generals were installed in 1953, with the support of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group that sought to honor the memory of veterans who fought for the South.
An inscription below the window depicting Lee describes him as "a Christian soldier without fear and without reproach," while the etching under Jackson says he "walked humbly before his Creator whose word was his guide."
The removal of the windows was first proposed in 2015 following the racially motivated church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
The cathedral officials said they had been discussing how they could potentially keep the windows in ways that would "contextualize" the historical meaning of the images.
In 2016, panels depicting the Confederate flag had been quietly removed from the cathedral and replaced with red and blue panes to match surrounding glass, but the overall glass and stone bays honoring two generals remained.
In late June, the cathedral's dean announced that it would be another year before a decision about the windows would be made. But the officials decided to hasten the decision-making process following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, when neo-Nazis opposing the removal of a statue of General Lee clashed with counter-protesters.
A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 others were injured after a man drove a vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters.
The officials have acknowledged that the removal of the windows is not sufficient for addressing racial injustice. A series of public programs about the Confederacy, the two generals and racial justice had been held at the cathedral, which serves the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.