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Boise church officially removes Confederate window. ‘It never belonged in this place.’

Idaho

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A “We Repent” banner was placed over an image of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee depicted in a stain glass panel at the Cathedral of the Rockies. Rev. Duane Anders explains how the panel was created, why it was covered and will later be removed. | BY DARIN OSWALD

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – Boise’s Cathedral of the Rockies and regional church leaders officially “deconsecrated” and removed a stained glass window of a Confederate general during a service Friday.

The Cathedral of the Rockies, also known as the Boise First United Methodist Church, announced plans in June to remove the image of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the stained-glass windows in the church sanctuary. The windows were originally installed in 1960. The Rev. Duane Anders said church documents showed the window, featuring Lee standing with Presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, which was meant as an “inclusive nod to Southerners who have settled in Boise.”

“We proclaim that the image of Robert E. Lee does not deserve a place of honor in God’s house,” said Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church on Friday. ”It never belonged in this place, or in any place of worship. And now it is time for it to be removed.”

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Despite years of requests from Black members of the church and community to remove the window, many in Boise were unaware of its existence — or the Confederate connections it symbolized.

“Consecration services are typically held to bless a new building or new monument and one was held at Boise First UMC when the new sanctuary opened in 1960 with this window prominently on display,” wrote Kristen Caldwell, the spokeswoman for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church in a press release. “As Christians awaken to the continued and persistent institutional racism and white privilege within our communities – and in our churches – there must be a commitment to acts of deconsecrating monuments and memorials that glorify white supremacy.”

Cathedral of the Rockies leadership previously placed a “We Repent” banner over the stained-glass window inside, as well as a second sign on the church lawn. In emails to church members and in statements made to the Idaho Statesman, church leaders said the repentance was for their church’s “complicity in white supremacy” and expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Because of coronavirus concerns, the outdoors service was very small. Church leaders from the Cathedral of the Rockies, Stanovsky, state Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb and Philip Thompson of the Idaho Black History Museum at a short “service of lament and repentance”

At Friday’s service, church leaders acknowledged they had been slow to recognize how the window hurt Black community members.

“I confess that when I learned about these images in the United Methodist Church, I acted too slowly to name them as racist, and to encourage their removal,” Stanovsky said.

The church had originally intended to remove only Lee’s image from the window, leaving Washington and Lincoln’s images intact, before deciding the process would be too difficult. The entire window was removed from the church on Friday and officially donated to the Idaho Black History Museum in Boise, where it will be displayed as an educational tool for visitors.

“This is a pivotal moment,” Thompson said Friday. “It’s an opportunity to reconcile the transgressions of the past by acknowledging our history, which allows us the opportunity to move forward … The history of America is one of an expression of white supremacy, but simply because that’s how it was done doesn’t mean that’s how we have to continue, too.”

When she was based in Denver in 2015, Stanovsky was instrumental in leading a movement in the United Methodist Church to apologize and repent for the denomination’s role in the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, according to the Denver Post. Two prominent Methodist leaders joined U.S. soldiers in slaughtering 163 women, children and elders of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in southeastern Colorado.

Although a denomination’s complicity in a notorious massacre may not be directly comparable to worshiping for decades beneath the image of a Confederate general who fought to preserve slavery, Stanovsky said the need for active repentance remained the same. Stanovsky told the Statesman it was important for Christians to reckon with their history, their “complicity with white supremacy” and make changes in line with the Bible’s teachings.

“What service does that window do to this community?” Stanovsky said. “There’s a reason we’re taking the window out. It’s because it’s not doing the thing that it was dedicated for. That image can’t serve the vision that God sets on our hearts and teaches us in the Bible.”

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