Confederate memorial windows judged a stain on Washington National Cathedral

ReutersCraftsmen at Washington National Cathedral work Wednesday to replace symbols of the Confederacy from a stained-glass window.

The Washington National Cathedral is in the process of removing two stained glass windows that depict the Confederate generals Robert E Lee and Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson.

Cathedral authorities announced yesterday that the windows, which were installed 64 years ago, will be taken down and stored pending a decision about their future.

A cathedral statement said that the images were 'inconsistent' with its mission and 'a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation'.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Cathedral said in a statement: 'After considerable prayer and deliberation, the Cathedral Chapter voted Tuesday to immediately remove the windows. 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.'

The fate of the windows has been debated for at least two years, since the racially motivated shootings in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015.

Cathedral officials had said that they were debating ways potentially to keep the windows but 'contextualize' their historical meaning.

But yesterday's statement said that the need to remove the windows gained new 'urgency' after the violent clashes at last month's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

'This isn't simply a conversation about the history of the windows, but a very real conversation in the wider culture about how the Confederate flag and the Old South narrative have been lively symbols today for white supremacists,' said Bishop Budde, who is leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which includes the cathedral. 

'We'd be made of stone ourselves if we weren't paying attention to that.'