Christ Church Removes Plaque To Its Former Patron, George Washington, Because It Created An “Unsafe Or Unwelcome” Space

ChristchurchalexandriaI have previously written about my concerns in the removal of statues and names from public buildings due to contemporary views of historical figures like George Washington.  For that reason, it should come as little surprise how I view the decision of the current congregation of Christ Church in Alexandria to a memorial plaque to George Washington.  I once lived near the church and occasionally went to services there. including the funeral of our late Associate Dean Admiral John Jenkins.  It is a thrill to sit in a church that once served Washington and others. It is deeply disappointing to see the congregation now reject that long history in the removal of a plaque placed on the church in 1870.  The reason offered below by church leaders is that the plaque made people feel unwelcomed or threatened because Washington was a slave owner.

The historic Episcopal church was one of the primary sites of worship for George Washington.  However, plaques to both Washington and Robert E. Lee were ordered removed because  “… Many in our congregation feel a strong need for the church to stand clearly on the side of ‘All are welcome — no exceptions’ . . .  Because the sanctuary is a worship space, not a museum, there is no appropriate way to inform visitors about the history of the plaques or to provide additional context except for the in-person tours provided by our docents.”

It is a rather odd statement since, as shown by the Jefferson Memorial, one can always add context to a memorial that acknowledges the hypocrisy of being a slave owner.  It would seem a rather simply thing to retain one’s historic association with Washington while adding a plaque that raises the issue of slavery and its meaning to the contemporary congregation.  Such an effort avoids the sanitizing of history in favor of better understanding that history.

The signatories below specifically states

Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 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.

I fail to see why a plaque to the first President would make some feel “unsafe” in attending services in a progressive and welcoming church.  There are such references to Washington all around the church in Alexandria, including the fact that the street sign outside the church reads “Washington Street.”  That was named after the same guy, but most do not feel threatened in driving to the church or into Alexandria.  By the way, the cross street for the church is Cameron St. (named after Lord Fairfax of Cameron who was also a slave owner).

The 13 members signing the letter below seemed intent in making a statement with the removal of the plaque rather than actually address the underlying historical conflict.  The church once held a congregation of not just slave owners but confederates like Lee.  That is part of its history.  One can find meaning in that history — not by eradicating its evidence but acknowledging it and placing it into a new context.  I fail to see why the removal was necessary as opposed to the use of the memorial to address slavery with added information.

What do you think?

Here is the letter:


181 thoughts on “Christ Church Removes Plaque To Its Former Patron, George Washington, Because It Created An “Unsafe Or Unwelcome” Space”

  1. A similar thing happened in my historic church in Maine. Very unfortunate. Understanding context is so important for us all. “Interpretation” does not do justice to history. You can interpret the Bible, but facts are facts. We are doomed to repeat what we forget…

    1. BetteB,
      I am saddened to hear this is not limited to a single church. What happened, if I may ask? Did they take down a plaque to Chamberlain?

      Too many parishioners are not seeing the forest for the trees.

      I hope folks in both churches will reconsider.

      1. It was a plaque dedicated to Jefferson Davis who sat in a pew owned by a prominent family during the summer of 1858 three years before the Civil War. Davis had served in the US Congress from 1847 to 1849 with this church member, Asa William Henry Clapp, and they were acquaintances. I let the trustees know that this plaque seems to be no more important than the sentimentalized term of “Washington slept here”. One can barely notice it, but yet it somehow exudes disrespect. In 1858 the First Parish Church of Portland Maine was the place to commune with God. Portland was part of the Triangular Trade at the time with seven rum distilleries (distilleries supplied income to both sides during the Civil War). Clapp was a merchant in foreign and domestic affairs and the pew also has a plaque dedicated to the Clapp family but no one is looking into this history and whether there is a connection to slave labor in foreign in ports. The Davis plaque was given by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1955. People served and died on both sides during this war. Context is very important. If we remove these links to the past, how can the significance of the historical activity be of value to anyone? The church is a national historic site because the Maine Constitution was drafted in the meeting house on that site (that plaque is gone too. I don’t know if I should believe that it is getting polished). I am no longer a voting member of this Unitarian Universalist church because the UU Association has encouraged the preaching of rampant “white supremacy” and endorses the “resistance”. This is not heeding the guidance of reason that I grew up with in my Unitarian roots; I believe it is a transformation toward Utopian ideals which I consider to be quite dangerous because of the implications toward Socialism. Liberal religion in my view does not mean liberal politics, it means free thought, the freedom to question regardless of a creed, and UU’s are getting away from that. When I speak up I am looked at as if I have two heads…Very sad.

        1. This is very sad. Prior to the secession of Mississippi, Jefferson Davis was a well respected Senator in the US Congress. I wonder when the marxist left will be demanding Civil War reenactments stop and statues removed from battlefields. My own church, Catholic, is suffering under Pope Francis and his preaching so much political ideology. Fortunately this does not occur in all local churches.

          1. After asking ourselves what we were worshipping, we had to change to a different wing of our denomination (Lutheran). Returning from church services – no matter how much of your lifetime, service, and monetary fortune you’ve invested – feeling angry, mischaracterized, afraid, and lost is not worship.

  2. SIDEBAR –

    “Legal expert: Robert Mueller’s Russia probe may be a bust because he was illegally appointed”

    “Paul Manafort and Richard Gates have pleaded not guilty to all charges in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, but at least one legal scholar has suggested special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation may not be constitutional.

    According to the reasoning, one of the key factors is how Mueller’s role is structured. Jeff Sessions recused himself, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has said Mueller doesn’t report to him with day-to-day decisions.

    Because of that, Pepperdine University law professor Douglas W. Kmiec says that Mueller effectively does not have a supervisor — and without one, the Senate would have to confirm Mueller as an executive appointee. Otherwise, his appointment is unconstitutional.

    In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times penned in July, Kmiec suggested that — with Comey’s alleged assumption that President Trump is a wrongdoer— and the special counsel process labelling him as such, that “the investigation itself is arguably equivalent to an unconstitutional indictment.”

    The third part of the argument points to the 1999 expiration of a law establishing the independent counsel.

    Kmiec suggests the new regulations are unconstitutional.

    Looking at the old law, the attorney general would have to conduct an investigation based on “specific and credible” information before an independent counsel was appointed.

    “[T]here are no signs that in the wake of Sessions’ recusal, a constitutionally sufficient process triggered the Mueller appointment,” he wrote.”

  3. Slave owners worshipped here. Burn it Down. Slaves built the! Burn it down. Mt.Vernon -slaves. Burn it down! Everything built by slaves in this evil country- BURN THE MOTHER DOWN. Politically Correct IDIOTS!!!

  4. How does one “own” their history. No matter what one does in the vein of apologizing for “their” history does not change it one bit. People are good with bad aspects or bad with good aspects.It seems to me that when you apologize for something you have no hand in, the “I’m Sorry” loses something much as taking credit for what you have not accomplished leaves you looking stupid. Take down and rename every street named Washington, Jefferson, Lee, Lincoln (Mrs. Lincoln’s family were slave holders) and anyone else whose sins will earn them a place on some list of the disgraced.

  5. How about we first remove sexual abuser George HW Bush’s name from the airport in Houston and CIA headquarters since women have to fly through the one and work at the other?

  6. I’ve read nothing to suggest this was anything but an internal decision which I’m sure all here recognize their right to do? I can’t picture anyone feeling “unsafe” in that environment but I can imagine someone pointing out the hypocrisy of honoring individuals that were slaveholders and in one case treasonous If there were plaques in whatever church Benedict Arnold may have worshipped at, one might question that?

    I have no idea how they would have used the moment to explain the history in a way that would have made things okay. The further we get away from slavery, the explanations become more benign. Pick up a Texas school book and see.

    1. enigma – all I can say is, if people noticed the plaques and felt unsafe, then the services were really boring. 😉

      1. No one felt unsafe. That’s the excuse du jour. Liberal clergymen are seldom square shooters.

        1. From the letter:

          “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.”

          1. I can see how the Robert E. Lee plaque could make descendants of slaves feel unwelcome.

            1. swm – what I don’t understand is why the Democratic Party, the party of slavery, doesn’t make the decedents of slaves uncomfortable. Seems like a double standard.

                1. swm – the descendants of slavery are living in the past if they are worried about plaques of Washington and Lee. However, I was thinking about it and maybe they were so poorly hung as to be a safety hazard. That would fit all the criteria the church has been talking about. If they just said that, it would have solved a lot of issues.

              1. They are going to move the plaques from the sanctuary to another part of the church. Maybe it is better not to mix politics with the church’s service.

                1. swm – Westminster Cathedral is full of plaques and the bodies of dead important people, including politicians, artists, writers, etc. Your point is not taken.

    2. Do you ever get tired of red herrings? No one complained that they were not legally entitled to make the decision. They complained that the decision was undertaken for reasons that are inane.

        1. When you’ve wrapped up your special ed classes and gotten that equivalency, you can instruct me on what I do and do not understand. Not til then, pumpkin.

      1. There were multiple claims of the church reacting to pressure from the outside that I don’t see? While I can’t envision the “unsafe” claim. I can think of a couple reasons not to honor a slaveholder and a traitor.

        1. I don’t know that the church was “honoring” them, the church described the plaques as “memorializing” them as significant historical figures who were also members of the church. So, in that context, if I saw a plaque noting that Benedict Arnold or Lee H. Oswald, or any other unsavory character slept or dined or worshiped in a particular place, it would be somewhat interesting but otherwise meaningless. When I was in Minneapolis some years ago I went into a restaurant and the waitress asked if I wanted to sit in the Andrew Cunannon (sp ?) booth. Huh? She explained that the guy who killed Versace and three other people dined there during his murder spree and many people come in wanting to sit in the same booth. Which I thought was kind of weird, but whatever, I wasn’t interested and it wasn’t an honor that the booth was still there and hadn’t been removed, just a fact.

    3. “If there were plaques in whatever church Benedict Arnold may have worshipped at, one might question that?”

      I wouldn’t, because I respect history and am not an easily triggered moron who doesn’t even know how to properly spell “worshiped.”

      1. If I were “easily triggered, I probably wouldn’t last long around here. Thank you for the correction, of course, you are now under pressure never to make a spelling error or typo lest you be proclaim yourself a “moron.”

        I’ve heard that word moron in the news recently. Can you help me recall where?

          1. The auto-correct feature causes some unintended words. And since we’re just making blog comments, not writing a term paper, there’s no reason to carefully edit our posts.

  7. Wasn’t it the Taliban which started the movement of destroying historical monuments because they offended their sensibilities? I distinctly recall the destruction of ancient Assyrian monuments. But these snowflakes in Virginia are just followers. They can’t even come up with unique descriptions, beyond the tired old “unsafe” and “unwelcome” cliches. And sadly, they are ignoring Jesus’s teachings of forgiveness, in place jumping on the PC train to nowhere…..Now they’re just another church of no particular interest. Congratulations.

    1. SO true. Excellent point re the Taliban! Frightening how liberal and PC the Episcopal church has become.

      1. Suze – when you have the Archbishop of Canterbury say that he does not believe in God, the Episcopal Church starts to get a little wobbly.

  8. Well, it makes sense that the church would do it too, JT has made a unsafe and unwelcome site here. Just try to have a different opinion on this site and you get unwelcomed fast and quick.

    1. You write stupid and puerile things in an attempt to get a rise out of people. If you’d like to be treated respectfully, write something respectable.

      1. sgniht elireup dna diputs etirw ouY
        elbatcepser gnihtemos etirw ,yllyftcepser detaert eb ot ekil d’uoy fI .elpoep fo tuo esir a teg ot tpmetta na ni

        I think you need to look in the mirror.

    2. Turley’s gathered a gun totin crew of M a g a s here that get off on da bullyin. I don’t care what these key boardin bots say about much of anything.

      1. Ken – you must not have gotten today’s email of talking points from the DNC. Have you checked your spam folder?

      2. Ken wrote: “Turley’s gathered a…crew of M a g a s here that get off on da bullyin.”

        They certainly do.

        1. You’re not bullied, Elaine. You’re given plain and precise assessments of your opinion and that triggers in you an uncontrollable urge to cut and paste irrelevant material and utter non sequiturs.

          1. And you, my dear, have way too much time on your hands — or you’re being paid to be here — and not by JT — of course. Most people like being productive. Hanging out on a blog — day in and day out? Well, it’s your life, but that you seem to enjoy wasting it, tells one a lot about you. If you’re so smart, write a book and get it published — or do something that might make the world a better place.

            1. Most people like being productive. Hanging out on a blog — day in and day out? Well, it’s your life,

              And your busy and productive self is allocating time to tracking it.

              1. I know the clip. Just feel free to ignore my comments, and then it might ring true. : )

                (When one pops in and skims a thread, your comments — all of them (with the dates and times) — are obvious and numerous. One doesn’t have to spend any time at all “tracking” you to get a sense of how much you’re here. And your sniping is tiresome — and telling.)

  9. Ever hear of The Constitution? Freedom of and by implication freedom from religion? Does Separation of Church and State ring a bell? Not my business what congregation of some church I never heard of wants to do or not do. Now if you made the secular progressively regtressive version of the same thing I’d say deport them for having rejected their social contract with our country. They reject we eject or at least bar them from participation in or comment on our system of government .It’s not their business.

  10. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    – Edmund Burke

    “The British are coming!”

    – Paul Revere

    In Medford, I awakened the Captain of the Minute Men; & after that, I alarmed almost every house, till I got to Lexington.

    – Paul Revere

    “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

    – Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

  11. Translation: “I need more attention, because selfies and instagram aren’t enough!”

  12. Maybe a dividing line for removing symbols or including more context is America’s supreme loyalty oath – the oath of office. Washington followed America’s loyalty oath under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution (as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court). Confederate leaders didn’t follow their supreme loyalty oath. Even though “Marbury v. Madison” codified judicial review into American law years later, it was part of English Common law centuries before.

    This might be an accurate distinction since the Oath of Office was further clarified after the Civil War. Instead of executing Confederate leaders or lifetime prison sentences, the new unity government allowed ex-confederates to serve in government under one condition – they must swear allegience to the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land in order to be police officers, legislators, clerks or politicians.

    The great Christian minister Martin Luther King, Jr. was largely successful because he embraced and expanded James Madison’s Constitutional Democratic Republic model of government and the founder of the Republican Party – Abraham Lincoln.

    1. Wait. A “sugar daddy,” fraud, parasite, philanderer, plagiarist and preacher blaspheming to his congregation is a “great Christian minister?”

      Damn, bro!

      Would you clarify; the Supreme Court rewrote or modified the Constitution with a “decision?” It would be my guess that the Constitution provides a process for “amendment” and the duty of the Supreme Court to assure simply that any and all actions comport with the MANIFEST TENOR of the Constitution.

      Not being an attorney or constitutional scholar but a simple citizen expecting to enjoy the benefits of the U.S. Constitution, is your imaginary “loyalty oath” anywhere to be found in the Constitution or rather the founding documents and fundamental law of North Korea, Nazi Germany and the Chinese communist party?

      1. Loyalty Oath is found in Article 1, Article VI and federal law (Title 5 US Code 3331). Any citizen can also file a simple “Freedom of Information Act” request to any police department, the FBI, DoD or any intelligence agency – those agencies will tell you they take only 1 or 2 oaths, a supreme oath to the U.S. Constitution and sometimes a secondary oath to their state constitution. It’s illegal to place an oath above the U.S. Constitution governing work duties and authorities.

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