Robert E. Lee's own church votes to change its name

Robert E. Lee Memorial Church in Lexington, Va., has voted to change its name, scrubbing the Confederate general from its title.

The decision follows two years of debate among members of the church and, in the end, it came down to a slim 7-5 victory for the name changers. The church, which the Confederate general himself attended, will now be known by its former name Grace Episcopal Church.

Members of the congregation initially put forth the measure after a white supremacist murdered nine black people in a church in Charleston in 2015 but the recent political climate and violence in Charlottesville finally prompted the decision, according to the Episcopal News Service.


“It’s been a very divisive issue for two years,” the Rev. Tom Crittenden, the church’s rector, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “But Charlottesville seems to have moved us to this point. Not that we have a different view of Lee historically in our church, but we have appreciation for our need to move on.”

Hundreds of Confederate monuments nationwide have been removed or vandalized since August when one woman was killed and others were injured in violence at the “Unite the Right” rally meant to protest the removal of a statue of Lee in Charlottesville.

Last month, the Washington National Cathedral voted to take down stained glass windows honoring Lee and fellow Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

“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,” the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s Bishop Marianne Edgar Budde, the National Cathedral’s chapter chairman John Donoghue and National Cathedral dean Randy Hollerith said in a letter.

“Their association with racial oppression, human subjugation and white supremacy does not belong in the sacred fabric of this Cathedral," the letter said. The stained glass windows will be “deconsecrated, removed, conserved and stored until” the Cathedral can “determine a more appropriate future for them."

First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, which faces the now shrouded statue of Lee, also put up signs reiterating its stance against racism and welcoming people of all races and backgrounds to come worship.