Idaho church window that once featured Robert E. Lee is now dedicated to a Black female bishop

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RNS] — A stained-glass window in Idaho honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee has been replaced by an image of the first African American woman bishop elected into the United Methodist Church.

The new window features prominently Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly was inaugurated in the Cathedral of the Rockies, Boise, on December 7. Kelly, who died in 2012 at the age of 92, was the first African American woman elected to the episcopacy by a major religious denomination.

The decision to replace the window was made around the time of the fifth anniversary of the massacre at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Church in South Carolina — in which nine people were murdered in 2015 by a white supremacist during a Bible study. The leadership of the cathedral wanted to show its members that it supported racial equality.

“We recognize this section of our window is more than a benign historical marker,” the UMC church’s leaders wrote in a 2020 statement explaining its plans. It is a barrier to worship in sacred spaces for many of God’s children. For others, this and other Confederate monuments serve as beacons along the path to racial oppression .

The leaders said their plans were further solidified after the 2020 killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor sparked Black Lives Matter protests.

The old window that featured Lee and Presidents George Washington, as well as Abraham Lincoln, was desecrated last year.

The new window also shows the last names of Bishop Elias Galvan, and Bishop Roy Sano in order to celebrate the historic election of UMC’s first Hispanic American bishop. Along with Kelly, the two were consecrated in the church’s sanctuary in a 1984 ceremony.

RELATED: Leontine T.C. Kelly, pioneering African-American woman bishop, dies at 92

The Rev. Senior pastor Duane Anders said that the church hopes to donate the old window to Idaho Black History Museum in Boise as an educational tool. The church spent about $25,000 from earnings on endowed funds to pay for the new window.

A new stained-glass window featuring Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly at the Cathedral of the Rockies, Boise, Idaho. Photo courtesy of Cathedral of the Rockies

” “Many are happy the window has been put and the Lee window taken out,” he said to Religion News Service via email. “Only hatred is directed at people outside the church who have not gone through the process of repentance .”

The new window features Kelly’s image in a row stained glass that depicts the Apostle Paul, Athanasius and Martin Luther. A small image of the Rev. is also included in the panel featuring Kelly, Galvan, and Sano. Martin Luther King Jr

As people suggested which image should be used in the new pane’s design, Anders stated that King was often mentioned. Anders stated that the addition of King’s image to the original window was in keeping with other windows that have small tributes to historical figures.

The senior pastor stated that he expected the church to have an official consecration for the new window during a spring ceremony.

” This is a small step towards living as an antiracist,” he said. “This is a small step towards living our call that God’s house (the Church) is open for all. Removing symbols of hatred, slavery, and racism is an important step

Other churches across the country have considered replacing their memorials to Confederate leaders.

The Washington National Cathedral announced in September that its stained-glass windows depicting Lee and Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson will be replaced with work by multimedia artist Kerry James Marshall related to racial justice. The cathedral removed the windows four year ago and the Lee window is currently featured in an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

RELATED: Cathedral to replace Confederate windows with stained glass reflecting Black life

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