Christ Church of Alexandria, Virginia, first opened in 1773. One of the very first parishioners, who even bought a pew when the church opened, was George Washington. Washington’s connection to Christ Church continued even after his death, as one of his Bibles was donated to the church in 1804.
But now, after hundreds of years of connections to the Washington memory, the church wants to remove the memorial plaque recognizing him. Why? Because of Robert E. Lee and family connections, that’s why.
This week the church announced it was pulling down a memorial to its one-time vestryman and the country’s first president, saying he and another famous parishioner, Robert E. Lee, have become too controversial and are chasing away would-be parishioners.
While acknowledging “friction” over the decision, the church’s leadership said the twin memorials, which are attached to the wall on either side of the altar, are relics of another era and have no business in a church that proclaims its motto as “All are welcome — no exceptions.”
“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,” the church leaders said.
A staffer at the church Friday said the decision was going to be announced to the church on Sunday.
For now the Lee memorial stands to the right of the altar and the Washington plaque to the left. The simple stone memorials, with gold-colored lettering, say: “In memory of George Washington.” and “In memory of Robert Edward Lee.”