This past September, following a challenge put forth by Dean Gail Greenwell, the vestry of the Christ Church Cathedral, 318 East Fourth Street, downtown Cincinnati, took under consideration how best to acknowledge memorials to Confederate figures currently installed within its facility. These figures include the stained glass window depiction of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Bishop William Meade and a floor plaque in memory of Leonidas K. Polk’s consecration as bishop.
Under the leadership of senior warden Don Lane and junior warden Julie Kline, the vestry determined that the most appropriate response needed to begin with an active period of discernment. Consequently, the vestry has scheduled a special educational forum on Sunday, January 7, at 11:45 a.m. with a twofold purpose. The first is to explore the contextual historical significance of these memorials and their impact on present day members of the cathedral community. The second is to exam the role of such political-national memorials within a worship space.
During this forum, Dr. Frank Rzeczkowski, visiting professor of history at Cincinnati’s Xavier University, and the Rev. Dr. William J. Danaher Jr., professor of theology, ethics and arts at Ecumenical Theological Seminary, will give both historical context and theological implications.
Rzeczkowski is the author of Uniting the Tribes: The Rise and Fall of Pan-Indian Community on the Crow Reservation, which was published by University Press of Kansas in 2012. He has been recognized for narratives that explore big and important questions, the uneven power of colonialism, and the nuances of tribalism. He frames subjects in original ways and brings a refreshing and sophisticated perspective to his work. His scholarship has made important contributions to importance of intertribal relationships and the permeable boundaries of the too often calcified concept of “tribes.” He completed his earlier academic studies at the University of North Dakota and earned his Ph.D. at Northwestern University.
Danaher previously served as an associate professor of theology and ethics at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee (2000-2006); associate professor of moral theology in the John Henry Hobart Chair at The General Theological Seminary, New York, (2006-2008); and dean of the faculty of theology and the Huron-Lawson Chair in Moral and Pastoral Theology at Huron University College, London, Ontario (2008-2014). He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1995. He holds a B.A. from Brown University (1988), M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary (1994), and Ph.D. from Yale University (2002). Along with his appointment at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, he serves as rector of Christ Church Cranbrook in Michigan.
The vestry will follow this educational forum with a Cathedral Conversation on Sunday, January 14, also scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m. During this follow-up meeting, the vestry will welcome input from members of the cathedral community on how it should address the memorials. The vestry will use this input, and other comments it has already received, to make a final determination regarding the status of the memorials.
In addition, a vestry-appointed task force is considering how other institutions recognize heroes of the anti-slavery and racial justice movements and how the cathedral can do likewise. The task force has been asked to give special consideration to local abolitionists and those critical to the Underground Railroad.