This past September, following a challenge put forth by Dean Gail Greenwell, the cathedral vestry 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 held a special educational forum and a Cathedral Conversation on Sundays, January 7 and 14, with a twofold purpose. The first was to explore the contextual historical significance of these memorials and their impact on present day members of the cathedral community. The second was to exam the role of such political-national memorials within a worship space.
During this forum, Dr. Frank Rzeczkowski, a professor of history at Cincinnati’s Xavier University, and the Rev. Dr. William J. Danaher Jr., a professor of theology, ethics and arts at Detroit’s Ecumenical Theological Seminary, gave historical context and theological implications.
During the Cathedral Conversation, the vestry took input from members of the cathedral community on how it should address the memorials. The vestry is using this input, and other comments it has already received, to make a final determination regarding the status of the memorials.
The Vestry is also pleased to make available the following reports (below) from our cathedral archivist on the memorials in question.
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.
About Frank Rzeczkowski
Rzeczkowski has taught history at Xavier since 2006 and 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. Although his primary field of research and writing is Native American history, he has also taught courses on the history of American slavery and the Civil War. In the fall of 2018, he will be teaching a freshman seminar on Confederate memorials and the politics of historical memory. He completed his earlier academic studies at the University of North Dakota and earned his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in 2003.
About William Danaher
Along with his appointment at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Danaher serves as rector of Christ Church Cranbrook in Michigan. He 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).