George Washington's Former Church to Remove Honorary Plaque in Effort to Be 'Welcoming'

Sign outside Christ Church in Alexandria, Va. / Twitter
October 30, 2017

The Episcopalian church once frequented by George Washington is set to remove a plaque honoring America's first president and the "father of the country" in an effort to be "welcoming" to all.

Washington was a regular parishioner at Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandra, Va., facilitated its construction, and even left the church a Bible in his will. The church constructed a pair of plaques in 1870 honoring Washington and Confederate General Robert E. Lee, another famous parishioner.

Amid the debate over Virginia's public Confederate memorials, Christ Episcopal Church began to reconsider not just the Lee plaque, but Washington's as well. In a statement released Thursday, church leadership announced that both plaques would be moved out of the worship space.

"We understand that both Washington and Lee lived in times much different than our own, and that each man, in addition to his public persona, was a complicated human being, and like all of us, a child of God," the statement read, before noting "the legacy of slavery and of the Confederacy is understood differently than it was in 1870."

"The Vestry has unanimously decided that the plaques create a distraction in our worship space and may create an obstacle to our identity as a welcoming church, and an impediment to our growth and to full community with our neighbors," the statement added.

The church decided to consider the two plaques together rather that separately, arguing that they were added at the same time and complemented each other symmetrically on either side of the altar. But the church promised in its statement that the plaques will not end up in storage and will be moved to "a place of respectful prominence."