The following statement was given by the Rev. Dr. Noelle York-Simmons, Rector of Christ Church, on Tuesday, October 31, 2017. 

We are the church of George Washington, of Robert E. Lee, but most importantly, we are the church of Jesus Christ.

We are glad you are here. As you can see from our library, Christ Church has a tremendously rich history. We are proud to be home to many political figures and other notable people who have shaped the history of our country, our city, and our church. Just as importantly, we are proud to be home to parishioners who are not named in history books but who have also shaped and served the world in ways big and small.

Our church building is a place where we come together as followers of Jesus and as complex individuals to worship together in a space hallowed by centuries of prayers of the faithful. We welcome and honor all people who wish to join us as brothers and sisters in Christ and join their prayers with ours through the liturgy of the Word and Table.

We are also intentional about honoring and sharing our history. For that reason, we offer docent-led tours, a fully stocked library, historical markers, and historical artifacts, including portraits of both President Washington and General Lee. Visitors to Christ Church cannot help but feel and see that rich history as soon as they step on our grounds. We are looking forward to adding a new historical exhibit in connection with our upcoming 250th birthday, which will include Washington, Lee, and many other figures we admire.

After much discussion within our church family, we have determined that two marble plaques honoring Washington and Lee that currently hang on the wall in the front of our church are best showcased in a prominent campus location outside the church itself. We are engaged in an active dialogue about the best way to do that, and in the meantime, the plaques remain where they are. As much as we honor the contributions of these two men to our parish and our country, many find those markers on either side of our altar to be a distraction from what we are here in church to do – and that is to worship God.

Please note that there are still numerous historical markers to Washington, to Lee, and to others, which will remain in the church, and many more around our campus.

It is important to clarify that the only markers the vestry considered are the marble memorial plaques on the front of the sanctuary.  The Washington box pew will remain, the Washington pew marker will remain, the plaque memorializing Washington’s funeral by the entry to the sanctuary will remain, the Lee plaque on the communion rail and Lee pew marker, strangers’ pew marker, and the three silver plaques from Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston Churchill’s visit to our campus during WWII will also remain exactly as they are today.  Additionally, the artifacts on display in the church Library and the history display highlighting both men outside the gift shop will remain intact.

Jesus calls us to welcome the stranger, and to care for those on the margins of society. We take that very seriously around here, and if you spend much time on campus at all, you’ll see the many ways we minister to our city and the world. Placing ourselves in the shoes of the other – and trying to understand how they see things – is an important skill that we are working on very hard as a community.

We remain a church of Washington, of Lee, but most importantly, of Jesus Christ.

We have been considering these issues as a community with prayer at the center of all we do. 

God of compassion, you have reconciled us in Jesus Christ who is our peace: Enable us to live as Jesus lived, breaking down walls of hostility and healing enmity. Give us grace to make peace with those from whom we are divided, that, forgiven and forgiving, we may ever be one in Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever, one holy and undivided Trinity. Amen.