US church removal of Robert E. Lee name from parish, new step against Confederate symbols

(Photo: Episcopal News Service / Mary Frances Schjonberg)The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg addresses members of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on January 26, 2013.

Southern Baptist Convention President  Steve Gaines penned his signature to others from his group to a letter requesting that a Memphis statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest be moved from a public park "to a more historically appropriate site."

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Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, joined more than 150 Memphis-area clergy in a letter requesting the state historical commission relocate a statue of Memphis native Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader is buried in a city park that bore his name until 2013, Christian Today reported.

Gaines also came out in support of removing Confederate president Jefferson Davis's statue from another downtown location, formerly called Confederate Park.

Protests against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee in Charlottesville had turned violent on Aug. 12, when white supremacists clashed with counter protesters leading to the death of one person and nearly 20 injuries.

The Confederate States of America, also known as the Confederacy, was a group of 11 Southern states that seceded from the Union in 1860.

Because the Confederate states wanted the institution of slavery was their primary motivation for secession and the main cause of the subsequent American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 in which more than 600,000 lives were lost.

Since In 2016, following the massacre of nine black church-goers by white supremacist Dylann Roof, civil rights groups have identified 1,503 Confederate place names and symbols across the country, to change.

They include monuments, memorials, statues, public schools, highways and county and city names among other things.

The campaign has been divisive among white American Christians with some of them viewing the removal of monuments to Confederate heroes as an insult to their traditions.

Groups opposing removal of the monuments assert that removing the monuments effectively erases history.

Leaders of R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington on Sept. 18 voted to change the parish's name to Grace Episcopal Church. That was it name from the time when the Confederate general moved to town after the Civil War and joined the congregation.

"It's been a very divisive issue for two years," said Rev. Tom Crittenden, the church's rector, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

"But Charlottesville seems to have moved us to this point. Not that we have a different view of Lee historically in our church, but we have appreciation for our need to move on."

Discussion was difficult, dividing congregants and prompting a vestry member and the church's treasurer to resign their leadership posts in protest of initial inaction.

"People have left the church," said vestry member Doug Cumming after the body's 7-5 vote, which followed a parish meeting where members on both sides of the issue spoke. "People have felt exhausted by it. And many people have felt hurt."

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