Boise church replaces stained-glass windowpane depicting Robert E. Lee with first Black female Methodist Bishop


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On Wednesday, the Cathedral of the Rockies near downtown Boise finished replacing a stained-glass windowpane that the church felt was racist and non-inclusive.

“To any African American in our community, when they see Robert E. Lee, they’re not feeling warm and welcomed,” said the church’s lead pastor Duane Anders.

The Methodist church, which sits on 11th St. in Boise’s North End, was built in 1960. At the time, a giant stained-glass window was installed that mainly depicts early Christian leaders, except for a panel at the top. The upper panel features George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Robert E. Lee standing shoulder to shoulder.

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“It was kind of like if you said ‘one of these is not like the other.’ This was the one panel everybody would go, ‘hmm, why are they there?'” Anders said. “In 1960, a white congregation probably saw that as an inclusive image. There were probably no nonwhites in the decision-making room.”

Decision made to remove windowpane

Cathedral of the Rockies new window
Cathedral of the Rockies new window

After researching the cathedral’s history, Anders says notes on the building indicate that the panel was meant to be a nod to American leadership. But now more than sixty years later, the congregation believed it was time for a much-needed change.

“After those terrible killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, we made the decision to have the window removed,” Anders said.

The church reached out to the community for input on which historical figure should be depicted in the replacement panel. A list with more than 50 names was generated, but through prayer, Anders says it became clear the best choice was Leontine Kelly, the first Black female Bishop in Methodism with Boise ties.

“Leontine Kelly was elected at a jurisdictional meeting that was taking place in Boise and was consecrated Bishop in our building, in our church, in the cathedral,” Anders said. “It was kind of one of those no-brainers where he went, how could we not celebrate that historic moment?”

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In addition to Kelly, the names of the first Japanese and Hispanic Bishops are included in the panel along with a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. The installation was completed on Wednesday and next spring, Anders hopes to consecrate the window with members of Kelly’s family.

“She has died but her daughter was a Methodist pastor, one of her sons is a Methodist pastor, we’re going to see how many of them we can bring to Boise and celebrate the window in kind of a sacred moment,” Anders said.

As for the old panel with Robert E. Lee, it’s being donated to the Idaho Black History Museum.

“It keeps teaching about what it means to understand your own bias and our own participation in systemic racism so, the Idaho Black History Museum was willing to receive it.”

Gretchen Parsons - BoiseDev Managing Editor
Gretchen Parsons - BoiseDev Managing Editor
Gretchen Parsons is BoiseDev's managing editor. Contact her at [email protected].

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