A church in Idaho has replaced a stained glass window that featured a Confederate General with one that showcases the first African American woman bishop of the United Methodist Church.
The Cathedral of the Rockies First Methodist Church in Boise removed a panel of its stained glass windows depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln and replaced it with one that honors the late Bishop Leontine Kelly.
Kelly was the first Black woman to become a Methodist bishop in the United States, being elected to the position during a 1984 ceremony. A stained glass recreation of Kelly’s likeness donning an LGBTQ scarf now stands in the place where all three men once were. The portrait of Kelly depicted in the glass panel was inspired by a photo taken of her during a 1985 protest against nuclear weapons.
The Idaho church came up with fifty possible people to replace the Confederate general’s image. After a year and a half, the church finally figured out who they wanted to represent – the bishop – after the window was blank. The cost of the new stained-glass window was $25,591. The church felt that the price was well worth it because they did not want to show support for the Confederacy.
Bishop Kelly was chosen among fifty possible candidates for the stained glass window. Because of her influence, she was a respected person in the Christian church.
“As we started working through the names, one just kept rising to the top because of our connection to the person and their connection to Boise,” Pastor Anders said. “And that’s Bishop Leontine Kelly.”
After community conversations, Pastor Anders says the United Methodist Church and Cathedral of the Rockies decided to remove the image of Lee, explaining that “Lee is not someone who upheld Christian values, in his leadership as a general in the confederate army defending slavery.”
The stained glass depiction of Kelly shows her wearing a rainbow stole, representing her history of being an advocate for greater inclusivity of LGBT individuals in the church.
The new window was created by Willet Hauser Architectural Glass, which is based in Minnesota. The church used its endowment fund to pay for the expensive new window that replaced the image of Robert E. Lee.
The UMC is presently dealing with an increasingly divisive debate over whether it should maintain its official biblically-based stance on homosexuality, noting that it’s a sin, and opposition to same-sex marriage.
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Bishop Kelly’s children are eager to visit the Boise church so they can see the window that honors their late mother.
“Some people were saying it can’t happen, it’s not going to happen,” Kelly’s daughter Angella Current Felder said. “So the fact that it happened, for those of us who recognize and believe in the Holy Spirit, it was divinely guided.”
Kelly’s son John Current loved his mother and was very proud of how she managed to become a Bishop despite it being a male-dominated field.
“What she inherited there was a wooden church that had been built 100 years earlier, probably right around the time of the emancipation of the slaves, and a hole that had been dug for a new foundation for a new church,” Current said. “She, confronted with ‘Where do I go from here?’ responded, ‘God.’ It was a very male-dominated culture. However, Jesus did violate the customs of the culture in that he talked with women, shared with women. Women were part of the entourage of Jesus Christ. God calls whomever God would call.”
Current serves as a senior pastor at the Hope United Methodist Church in San Francisco.
“Her life is a culmination of many generations in the Methodist Church,” he said. “She was a daughter of a Methodist pastor, sister of a Methodist pastor, she married a Methodist pastor, and she’s the mother of Methodist pastors. That’s a unique legacy, and we’re honored to see her memory in stained glass.”
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