R.E. Lee Memorial Church to keep namesake after close vote

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LEXINGTON (WSLS 10) - A church named after a Confederate war icon will keep the name some wanted changed after a close vote by its Vestry Monday.

The Robert E. Lee Memorial Church will keep its namesake after a 9-6 secret ballot vote by its Vestry, overseen by 33 parishioners.

It concludes an controversial, long-standing discussion about the church's name after the Confederate flag became a hot-button topic of debate.

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The 15-member Vestry decided the decision needed the support of at least two-thirds of the Vestry, which it did not obtain with the vote.

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While the vote leaves "R.E. Lee" in the name, the Vestry almost unanimously approved adding "Episcopal" to the official name, and creating a new sign that displays that name and adds "Founded as Grace Church."

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The church released a statement on the vote, explaining how the vote came about:

Off and on, members of the church have quietly discussed whether the name was inappropriate or misunderstood in the 21st century as the name for a church seeking to be, like all Christian churches, part of the "Body of Christ." But loyalty to tradition and attachment to the name as an identity made the issue too emotional for an all-out debate – until this summer. Two weeks after the horrific fatal shooting of nine leaders of an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C., a member of R.E. Lee Memorial Church wrote a letter to the church rector, senior warden and junior warden saying she felt that, in the wake of the tragedy, it was "time for us to have a frank, Christ-centered discussion about the name that our church has borne since 1903." The church leaders responded by presenting the issue to the Vestry in July, leading to months of discussion and discernment through forums, house meetings and a survey sent to all 390 active adult members of the church.

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