Wren Cross Compromise

A compromise presumes one side has merit. I don’t find that to be the case in the the removal of the Christian cross from a historically Christian chapel because the Cross is offensive to some intolerant, anti-Christian bigots. Yet, in the spirit of comity, not compromise, I support this statement below.

Here is the statement from Leaders of SaveTheWrenCross.org (Full disclosure: I am a member of this group even though my connection is W&M faculty – one term, not alumni)

WILLIAMSBURG , VA — The following is a statement of leaders of SaveTheWrenCross.org in response to yesterday’s press conference at William and Mary announcing the return of the Wren Cross to Wren Chapel:

We are very thankful that the Wren Cross will be returned to permanent display in Wren Chapel.

While there remain very important issues related to the nature of the display of the cross in Wren Chapel to be addressed by the Religion Committee, we express gratitude today to a number of people wh contributed to making yesterday’s return of the cross possible. First, the staffs of the two William and Mary student newspapers deserve a salute: The Flat Hat for first bringing to light the news of the cross’ removal; The Virginia Informer for providing an opportunity for a thoughtful debate of the issues involved; and both for their continued coverage. Second, we are thankful for the thousands of students, alumni, faculty, and friends of the College who signed and supported the SaveTheWrenCross.org petition that helped bring attention to this issue. Many of these signatories helped define the issues and explain the consequences of the cross’ removal in letters to the editors and op-eds across Virginia . Third, we thank the Governor and Attorney General of Virginia, who both made statements in support of returning the cross to Wren Chapel. Fourth, we thank the Religion Committee, which deserves great credit for its leadership and swift action, in particular its two co-chairs Professors Alan Meese and Jim Livingston. Lastly, we thank members of the media who understood the importance of this issue and responsibly covered it.

We believe that the Religion Committee has acted in tremendously good faith and with the best interests of William and Mary uppermost in their minds. We applaud them for taking the initiative to expedite their deliberations with regard to the display of the cross.

We are especially grateful that the unanimous judgment of William and Mary’s Religion Committee to return the cross is an unambiguous repudiation of the destructive idea that William and Mary should ever tolerate intolerance towards religious symbols.

We urge the Committee to follow through on an implementation of a cross display practice that is consistent with those used by other Colonial Colleges with historic Christian chapels.

We also urge the Committee to follow through on its original charge to examine broader questions involving the role of religion at public universities, and to solicit a wide spectrum of student, alumni, and community input. Following through on this mission is all the more important in wake of the Committee’s recommendation adopted yesterday by the Board of Visitors.

Specifically, there is still a significant amount of clarity that the Religion Committee can provide to the issues involving the display of the cross. With the removal of the cross from Wren Chapel last October, there was a theory advanced over the last several months – as late as March 1 — about the inappropriateness of the ongoing display of a Christian cross in an historic Christian chapel. With the Committee’s unanimous recommendation, this theory has clearly been repudiated. Yet, in the 71 word recommendation by the Committee, no explanation has been advanced for why its new approach to the cross display policy has been adopted. We believe it is important to ground in sound reason and logic the rationale for departing from the previous cross display policy that had been in place for nearly 70 years.

This is especially important since we are a university community, and since as the second oldest university in America – and one of her great liberal arts universities — the decisions made on this campus have great significance. They must be thoughtful, made with deliberate consultation, with accountability, and above all, with respect to the traditions and heritage that make William and Mary the Alma Mater of a Nation. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record….Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” When we proceed to alter traditions, a decent respect for public and College community opinion would suggest that a thorough accounting and explanation for such a departure is warranted.

The leaders of the SaveTheWrenCross.org are W&M students and alumni who had not known one another prior to the start of this effort. We resolve to remain fully engaged in the work of the Religion Committee’s ongoing deliberations about the display of the cross and the more general questions about the role of religion at a public university that it will address. We resolve further to remain engaged in the future life of the College, especially in matters relating to protecting and celebrating its heritage. We also resolve to engage in efforts to ensure that William and Mary continues to be a place that is welcoming to people of all faiths, in the American tradition of religious pluralism.

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8 responses to “Wren Cross Compromise”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Hey, Jim, as you undoubtably realize, setting the Cross behind glass reduces it to an objet-d’art or historical artificat. Worthy of study and a part of the tapestry of history, but not a symbol to be associated with Truth. The atheists and myriad universalists can live with that any time.

    best regards,

    Mike Rothfeld

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Mike, Roger dodger. If you read the statement, the group isn’t disbanding. It isn’t over.

    There are other insidious things they may try to do, too.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Religionists. you gotta love’em. always the victims.

  4. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Bigots, you gotta love’em, always snarky.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    I’ve been in plenty of churches, synagoges and mosques (mostly in Europe and the Middle East) where crosses, stations of the cross, stars of david, icons, etc.are somehow encased for protection. Really don’t see how this diminishes their value.

    Maybe you sanctimonious, hard-right Christian types protest too much.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Name-callers. Gotta love ’em. Always blogging.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    the certainty of religionists is always a comfort. especially of the old-south variety. i love a good culture war. it’s so easy to pick a fight.

  8. NL Hartley Avatar
    NL Hartley

    Isn’t it strange how those with the most criticism are unable to use their names. Anonymous Cowards.!!

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