UPDATE: Lexington's R.E. Lee Episcopal Church votes to change name

Published: Jun. 19, 2017 at 7:53 PM EDT
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At a meeting on whether to change the name of one local church, the vestry voted 7 to 5 to change the church's name back to Grace Episcopal.

That was the name held by the church until the early 20th century when it was changed in tribute to Robert E. Lee.

Lee was a member of the church and served as senior warden of the vestry when he was president of then-Washington College (now Washington and Lee University).


Lexington is a place full of history, where into a house built for him, Robert E. Lee came after the Civil War to be president of Washington College.

“He also, as a good Episcopalian, always attended the Episcopal church wherever he was," says David Cox, the author of “The Religious Life of Robert E Lee." "And that certainly was in Lexington.”

He joined the vestry, and was chosen to lead.

“Yeah, I’m filling the same job. He was senior warden of this church when he died,” says Woody Sadler, the Senior Warden today.

Leaving him with a problem. When Lee died, what was then Grace Episcopal was rebuilt as a memorial. A memorial that – as statues and parks honoring Lee and others are removed and renamed – some think should go back to being Grace Episcopal.

“There’s support of a group within the church that would like to see the name changed for a number of reasons," Sadler explains. "One: they believe we may be able to attract more members to our church. But I think there is more than a majority that want to keep the name.”

And so, in every vote of the vestry, the move has come up short. Though that hasn’t stopped the idea.

“Oh I think it will come up, from time to time," Sadler says. "In fact, that’s one of the things that the vestry reaffirmed was that the name may be changed in the future, but we’re just not going to change it at this time.”