WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Washington National Cathedral removed Confederate flags from Civil War-themed stained glass windows, the church said.

Kevin Eckstrom, the cathedral’s chief communications officer, said this week two small pieces of glass, each depicting the Confederate battle flags, were replaced several weeks ago by panes of glass in a solid red or blue color.

The flags were part of a collection of four large, stained-glass windows installed in 1953, honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Eckstrom said the display of windows would remain in place but “their long-term future is really very much up in the air.”

The action comes as part of a national discussion about display of the Confederate battle flag and its ties to slavery and modern racism.

“They [cathedral officials] decided, rather than further exacerbate tensions around the flag in the windows, to just do it and get it done and move on to the next phase. They didn’t want the flags themselves to become a distraction from the larger conversation that they’re having around race, which in the cathedral’s mind is much more important than the windows,” Eckstrom said.

In June, the Cathedral assembled a task force, seeking public input, to decide how to deal with the flags in its stained-glass windows. The task force wrote that it “is unanimous in its decision that the windows provide a catalyst for honest discussions about race and the legacy of slavery and for addressing the uncomfortable and too often avoided issues of race in America. Moreover, the windows serve as a profound witness to the Cathedral’s own complex history in relationship to race.”

It later announced it would replace the flags instead of removing the entire panel of four large windows.

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