President and Board accept committee recommendation on Wren cross

Following is a statement issued Tuesday by President Gene R. Nichol and the William and Mary Board of Visitors. —Ed.

JOINT STATEMENT OF THE BOARD OF VISITORS AND THE PRESIDENT

Following its meeting yesterday, the William and Mary Committee on Religion in a Public University unanimously recommended a compromise practice on the display of the table cross in the Wren Chapel. We accept and will immediately begin to implement the Committee’s recommendations, which we quote in full:

THE WREN CHAPEL CROSS SHALL BE RETURNED FOR PERMANENT DISPLAY IN THE CHAPEL IN A GLASS CASE. THE CASE SHALL BE LOCATED IN A PROMINENT, READILY VISIBLE PLACE, ACCOMPANIED BY A PLAQUE EXPLAINING THE COLLEGE'S ANGLICAN ROOTS AND ITS HISTORIC CONNECTION TO BRUTON PARISH CHURCH. THE WREN SACRISTY SHALL BE AVAILABLE TO HOUSE SACRED OBJECTS OF ANY RELIGIOUS TRADITION FOR USE IN WORSHIP AND DEVOTION BY MEMBERS OF THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY.

The cross will still be available, of course, for use on the altar during appropriate religious services. This practice is similar to that used by other universities with historic chapels, including the University of Virginia. Other religious symbols, which may be stored in the sacristy when not in use, will also be welcome during the services for which they are appropriate. Under this policy, the Wren Chapel will continue to play its unique historic and affirming role in the life of the College: a place of worship for our students and a site for our most solemn occasions.

The Committee’s quick action was unexpected but deeply welcomed. Rector Powell stated, “The Committee membership recognized that further division among our broad university community is unhealthy and it worked intensely to come to a unanimous recommendation, having considered the wide range of sincerely held views of alumni, faculty, students, and friends of the College.” President Nichol added, “This has been a challenging task for the Committee, but it has produced a compromise that allows for permanent display of the cross in the Chapel, while remaining welcoming to all. I fully embrace it.”

We are grateful to the Committee, and especially its chairs Professors Alan Meese and Jim Livingston, for earnestly embracing this part of their charge. We look forward, as well, to their coming work on other important challenges.