College compromises on displaying its chapel cross

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia (AP) — Removing an 18-inch brass cross from the altar of the oldest college chapel in the United States proved a costly decision — dozens of alumni withheld contributions, including one whose pledges totaled $12 million.

An ad hoc committee at the College of William and Mary hopes to defuse the protest by offering a compromise between the school president’s plan and its critics when it comes to Wren Chapel.

The committee, created by President Gene R. Nichol to study the role of religion at public universities, unanimously recommended that the cross be prominently displayed in the chapel in a glass case, accompanied by a plaque explaining the school’s Anglican roots.

The cross will not be displayed on the altar under the compromise announced Tuesday. Its exact placement has not been determined.

The cross also will remain available for use on the altar during religious services. The chapel’s sacristy, where the cross had been stored, will be expanded to house sacred objects of other religious traditions for use in worship.

The practice is similar to that of other universities with historic chapels, including the University of Virginia, officials said.


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