Church to consider removing or altering slavery monuments

May 9, 2021 by

by Harriet Sherwood, Guardian:

New guidance calls for Church of England to review monuments for ‘contested heritage’ and relocate or remove them.

The Church of England is to review thousands of monuments in churches and cathedrals across the country that contain historical references to slavery and colonialism, with some expected to be removed.

Guidance to be issued this week encourages the C of E’s 12,500 parishes and 42 cathedrals to scrutinise buildings and grounds for evidence of contested heritage, and consult local communities on what action to take.

Although decisions will be made at a local level, the guidance stresses that ignoring contested heritage is not an option. Among actions that may be taken are the removal, relocation or alteration of plaques and monuments, and the addition of contextual information. In some cases, there may be no change.

The guidance comes after Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, called for a review of the C of E’s built heritage following the Black Lives Matter protests last summer and the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. “Some [statues and monuments] will have to come down,” Welby said at the time.

An anti-racism taskforce set up by the archbishops of Canterbury and York last month urged the C of E to take decisive steps to address the legacy of its involvement in the slave trade. It said: “We do not want to unconditionally celebrate or commemorate people who contributed to or benefited from the tragedy that was the slave trade.”

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