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Head Of Church Of England: West Should Reconsider Its Depiction Of Jesus As White

By  Hank Berrien
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury talks at a debate on social inequality at the annual CBI conference on November 18, 2019 in London, England.
Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

The principal leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said on Friday that the West should think again about its depiction of Jesus Christ as a white man, adding that some statues of historical figures in Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey “will have to come down.”

Welby, who was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March 2013, was asked if the “way the western church portrays Jesus needs to be thought about again.” Welby answered, “Yes, of course it does, this sense that God was white . . . ” He noted of churches around the world, “You go into churches and you don’t see a white Jesus. You see a black Jesus, a Chinese Jesus, a Middle Eastern Jesus — which is of course the most accurate — you see a Fijian Jesus.”

Welby continued, “Jesus is portrayed in as many ways as there are cultures, languages, and understandings. And I don’t think that throwing out everything we’ve got in the past is the way to do it, but I do think saying ‘that’s not the Jesus who exists, that’s not who we worship,’ it is a reminder of the universality of the God who became fully human.”

Welby said of people who have been memorialized in statues that people should forgive them their “trespasses” instead of knocking them down, but added, “We can only do that if we’ve got justice, which means the statue needs to be put in context. Some will have to come down … some names will have to change. I mean, the church, goodness me, you know, you just go around Canterbury Cathedral, there’s monuments everywhere, or Westminster Abbey, and we’re looking at all that, and some will have to come down,” according to The Daily Mail.

But asked by BBC Today specifically if statues will be torn down in Canterbury Cathedral, Justin Welby stated, “No, I didn’t say that. I very carefully didn’t say that. We’re going to be looking very carefully and putting them in context and seeing if they all should be there. The question arises. Of course it does.”

Welby said that reconsidering statues is “what people do at times like this . . . And it’s a good thing, but there has to be, for forgiveness, there has to be this turning round, this conversion, the Pope called it. The change of heart that says we learned from them not to be like that, and to change the way we are in the future.’

Welby added: “We’ve seen in some of the crises we’ve first over the last few months, not just Covid, but also Black Lives Matter and the economic downturn, that there is great injustice. And we need a collective turning away from that, which is what repentance means, but we also need to learn to forgive.”

He continued, “There can be forgiveness, I hope and pray as we come together, but only if there’s justice. If we change the way we behave now, and say this was then and we learned from that, and change how we’re going to be in the future, internationally, as well.”

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