LONDON: The Church of England on Tuesday outlined a review of monuments across its thousands of places of worship to examine if they honour slavery and colonialism, indicating some may be removed.

The Anglican Church published new guidelines for its parishes and cathedrals in the latest step of a consultation launched during the Black Lives Matter protests last year.

The movement followed the death of George Floyd in US police custody in May 2020 and saw a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, dumped in Bristol harbour in western England.

Subsequently, Bristol Cathedral removed a stained glass window that had been dedicated to Colston.

The British government is pressing ahead with contentious legislation to toughen jail terms for vandalism of historical artefacts, and the Church of England said it did not condone such direct action.

Parishes may opt to remove items featuring “contested heritage”, but may opt also to relocate them or attach educational material to explain their context better, according to the new guidelines.

They may also decide no change is needed to contentious monuments, but this should not be taken as “inertia” and the reasons should be communicated, the guidelines stated.

The idea was to ensure “a welcoming and inclusive Church today” for minorities, the CoE’s director of churches and cathedrals Becky Clark said in a statement.

“The issues of contested heritage require us honestly and openly to discuss ways in which our buildings can demonstrate

our commitment to social and racial justice as a reflection of our faith in Jesus Christ,” she said.

The state-backed CoE manages more than 16,000 church buildings and 42 cathedrals across England. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is the senior cleric for the worldwide Anglican communion, including in Africa and the United States.

The dean of Bristol Cathedral, Mandy Ford, said the review was intended “not to obliterate history, but to restore and repair our relationships with those whose history is not yet expressed in our buildings”.

“As we seek to find ways to honour those whose stories are untold and to give voice to communities that have suffered injustice, this guidance will be invaluable,” she said.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021

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