Broadcaster and Church of England vicar Rev Richard Coles has clashed with a fellow guest on Good Morning Britain during a debate over whether Jesus should be portrayed as white. Rev Coles, who is a regular host on BBC Radio 4's 'Saturday Live' programme, was criticised after claiming that the Church has played a significant role in combatting slavery across the globe.
Rev Coles said that the Church had "played a prophetic part in seeking equality for black people around the world" and that "the Church of England in the 18th and 19th centuries played a significant role in the legislation to bring about the abolition of the slave trade".
This prompted a series of remarks from African Studies Professor Kehinde Andrews, who brought attention to a series of records - recently made available at University College London - which indicated that numerous clergy members had been compensated under the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 after losing family-owned plantations in the United States.
"Come on, if we're honest about the role the church played...that's completely ridiculous," Andrews responded. "The Church is one of the key owners of the enslaved."
He added: "If you look at UCL's 'Have a Place', where you can find out where slave compensation went from slave owners, the Anglican Church is one of the key beneficiaries.
Andrews noted that "the white Jesus was given to us as the enslaved" and "was taken to African schools and put on to us in one of the main ways to pacify us."
The professor noted: "You still have people in Black churches in this country saying that 'he will wash you white as snow'. That's the original white saviour image and the whole purpose of it was to embed colonialism and slavery."
He concluded that we should "not pretend that the Church has had this great role for black people" and argued that the church's record on tackling racism has "been appalling".
Recent anti-racism demonstrations have called into question the common depiction of Jesus as being white and of European descent. One US activist has suggested that all statues of Jesus being portrayed in this way should be torn down immediately.