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Church has 'moral imperative' to review memorials linked to slavery says Lord Boateng

by Donna Birrell

The Church of England has a ‘moral imperative’ to review the presence of statues and memorials linked to slavery. That’s according to Lord Boateng, who is leading a 3 year review.

Speaking after publication of papers ahead of next month’s General Synod meeting,  the head of the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission says some monuments can be a bar to faith.

"It also throws up questions around the wealth of the Church and how that wealth came into being and what we need to do today in order to heal some of the legacy of that monumental injustice that slavery represents and the importance of finding the resource to do that."

The debate around controversial memorials came to a head in June 2020 when the statue of 19th century slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down in the centre of Bristol during a Black Lives Matter protest. Earlier this month, 4 people were cleared of criminal damage at Bristol Crown Court.  

Lord Boateng, who became the UK’s first black Cabinet minister in 2002, cited Bristol Cathedral as part of his presentation.   

"When you go into the cathedral and you look at the contributions made by people who made their money by exploiting and trading in the souls and lives of others, you get a sense of just how complex the picture is……… in a city that wrestles with these issues, a history in which the very foundations of economic success and prosperity are based on slavery and injustice."

The February meeting of the General Synod is centred around the issue of racial justice and Lord Boateng said that “all the measures Synod takes — decisions about budgets, change in governance — must reflect Christ’s inclusivity and passion for racial justice.”

Lord Boateng was appointed as head of the Archbishops' Racial Justice Commission in July, leading an independent board to scrutinise Church policies and root out systematic racism.

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