Church Must Reconsider Image Of Jesus As White, Says Archbishop Of Canterbury

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The Anglican Church should reconsider its portrayal of Jesus as a white man, the archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today program, Justin Welby, said that in light of the Black Lives Matter protests, the west needed to question whether the traditional portrayal of Jesus as a white man by Western churches was the correct approach to take.

Asked whether the image of a white Jesus needed to be reviewed, the head of the Church of England said: “Yes of course it does, this sense that God was white… You go into churches [around the world] 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.”

Commenting on the Black Lives Matter campaign to remove statues to figures deemed controversial, Welby said that people should forgive the “trespasses” of those who were being commemorated, rather than remove statues, but added that the church would be reviewing the monuments it holds.

“Some names will have to change. I mean, the church, goodness me, you know, you just go around Canterbury Cathedral, there are monuments everywhere, or Westminster Abbey, and we’re looking at all that, and some will have to come down. But yes, there can be forgiveness, I hope and pray as we come together, but only if there’s justice.”

Asked to clarify whether that meant some statues could be removed from within Canterbury Cathedral, the archbishop said: “No, I didn’t say that. I very carefully didn’t say that.”

Explaining that it was not his sole decision, he added:  “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.”

Asked if society focused too heavily on repentance over forgiveness, he said: “Yes, I think we do… repentance and justice must go together.”

Earlier this month, Welby joined 13 other Church of England bishops in being among 71 bishops from around the world who signed a statement by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network on Environmental Racism.

“Black lives that are being impacted by drought, flooding, storms and sea level rise. The delayed global response to climate injustice gives the impression that #blacklivesdontmatter,” the statement read. “We stand at a Kairos [an Ancient Greek word meaning critical] moment – in order to fight environmental injustice, we must also fight racial injustice.”

Among a number of pledges made in the statement was a promise to commit to “recognizing and challenging white privilege in society and the Church,” and “recognizing the colonial past of the Anglican Communion, its ongoing Euro-centric values and the dominance of English.”

However, the bishops were accused of hypocrisy by a vicar and a trainee priest within the church, who brought evidence that they had been blocked from advancing in their careers due to discrimination.

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