Central London church says it will fight Westminster Council to install 'Homeless Jesus' statue

Westminster Council says the area is already 'saturated' with statues and monuments

Katie Forster
Saturday 23 April 2016 20:55 BST
A man sleeps on a sculpture of a figure called 'Homeless Jesus' in front of the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Charities offices in Washington DC, USA
A man sleeps on a sculpture of a figure called 'Homeless Jesus' in front of the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Charities offices in Washington DC, USA (Reuters)

A life-size statue of a ‘Homeless Jesus’ is at the centre of a row between Westminster Council and senior clergy over its proposed installation outside a central London church.

The council has refused to grant permission for the installation of the artwork outside Methodist Central Hall as the area is already “saturated” with statues.

But church leaders said they will continue to fight the council’s decision.

Reverend Dr Martyn Atkins, a minister at the church, told the Evening Standard that the clergy plan to “respond with a statement or appeal” following the result of their application, which was rejected in February.

The monument is designed to prompt public reflection on homelessness and depicts Christ hidden beneath blankets, identifiable only by stigmata wounds in his feet.

It was created by Canadian sculptor and devout Catholic Timothy Schmalz, who has said it was “supposed to make you feel uneasy,” according to the Irish Times.

There are already casts of the provocative statue in locations around America, in the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, in Madrid and on a street leading to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

There are not currently any copies of the statue in the UK.

While Westminster Council said they would not object to the sculpture being located within the hall, due to the number of statues already existing in the area, no further installations are allowed and an exception can not be made in this case, according to the Standard.

But Dr Atkins speculated that the council’s decision could be based on fears that it would “lower the tone of the neighbourhood”.

His colleague, Reverend Martin Turner, said: “We feel it is entirely appropriate to have a symbol of homelessness amid the wealth and authority of Westminster.”

There are already more than 300 statues and memorials in the borough of Westminster. The oldest is the 1633 statue of Charles I riding a horse in Trafalgar Square.

The council has come under fire in recent years for its homelessness policies, with a single mother-of-five accusing it of “social cleansing” after she was made homeless and offered accommodation 50 miles away in Milton Keynes.

Methodist Central Hall has set up an online petition demanding that the Homeless Jesus statue be “given a home” in Westminster, which has gathered more than 800 signatures.

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