No Home For 'Homeless Jesus' Statue In Westminster

Westminster Central Hall

A statue of 'homeless Jesus' which has been at the centre of a long campaign to find a home in London has been rejected again.

The life-sized bronze statue, by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, is of a man sleeping rough on a park bench. Crucifixion wounds are visible on the feet.

In April last year an application to display the statue outside Methodist Central Hall Westminster (MCHW) was rejected by Westminster city council.

A petition to overturn the decision was launched and gained more than 1500 signatures.

MCHW appealed the decision, but this was rejected.

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Westminster council ruled that the statue fell within the 'monument saturation zone' in Parliament Square.

In a statement, Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, superintendent minister and team leader for MCHW, thanked "the hundreds of people who have supported our hope that [the statue] should be situated outside our building".

"They will understand our sense of disappointment and frustration that it has been decided that it cannot happen," he added.

"Homelessness is a live, looming and serious issue in our capital city. Despite this outcome, we will, together with others in Westminster, continue to express and champion God's deep concern for poor and marginalised people, which is expressed movingly in Timothy Schmalz's 'Homeless Jesus'."

Jon Kuhrt, executive director of West London Mission (WLM), which has been working with homeless people in Westminster for 130 years, told Christian Today he "completely supported" MCHW's postion.

"Rough sleeping in London has doubled in recent years. There are plenty of statues of the great and the good, of military leaders etc," he said. "We need a visible reminder that homelessness is the reality for many people in the capital."

WLM recently co-ordinated 13 churches and one synagogue in providing emergency accommodation for people sleeping rough.

"Christians following Jesus are right at the heart of tackling the homelessness problem in the capital," said Kuhrt. "There is a very obvious connection between following Jesus and helping homeless people. But this is not just a Christian statue, it's a subversive statue that's unsettling people and is unsettling Westminster council."

'Homeless Jesus' statues are displayed around the world including Toronto, Dublin, Washington DC, Madrid and Singapore.

It is also installed at the Vatican. In 2013, Pope Francis called it a 'beautiful and excellent representation of Jesus'.

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