Thinking Anglicans

Rustat Memorial: no appeal planned

See our earlier report dated 24 March.

Jesus College, Cambridge has recently published this statement: Church must drive change on racial injustice and contested heritage.

Jesus College is calling on the Church of England to change how it deals with matters of racial injustice and contested heritage – while announcing it will not appeal the Consistory Court judgment which prevents a celebratory memorial to Tobias Rustat being moved from its Chapel.

The College says the current process urgently needs reform as it stands in the way of a constructive and inclusive discussion on sensitive and important issues.

Sonita Alleyne OBE, Master of Jesus College, said: “Many students and members of the College community put their trust in the Church process, and understandably feel let down by the judgment and its misrepresentation of their views.

“The Consistory Court’s decision shows a lack of understanding of the lived experience of people of colour in modern Britain.”…

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued this: Contested heritage and racial justice: statement by the Archbishop which includes this:

I have questioned previously why it is so difficult to move the Rustat memorial in Jesus College chapel – which causes such pain and distress to people whose ancestors were sold into slavery – to a place where it can be understood in context. I stand by those comments.

Law & Religion UK has two posts:

According to a report in today’s Times (behind a paywall):

…Jesus College could face a £150,000 bill for losing the Tobias Rustat memorial case, despite declining to appeal because of the “significant” costs involved (James Beal writes).
Sources told The Times that although the college had not finalised its figures since the court case, staG had initially estimated fees of about £120,000.
The Rustat Memorial Group, made up of 70 alumni who clubbed together to fight the monument’s removal, spent £30,000 and have now requested that the college pay their costs. The Church of England court will rule on costs at a later date…

The Church Times had this: Jesus College will not appeal against Rustat judgment and also I still think Rustat memorial should go, says Archbishop Welby.

And the letter from 160 clergy can be found here.

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Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Interesting that on the same day as these announcements, a not wholly unrelated one from the Attorney General that the verdict (acquittals) in the Bristol trial relating to the toppling of the Colston statue is to be referred to the Court of Appeal to consider the ‘human rights’ arguments which were advanced on behalf of the defendants as justification for their actions. The court cannot alter the verdict, but is expected to clarify the law for any future cases.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

It’s interesting to link these two legal cases. If the Rustat case had been decided by a jury of 12 typical Cambridge Anglican lay people I wonder if it would have had a different outcome.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

I don’t think that analogy holds – two totally different jurisdictions and impossible for a jury of lay people to be involved in a consistory court faculty adjudication. The Bristol case should shed light on whether, and how, personal beliefs, however sincerely felt, can (seemingly) permit diversion from the traditional jury oath to return a true verdict according to the evidence.

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

The word ‘analogy’ is not appropriate. Simon was just musing on what the outcome of the Rustat case might have been if a body of 12 Anglican lay people, rather than a legally-qualified Chancellor (incidentally, a senior circuit judge in his ‘day job’) had decided the case. He wasn’t suggesting that a jury of lay people should be involved in deciding a faculty petition. As for the Bristol ‘Colston statue’ case, although some early (mostly uninformed) comments in the media and elsewhere suggested that the jury had returned a perverse verdict (a right, incidentally, if it had been ‘perverse,’ that… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  David Lamming
1 month ago

Your final paragraph is precisely what I said. My comment wasn’t a dissertation and such critical analysis of minutiae is not appropriate. Nor do I accept that ‘analogy’ was inappropriate or offensive. It wasn’t intended to be. There are certainly comments on TA from time to time which need to be ‘policed’. This was not one, I suggest, still less by a third party.

brcw2
brcw2
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

I also stumbled over the use of the word ‘analogy’ being used as a response to the hypothetical question raised. I don’t think anyone has described that word as offensive.

Is disagreeing with the use of a word ‘policing’? If so, is questioning whether an analogy holds also ‘policing’ and ‘critical analysis of minutiae’? Surely the nature, indeed the purpose of a discussion forum such as this is to allow comments by third parties, not to restrict conversation to pairs of individuals?

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  brcw2
1 month ago

Looking back at my reply to Simon Dawson I see nothing even slightly objectionable in it. So far he has not responded. I fail to see why others felt that they had to intervene, unasked, and introduce a contentious element and patronising tone which I feel to be wholly inappropriate and discourteous. I won’t say any more on this subject.

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Rowland, I think the appropriate word to use would have been ‘comparison’, not analogy. (I didn’t use the word ‘offensive’, so I don’t know why you have, or thought it was.) Re your comment that my last paragraph “is precisely what I said”, that’s not correct. You said, “The Bristol case should shed light on whether, and how, personal beliefs, however sincerely felt, can (seemingly) permit diversion from the traditional jury oath to return a true verdict according to the evidence.” Jurors swear an oath to “return a true verdict(s) according to the evidence”, but in accordance with the law,… Read more »

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
1 month ago

Is there not a danger in air brushing history?

A Menage
A Menage
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
1 month ago

Absolutely!!!

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
1 month ago

Whose ‘history’? And what ‘air brushing’? The removal of the monument to another part of the college would simply be a further turn of the historical screw. The chapel is, after all, supposed to be a place where “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11). No one is proposing that the monument is sent to landfill, in Jimmy Savile fashion. The master has issued a more substantive riposte to the judgment: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/14/church-of-england-racial-injustice-slave-trader-jesus-college-cambridge. And a ‘danger’ to whom? Those who would apologise for the… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

Two questions come to mind in all this:

  1. what has become of the benefaction that Rustat made to Jesus College? It would be easier to take the college’s protestations about this matter seriously if we knew that the tainted money had been returned or passed on to a suitable cause.
  2. will anyone from Jesus College address the concerns at its financial connections with China? Again, it would be easier to believe that Jesus College were serious in its objections to slavery if it were not apparently benefitting from a regime with a poor record on human rights.
Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

Amen to Fr Dexter.
Froghole… Whose history? Britain’s history.
If we were to shift monuments to dodgy people Westminster Abbey could have a right old clear out.
I rather respect the Italians who leave plenty of inscriptions etc from the Mussolini years because they have to be honest about their past and face up to its horrors.
Mind you I would quite like to shift Oliver Cromwell from his plinth outside Westminster Hall. Where do you stop and start all this? Chill!

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
1 month ago

Perhaps Jesus College have decided not to appeal on the basis that there is little prospect of doing so successfully? A member of the House of Lords might be expected to understand that an appeal can only succeed if there is a legal basis for it to do so. Disagreeing with the judgment is not sufficient grounds in and of itself for a successful appeal. As Fr Dexter highlights the treatment of the Uighurs by the Chinese state is a modern day manifestation of slavery. If Jesus College is indeed a significant beneficiary of Chinese money it perhaps ought to… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

I don’t know whether there is a moral to this story or not. Only yesterday I discovered that as many as twelve members of the Cromwell family are buried beneath the church in the village where I have lived for 42 years. I always knew that Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver and briefly Lord Protector, was buried there; the numerous other members of the family came as a surprise. They include a second Oliver Cromwell, grandson of the first Lord Protector (who was originally interred in the rather grander setting of Westminster Abbey). Our church contains a large, rather florid,… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Indeed, and in 1660/61 the cadavers of Oliver Cromwell, John Bradshaw, Henry Ireton and Thomas Pride were disinterred from the Abbey, taken to Tyburn, hanged, mutilated and thrown into the common pit on the orders of the new parliament. Even luminaries like Robert Blake and Nicholas Boscawen were removed from the Abbey and placed in the common grave of St Margaret’s without any monument. When attending a service at Hursley nearly a decade ago, I noted that the tablet to ‘Tumbledown Dick’ at the west end of the nave was relatively modest as well as modern.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

My comment wasn’t intended as a history lesson, and I hope it did not come across as such, but you are right to mention the London exhumations. Although Keble banished the Cromwell memorial, he would not have contemplated for a moment any violation of the interred bodies. I assume that Jesus College equally would not dream of exhuming Rustat’s body within the chapel. 

It’s something of a paradox in the discussion about Rustat’s memorial that the Cromwell memorial returned uncontroversially at a later date.  Food for thought all round, surely?

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

People can make reasonable arguments for the retention of culturally difficult monuments in secular spaces but places of worship are different. For those, the priority is worship, not a museum. I think the judgement lost sight of that fundamental truth because it is clear that the Rustat memorial is inhibiting worship. I fully support the Master’s position.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

As Kate points out, the Rustat memorial is getting in the way of worship in the Chapel, which is, after all, its primary function. The notion that some ‘races’ are less than fully human is, for many, not just part of a distant past, unrelated to the present. And if someone with an active role in an enterprise involving mass trafficking, torture and murder did not instantly profit much, this offers only limited comfort

Michael H
Michael H
Reply to  Savi Hensman
1 month ago

The Rustat memorial isn’t getting in the way of worship as worship is continuing as normal. Some students have said they won’t attend worship until the memorial is removed. How many of them were regular worshippers? They remind me of villagers expressing affection for the village church but never attend or contribute to the upkeep. Then they’re surprised when the church becomes redundant. If the College is concerned about trafficking, torture and murder, haven’t they heard of the Uighurs?

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
Reply to  Michael H
1 month ago

Indeed if a plaque celebrating someone with a key role in putting Uyghurs in concentration camps and not known to have ever repented were unveiled in the Chapel, I think some people might find it got in the way of worship. I recognise it is very hard for some people to understand why the memorial might be an obstacle, because of differences both in experience and temperament (some can shrug off prejudice or mistreatment more easily than others or do not respond so much to visual or audible reminders of past cruelties with ongoing consequences). But it is worth making… Read more »

Michael H
Michael H
Reply to  Savi Hensman
1 month ago

I didn’t mention setting up a plaque celebrating someone involved in the torture of Uighurs. My point (which you didn’t address) was the acceptance of a substantial amount of money from China. The College is obsessed with a long dead benefactor but not with the despots in China, a current wealthy benefactor.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
Reply to  Michael H
1 month ago

It is indeed important to keep flagging up failures to vet donations adequately. However it is likely that many of the students objecting to the memorial are among those raising concerns about the College’s over-close relationship with the Chinese regime. Insensitivity in places of worship about death-dealing racism towards people of African descent hardly helps minorities elsewhere who are being horrifically oppressed.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Savi Hensman
1 month ago

I just wonder if we are getting too fixated on the well decayed objects that were in the eyes of the long dead whilst failing to observe the significant and solid planks that are in our contemporary eyes.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
1 month ago

Sadly dehumanising attitudes towards, and treatment of, people of African descent are far from being only part of the distant past, which is one reason why some react so strongly to what appears to downplay the horrors of what happened. I agree that it is also important to address other contemporary injustices too.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Savi Hensman
1 month ago

I wonder which is more of an obstacle to worship in the college chapel: a memorial high up on the back wall behind the congregation to a benefactor who was also involved in the slave trade a few hundred years ago; or the sight at the front of the congregation of the Master and Fellows in their seats of power and privilege, unrepentant in their choosing to take money to condone slavery and genocide happening right now. Perhaps, just perhaps, it might be the present-day hypocrisy?

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

Perhaps a thought could be spared for those students, wielding no influence over college governance, for whom the failure to remove the memorial is a painful reminder of every time they were degradingly mistreated by police, perhaps, or a grandparent of the Windrush generation was deported? Or the refusal of Church of England congregations to allow older relatives to worship with them, the fear and contempt which are not entirely unrelated to history?

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Savi Hensman
1 month ago

I take it, then, that your answer is that the presence of this monument is a greater obstacle to worship in the chapel than the presence of those condoning and profiting from present-day slavery and genocide? For that is the accusation against the Master and Fellows.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

I recognise that we will not persuade each other. That quite a number of people of colour at Cambridge have actually expressed distress about the memorial may seem relevant to some, irrelevant to others or even a sign of moral turpitude: why are they bothered about what might seem to celebrate their ancestors’ degradation and present-day second-class status when there are other forms of suffering to address? Almost all calls for justice or mercy may be written off as showing inconsistency (for instance why should the UK government make such a fuss over the invasion of Ukraine when it has… Read more »

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Savi Hensman
1 month ago

Savi, time to chill. your point is made.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

The Master and Fellows have obviously abandoned that old-fashioned notion of the Rule of Law. They are so clearly right that for them legal processes exist only to give effect to their wishes which are clearly good and proper. If legal processes don’t get them what they want then the fault is with the law, not with them.

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