A row has been brewing in the Cornish town of St Austell after a statue called the Earth Goddess was put up in the town centre. It has been called “offensive to God” by a group of 7 church leaders who have written to the Town Council asking for it to be removed. Pete Godfrey from the Light and Life Church decided to write the letter which has also been signed by leaders of the local Methodist church and Salvation Army among others. He said he thinks the statue is inappropriate. “Scripturally as Christians, God wants us to be able to do life with him. And one of the things that he says is that we’re to have no other gods but him. That’s the first commandment, and the second is that we’re to have no idols, no craven images of Gods. But I think it’s also not reflective of the community of St Austell. What is in a public arena as a permanent statue needs to be something that reflects the whole community, whatever their beliefs are.”
Godfrey went on “Once you attach a spiritual significance to a statue, that’s never going to be possible, it’s always going to divide instead of unite for a number of reasons.” The statue was designed and created by the artist Sandy Brown who said that she felt “saddened and disappointed” at the reaction, explaining that her work was meant to represent a love of mother earth and not a religious statement. Godfrey said he hadn’t spoken with Sandy Brown but added: “I suspect the religious connotation is not intentional.” Godfrey said “There have been a number of statements that she’s made but she has very clearly made the statement that the ‘earth goddess’ represents our eternal and collective roots with nature and Mother Earth. You may or may not argue that that’s a religious statement, but it’s certainly a spiritual one. “The key point is where it is positioned. If it was in a private place of worship, there would be no issue.”
Godfrey said “But this is something which has gone up in a public place. So I think that’s where there is a differentiation and why we felt it’s important that we speak up. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus makes it clear that there is only one God, only one way of salvation. He says ‘I’m the Way the Truth and the Life. There is no other way to the Father, but through me.'” David Pooley from St Austell Town Council said the statue was commissioned by St Austell Bay Economic Forum (SABEF) and is on private land in White River Place shopping centre. The Town Council corresponded with the church leaders in July 2022 explaining that the Town Council has no powers to remove or re-name the statue and has no responsibility for its ongoing maintenance.” SABEF told Premier it would respond to the letter “in due course”.
The full church leaders’ letter, which was also addressed to the local MP Steve Double, reads: “We are writing as leaders within the Christian community of St Austell with regards to the ‘earth goddess’ statue that has recently been erected in the town. We know that the statue has prompted a reaction from many different people and there have been various concerns voiced around financial stewardship and simply the statues appearance. While we understand and sympathise with these viewpoints they are not our primary concern. The reaction to the statue shows though that there has been a lack of consultation, meaning that people’s views need to now be seriously considered and the project re-evaluated. Our concerns are that the statue is firstly divisive and secondly offensive to God. The statue is divisive because it does not reflect the people of St Austell.”
The letter went on “While a proportion of the community certainly are pagan this is not a belief held by the vast majority of the community. Many more people are Christians, or at the least hold to Christian values. There are also other faith communities in the town and those who would consider themselves to have no faith. As such, a statue of an ‘earth goddess’ is offensive to many people within the community and divides instead of unites. This is not something that the vast majority of people are able to celebrate and will actually cause some to feel far less comfortable coming into the town. While it may not be a view that is shared by those who have no faith, our second concern is that the statue is offensive to God. As Christians we desire for St Austell to thrive. We regularly meet to pray for God’s blessing on the town and specifically for the council and town leaders and for local businesses.”
The letter continued “The choice to erect a statue of an ‘earth goddess’ means that as the leaders of the town you are actually choosing to bring the town under the spiritual influence of an ‘earth goddess’. We understand this may not be language that you are comfortable with. However, as Christians we believe there is a spiritual reality to our world and this choice has the potential to impact negatively on the town. We would ask that you consider making significant changes to the statue to show that it reflects the whole community. At the very least change the name so that it is an abstract piece of art with no spiritual element. Or consider relocating the statue to a venue that is not intended to reflect the whole community and represents only personal beliefs rather than that of the town. Our heart is to celebrate the good in our town and work to see it thrive. We look forward to hearing from you with regards to the way forward.”
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