Church near Charlotte demands immediate removal of Confederate statue from lawn

On July 20, 2015, a Cornelius police officer discovered a Confederate monument in front of Mt....
On July 20, 2015, a Cornelius police officer discovered a Confederate monument in front of Mt. Zion Methodist Church had been defaced with graffiti. Church leaders are calling for the immediate removal of the 111-year-old statue(Charlotte Observer)
Updated: Jul. 3, 2020 at 3:38 PM EDT
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CORNELIUS, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - Leaders of a United Methodist church in Cornelius are calling for the immediate removal of a 111-year-old Confederate statue from the lawn in front of its worship hall.

The statue outside Mt. Zion United Methodist Church was built in 1909 and is still owned and maintained by the Mount Zion Monument Association, formed by descendants of Confederate veterans, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

The memorial is an obelisk topped by the statue of a soldier.

The church owns neither the memorial nor the land on which it sits, pastors Jonathan and Angela Marlowe have said.

In a statement late Thursday, members of the church administrative board said the statue “is perceived by many as offensive” and urged the association to immediately remove the monument. The board is the overall governing body of the congregation.

“We know our church to be a very warm, welcoming, and hospitable congregation,” administrative board members said. “We truly love and welcome all people ... For many people, the outward appearance that they see does not match the inward reality that we know.”

Mount Zion Monument Association chairman Donald Archer did not reply to a request for comment.

In a statement to the Observer in June, Archer said the group was reviewing what to do with the monument.

“In today’s politically charged climate, many people do not view this memorial as a significant and valuable piece of history,” according to the June statement. “Due to this climate, the association is exploring all options available to protect and save this significant part of the history of Mecklenburg County and ... North Carolina.”

Association members issued the statement after the Marlowes likewise said the statue should be removed.

Such calls to remove Confederate monuments have been spurred on by widespread protests for the Black Lives Matter movement and against police brutality in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by Minnesota police.

“We call on the Mt. Zion Monument Association to consider the harm their monument causes to our Black brothers and sisters,” the Marlowes said in an email to the Observer in June. “We ask them to listen to all the voices in our community, particularly the Black community of Cornelius, as they consider what to do with their monument.”

In Thursday’s statement, church administrative board members also called on church and community members “to pray for the removal of the monument and for racial healing in our community and beyond. We encourage all of us to work for racial justice.”

The Cornelius monument has been vandalized in the past.

Police in 2017 charged a Davidson man with misdemeanor injury to property after the memorial was defaced with an “X” in blue spray paint over the words “Our Confederate Soldiers,” the Observer reported at the time.

In 2019, Mecklenburg County prosecutors agreed to dismiss the case after the man completed a year in the county court system’s pretrial diversion program, according to court records. Such programs, created under state statute, are typically for people charged with misdemeanor crimes, according to the Mecklenburg County criminal justice services website.