Remarks from Providence Forum Founder, Dr. Peter Lillback, on the Threat of Taking Down William Penn’s Statue at Welcome Park in Philadelphia
Recently, there was the threat of removing the statue of William Penn in Welcome Park in Philadelphia. Dr. Jerry Newcombe, executive director of Providence Forum, sought out a statement on this development from Dr. Peter Lillback, founding president of Providence Forum. Here is the statement from Dr. Lillback (sent by email, 1/12/24):
“It is truly extraordinary, that of all the places the Biden administration would seek to reassert the native Americans‘ legacy would be at Welcome Park in Philadelphia. The small park celebrating William Penn‘s history is named for the ship that brought him to America as he came to establish what he had already termed “the seed of a nation” and “a holy experiment”. It is the location where William Penn had his first home when he came to begin his extraordinary settlement of Pennsylvania, in the city he named before it was born, Philadelphia. He selected that name because of its biblical rootage and historic meaning; the city of brotherly love. As a trained theologian and lawyer, and by conviction, a Quaker, he was absolutely convinced that humans, regardless of European or aboriginal descent, needed to cooperate and respect each other. The one American that cannot possibly be accused of any hostility toward the original inhabitants of the land in North America is William Penn. Purchasing the land from them, at the famous Treaty Tree, he negotiated a peace treaty that held for his entire tenure of leadership. Philadelphia was in reality, a city of peace. It had no army and was a city without walls.
“Given their following of Christ, the Quakers used Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John and preferred to call themselves “Friends”. Reflecting their name and convictions, Penn’s friendship with the Indians was legendary.
“This raises the question then, why would this site be particularly targeted? It has a smaller version of the William Penn statue that presides over the City Hall in the heart of Philadelphia. It shows the original street grid that William Penn developed to show that it was a planned city. The only reason that I believe that one could possibly find for even considering the removal of Penn’s statue is to erase his legacy. Perhaps there’s even a spiritual motivation. For on his statue’s base, there is his extraordinary prayer for the city of Philadelphia. The words are moving, and they remind us that Penn as a Christian minister was establishing the city of brotherly love because of his belief in the Bible and its teaching of Christian love.
“Finally, if there is a desire to truly honor the Native American legacy, there are many ramshackle sites throughout the historic city that could be taken down, and an exquisite celebration of Native American culture could be a built to commemorate their culture and history. But no, that was not the desire. The plan to remove the statue of one of the very few who have posthumously been made American citizens was for all appearances a subterfuge to cancel another great American. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call of the cultural battle that is being waged with relentless hostility against the Judeo-Christian legacy—a legacy that established a nation that still is the beacon of liberty to the world.”
Editor’s Note: For now, the threat to remove the statue has been scuttled. For now.