Archive for December 27, 2011

St. Paul’s Occupy LSX – Proposal for a Solution

Now, I have been warned well that I should not try to interfere or meddle in the arguments and disputes between Occupy LSX and the City of London Corporation.  The case has been heard by a judge and he will make judgement in due course.  I am not well positioned to be involved in this, and, to be honest the dispute between Occupy and the Corporation is outside the remit of Church Peace.

Yet the situation as regards Occupy LSX’s relations with St. Paul’s Cathedral is of my concern: I am a member of the Church of England and a member of the Universal Church, if not prominent or well-known.

I have a great concern that the Church, and St. Paul’s in particular, should not assume the role of oppressor.  If anything, the Church should be in the position of being the oppressed, for it is in being persecuted by wicked men that we are conformed to the sufferings of Christ and become more like Him.  The Church should not be in cahoots with those who would oppress, whether that oppression is violent, vitriolic or financial: a Biblical imperative which the Rev. Giles Fraser would probably be quite sympathetic to.

As such, I am saddened that the registrar of St. Paul’s Cathedral decided to give evidence in support of the City’s eviction plans.

Jesus, the Man and God whom St. Paul’s represents, was born into this world as a poor and rejected child.   Born to a woman who it was presumed had been immoral, turned away by everyone in Bethlehem despite being heavily pregnant until finally a kindly inn-keeper gave an outside shed as a maternity ward, so poor that at his circumcision dedication service His earthly parents gave the pauper’s sacrificial offering.  If anything the Occupy LSX camp with it’s lowly position yet high ideals is closer to the meaning of Christ’s life than the majestic church of Christopher Wren.

Yet we must also be careful.  Although many regarded Jesus as a rebel in His time, He never engaged in lawlessness.  Lawlessness is a deceitful threat that accompanies the Occupy movement, even if that threat is consciously rejected and not knowingly followed.  Lawlessness must be rejected and eschewed.  Government is not a generally and intrinsically evil institution.  The laws, traditions and institutions of the UK are in desperate need of radical reform, yet I do not believe a forceful and ill-thought out revolution is the answer, even if that force is largely peaceful.  That is my view.

Occupy LSX has stood for over three months, and much has been acheived.  Ultimately, though, the wickedness of men both oppressors and protestors cannot be dealt with by reforms or revolution.  The fundamental reform and revolution must be in our hearts, and that can only come through Jesus Christ, the Cross and the Resurrection.

Solution to Occupy LSX at St. Paul’s

With that preamble said and the admission that St. Paul’s has found itself in an almost impossible position, I would like to make a tentative proposal for a possible solution to the impasse.

Occupy should not disappear.  It has an important role.  Yet a semi-permanent camp is not practicable for a working city and a working cathedral.  Also, the occupiers themselves would be well-advised to maintain family, work and friendship links outside of the Occupy camp and technological communication.

As such I would like to propose that St. Paul’s could agree to host 2 Occupy events each, and every, year until such a time comes that the aims of Occupy are realised, whether in current form or a form to develop.

The spiritual aspect of Occupy’s aims are important, and as such would it not be a good idea for the Cathedral to host two events each year, at Easter and at Christmas?  With that situation, the Christian message of justice tempered with mercy and grace would perhaps find an opening in a disparate group, and the fervour and passion of the occupiers may even shake the Church out of her complacency and cosiness with the established systems.  Would it perhaps be an idea for the Occupy camp to host political events and for St. Paul’s to hold spiritual events during these 2 times each year?

Of course, for the movement to remain Occupy there would have to be a camp and a general assembly, but if this was limited to only as many tents as could be safely pitched on St. Paul’s owned land and limited in duration to perhaps a month, then it could possibly be practicable.

There would also need to be a gaining of mutual respect, especially as regards the rather old-fashioned principle of hosts and guests.  It would clearly be the case that St. Paul’s Cathedral would host the camps and that the occupiers would be guests, yet the old-fashioned host/guest principle requires the hosts to be servants and the guests those that are honoured.

Closing

I shall close this proposal, tentative as it is, by saying that I hope and pray for a peaceful resolution to the situation, whether this particular proposal goes anywhere or not.

And I pray that all involved: City, Cathedral and Occupy, may have a wonderful New Year.

 

If you want to add to or suggest other proposals then please do comment or email Church Peace at admin@churchpeace.rabel.org.uk.  Thank you.

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Great Encouragement as Christians Engage

To some it was an unfortunate accident, yet it is becoming clear that God had much wisdom in putting Occupy LSX right on the steps of Britain’s leading Cathedral.

Although there have been some bumpy patches in the relationship between St. Paul’s and the Occupy camp, the new emphasis on dialogue has enabled the Bishop of London and St. Paul’s Chapter to show a Christian kindness – that of showing those who have often had no voice other than protest that they can engage in constructive political debate within the system whilst at the same time protecting their status as those “outside of the system”.  On the 7th December representatives from Occupy London met with the FSA and it has been reported that the discussions were fruitful.

Christian Actions

There have also been moves by the Christian community to engage with the protesters, and on the 1st December the Not Ashamed Campaign held a rally and prayer meeting on the steps of St. Paul’s which included listening to Occupiers and also speaking to them of the necessity of Jesus – that only He can truly be Saviour and Lord.

It is wonderful to hear of such actions.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

In a separate move, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote an insightful piece for the Radio Times magazine and asked the question of what Jesus would be doing in regards to Christmas and the Occupy protests.

He stressed that it is not a question of whether Jesus would support or oppose Occupy, but that He would not be sitting quietly by yet rather be there and be asking some searching questions on motives.

Despite many reports claiming Williams was saying Jesus would take sides, he was careful not to give endorsement nor condemnation, but rather to get to the heart of the matter – our heart.

Encouragement

It is, indeed, an encouragement that many Christians from various denominations and of various hues and influence are each, in their own particular way, engaging with Occupy LSX and seeking to use the wonderful God-given opportunities to reach out to, to listen to, and to both encourage and challenge the Occupiers.

In many ways the work here at Church Peace is being done in a God-ordained organic way without Church Peace needing to shout out, and that is good.  But the need to reach out to the wider protest movement and to defend the peaceable nature of the current protests and Church response is still required.

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Occupy St. Paul’s: Thanks Be to God

The following article was written by Jim Wallis for the Sojourners website, and is reproduced here with permission.
 

Occupy St. Paul’s: Thanks Be to God

 

LONDON — It looks like the stage of a West End theater. The tents are gathered around and almost up against the steps of the historic St. Paul’s Cathedral. Each night, a General Assembly is held on those steps, and the sermons on inequality have a biblical ring to them.

This is Occupy London and the Occupiers were having their discussions with each other and visitors in the protective shadow of the Dome of St. Paul’s — as they should be. What a picture of the Incarnation, I thought, marveling at the scene.

What makes Christian faith most unique among all the religions of the world is, indeed, the incarnation. In Jesus Christ, God hits the streets — that’s what Incarnation means.

So here is the church in the midst of the international conversation that is changing the world — right where we should be.

And what an opportunity it revealed. The vivid metaphor of St. Paul’s in the streets of the public debate over the world’s inequality is a clear call to mission, to ministry, to hospitality, to prayer, and to prophetic ministry. At the steps of the cathedral, the Occupiers of London have found sanctuary.

During the day, clergy in collars, and myriads of church and community workers in jeans, wander through the crowds embodying the “ministry of presence,” helping out where they can, listening where they are engaged, offering a word of encouragement (and even advice) where they are needed. And, quietly, the open sanctuary offers the chance for the young protestors to quietly slip inside for a moment of reflection and prayer; something fledgling social movements need.

I ran into Giles Fraser, a canon at St. Paul’s who protected the protestors from the police when they first arrived, defended them from a fearful ecclesial hierarchy, and then resigned when they were threatened with eviction (an act which has, ironically, seemed to help to keep them at the church).

Giles showed me around the site and told me the story of St. Paul’s slowly coming to terms with their new ministry.

But a ministry it is, and the dramatic picture it painted was quite inspiring to me as a visual sign of what I have imagined the church could offer this new generation that protests and dreams of a better world.

Isn’t this what we should long for, an opportunity to embrace (endorsement is not the point, or necessary, or even most helpful) and engage this youthful uprising of both frustration and hope at the unjust state of the economy and the world?

Here are the “none of the above” when they are asked what religious affiliation they belong to; and the “none’s” are on our very doorstep! Isn’t Jesus likely already walking among them (as he seems so popular at all the Occupy sites)?

So why, as his followers, don’t we enter the fray?

Could this be the future of this movement, as they are evicted by force by threatened mayors and municipalities; finding sanctuary in the shadow of spiritual spires, warmth in church basements and parish halls, pastoral care in meeting the many needs of such quickly gathered communities, quiet meditation in safe chapels, and, yes, prophetic solidarity in challenging the injustice that has called them into being?

I saw a snapshot of that in the footprint of St. Paul’s cathedral and it evoked an Anglican response: Thanks Be to God!

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