Archive for The Church and Christian Response

Protest, Authority and the Church

Protest, authority and the balance between the two. Can the Church achieve that balance? Can the Church both lend voice to protests and submit to authority? The Church plays a very important role in protesting against the injustices and iniquities in the world, and should rightly be seen as a revolutionary and subversive force, as I covered in the first part of this short series. The Early Church was said to have “turned the world upside down” and was opposed, in part, for this very reason. The authorities and powers of the world felt threatened by this movement which threw old assumptions and traditions away.

No Reason for Rebellion

Whilst accepting that the Church has a subversive role to play and that this brings a necessary tension between the Church and authority (just as the many protest movements have a similar tension with authority) we must also be clear that this should not be an excuse for rebellion or the overthrow of the authority structures.

We should bear in mind that the authorities that exist in the world are there because of God. He is the Supreme Authority, and all lesser authorities are forms of his delegation of authority. He remains the King of kings, and we need to respect and honour His will in those authorities He has ordained should exist.

Of course, at times revolt does occur and whether the position of the Church should ever be to support such revolt is not a question I feel able to satisfactorily answer in this article. The situation to which I address this post is more to do with the general attitude to be held whilst in by-and-large normal circumstances. Here the Bible is clear that we should have a submissive attitude towards authority, not an attitude of rebelliousness.

Regarding protest, the Church can and should speak out against injustice and corruption. This should be done with a submissive attitude, regarding such speaking and action as important civic duties in order to bring about Godly reform of the structures of society, and not as a means to further anarchistic purposes. It is also very important that we should not approach protest as a means of settling scores or the furtherance of personal gripes.

Protest is a holding of authority to account

Protest

Authority is important and we should submit to the God-ordained authorities.
(Image courtesy of iStockphoto, used under license.)

Protest, especially but not limited to the Church’s role in such, should be seen as a holding to account of authority and a means of acquiring Godly reform of the authority structures rather than as a means of undoing or overthrowing the authority structures which exist. The time of the Reformation can show that, just as Luther, Calvin and others challenged the iniquitous institution of the Roman Catholic Church, they did not seek to overthrow the Church authorities but rather bring reform in order to restore the Gospel message. The result was that they were ostracised and excommunicated from the Roman church, but that was not their choice but a result of their holding to Biblical doctrines and seeking reform.

There is a great opportunity for the Church to speak for and encourage those in protest movements and there is also opportunity for the Church to bring a peaceable aspect to the many and diverse causes which people protest for and against. Yet we need to remember that protest should have at its heart a desire to improve governance, not do away with governance.

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Church: Counter-Cultural, Revolutionary and Subversive

[This is the first article in a series of two in which I explore the position of the Church in the world. In this first article I cover how the Church is called to be counter-cultural, revolutionary and subversive in its relationship with the world. In the second part I will make clear the Church’s responsibility to remain submissive to the governing authorities.]

God’s Kingdom, Not Man’s

The Church, and those who are members of the Church, live in the world. Whilst being present in the world, Jesus Christ is clear that His people are not of the world. This means that although the Church is found to be a part of the world around us it is not part of the same kingdom. The authorities and powers of this world are not the powers to which the Church appeals or is bound to.

Christians, and the Church of which they are members, have been transferred out of the kingdom of this world and into the Kingdom of God. If there be any contrariness or conflict between that which the world (and the rulers, authorities and powers of the world) insist upon and the laws of obedience to God, then it must be the Christian’s duty and the Church’s duty to be obedient to God, not man.

Jesus, though He is Lord and Saviour and is both the highest authority and the only way of salvation, has nevertheless allowed the forces of rebellion against God to prosper in this present world. Those who belong to the world do not know God nor His people. Yet whilst the world is under the sway of darkness, those called out of the world by Jesus are now children of Light, even though walking in this dark world.

The Counter-Cultural Church

The Church has always had a tension with the cultures in which it is found. The Jewish nation and the Roman Empire in which the early church existed tried to suppress and subvert the Christian world-view. Yet the Church, for its part, sought to live by standards which were alien to those authorities. The religions, customs and etiquette of the non-Christian cultures did and does impact upon the Church, yet equally the Church is a force and lifestyle that runs counter to the prevailing winds of fashion and culture.

The standards of behaviour demanded by cultural sensibilities, or the lack of morality by which they so often express themselves, are to be resisted by Christians and the Church as we seek to live according to God’s standards and not those of the world around us. These are so often in conflict, and for a peace-loving and peacemaking Church it can be a profound challenge to stand up to the debauch culture and determine to live in such a way that will mark us out as “misfits in the world”. The Bible calls Christians “strangers in the world” and expresses our position in this world as temporary residence, not a lasting citizenship.

The Subversive Church

The Church is profoundly subversive. The whole point of the Church’s existence in the world is to convert sinners into saints. Neil T Anderson, in his book “Victory over the Darkness”, said that the Church is “a military outpost under orders to storm the gates of hell. Every believer is on active duty, called to take part in fulfilling the Great Commission.” The role of the Church is not to placate and appease, but to actively seek to undermine the values, institutions and norms of a world fallen under the sway of evil.

An important point here is concerning the theology of Dominionism, which teaches that the Church should seek power and influence through laws and power structures. I do not believe that this “lording it” is what Jesus calls His Church to do. What I do believe is that the Church should use what we might term “soft power” in contrast to the “hard power” of theocratic authority. This soft power takes the form of example, persuasion and, above all, prayer.

The Revolutionary Church

The Christian Church has always been called to be revolutionary. It is not sufficient to accept the status quo and it is not sufficient to appeal to cultural, legal, or traditional norms as a defence for actions or inaction.

The Church is engaged in a deep and profound war against the forces of evil and corruption and should never engage in actions or inaction that compromises its basic calling as a Christian witness in the world and to the world. (Of course, as I will discuss in the second part of this series the Christian and the Church as a whole is called to obey the authorities, whether religious or secular – yet if there is a conflict or contrariness between what the authorities demand and the laws and principles of God then the Christian and the Church must choose obedience to God over and above any duty to the religious or secular authorities.)

The Church which was founded by Jesus Christ and built upon the rock of the testimony of Peter is expressly called to advance a kingdom that is contrary to the kingdoms of the world. It is, therefore, a revolutionary movement seeking to call people out of every nation and into God’s own holy nation. It is counter-cultural and subversive and seeks to revolutionise human interaction, values and principles.

The methods by which the Church does this are not the hard power of force and compulsion. No, the method of God’s Kingdom is love. Christ calls the Church to love as He loves – a self-sacrificial, God-centred, and other-focussed love. Sharing the Gospel is part of this, but there is also that aspect whereby Christians are called to make a positive impact upon the world. As the Church should not have worldly power, the way in which this revolution is carried out is by bearing witness, through words and actions, of the love of God.

The world may not understand that the Church and individual Christians have love as the primary purpose (and, to be fair, many Christians do not appear to demonstrate this particularly well), for the love of God is alien to those who do not know Him. But for the Christian such love should compel us to make a positive impact upon the world, not only through the sharing of the Gospel but also through social and political action with love and not power as the motive and aim.

[Part 2, on being submissive to authority, can be found here.]

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Wonga, Justin Welby and Ethical Investment

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments last week regarding pay day lenders are most welcome and his intention to reform, improve and bolster the Church of England’s network of credit unions is a good policy in order to provide a competitive and effective alternative.

Pay day lenders, such as Wonga, use usurious interest rates to mean that they take no risk from their loans to those who may not be able to pay back. What these rates also mean is that those who are already struggling to make ends meet find themselves advanced greatly along the downward spiral into slavery to debt. In light of this it is wonderful that Justin Welby has spoken out and wants to take action to redress this.

The comments by Welby were overshadowed, however, by revelations that the Church of England’s own investment wing has invested money into a company that has provided funds to Wonga.

As Luke Bretherton made clear in an article for ABC we should not allow this news to distract from the very good moves by the Archbishop to address the serious issue of pay day lending. It is, however, of great concern that the Church of England engages in unethical investment. Rules prevent excessive percentages from being invested in dubious trades, yet even with these low percentages the actual figures involved may be high for large companies and multi-nationals.

Symon Hill, of Christianity Uncut, makes the very good point that the Church of England’s investment should be geared not only toward ethical investment (which is vitally important) but also towards using the large sums involved to further Christian principles and the Gospel message.

It is right to encourage the Archbishop, and the Church in general, to approach the use of investments as a means of furthering God’s work on earth and not merely as a revenue generating activity. It would be good to see the large funds which the Church deals with employed in a manner which has, as its primary purpose, the furtherance of Christian principles, which could include investment in local communities, social housing, ethical businesses, and environmental protection and development.

It is certainly a concern that the Church’s current policy of investing in large companies – which in some cases make unethical investments in pay day lenders, pornography and arms for example – is not only counter to the Christian faith but also serves to alienate many people who have passionate concerns about such issues and feel such strength of passion that they are willing to take direct action demonstrations. This then acts to hinder the societal and personal benefit which the Church could bring to many deeply ethical people and therefore could act as a counter-force to the spread of the vitally important Gospel message.

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The Global Revolution – How Does the Church Respond?

In a recent excerpt from his book entitled “Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere”, Paul Mason argues that the protests of 2011 and the times that followed through 2012 marked a ground-breaking shift in which the youth-driven horizontalist protests had developed a new mind-set which made the old certainties of the 20th Century as alien to the 21st Century as the 19th Century certainties became during the last.

He argues that:

There is a change in consciousness, the intuition that something big is possible; that a great change in the world’s priorities is within people’s grasp. The impervious nature of official politics – its inability to swerve even slightly towards the critique of capitalism intuitively felt by millions of people – has deepened the sense of alienation and mistrust.

Protest is not always a nice event, but can the Church engage with the new protest movements?

Protest is not always a nice event, but can the Church engage with the new protest movements?

He highlights how the protest movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy, taking in the democracy protests in Russia and other protests from Canada to Chile, mark a profound turn whereby the anti-hierarchical and anti-authority movements are more than simply an expression of young angst – although that is in part its driving force – but a new, levelled form of worldview that eschews the political and economic processes of the present and past and advocates a much more “New Age” view of the brotherhood of man and the being on the cusp of that elusive “glorious revolution”.

Yet what should the Church say to this? Church Peace was founded with a desire to see the Church engage with the protesters, the dissenters, and not in a “do as we say” methodology but by showing love and compassion, seeking to understand the concerns held by so many and drawing alongside.

The battle for social justice, social inclusion, and economic equality are matters of immense concern to the protesters and are also natural fields in which the Church should make its voice and actions heard.

Yet there are also areas where the Church must firmly abide by the words of God, and the revolutionary, anti-authority world-views of many in these protests – which Paul Mason argues are somewhat definitive of the new movements – pose a challenge to the Church, which is often seen as being part of the authoritarian problem and an Old Boys Club of hierarchical institutionalised corruption. The Church needs to remain both true to God’s word and also deal with the perception many have formed about it.

The message of the Gospel is not a system-loving, ruler-pleasing oppressor. No, it is a subversive, revolutionary message which in the first century AD acted in much the same way that these anti-authoritarian movements do today: it “turned the world upside down”.

It is, therefore, imperative that the Church does not become so rooted in its hierarchies and authority structures, built up over centuries of traditions, that it misses the revolutionary tide – a revolutionary tide which it can address with a real message: that sacrifice for the common good, given voluntarily and without selfish demand, is the basis of the most fundamental and greatest expression of love. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13. And it is Jesus who laid down His life for us.

The Gospel message has a rich and massive potential amongst those who now protest against the injustices of this modern, corrupt world. Yet the Church has become the enemy: one of those structures to be torn down. Perhaps that is no bad thing. If the monolithic towering Babels of man’s glory expressed in structures and the lifeless stones of the great cathedrals are torn down, perhaps those in the protest movements will see the Glorious Temple that God is building from the living stones of redeemed men and women – a Church that is not so much an institution but more a real fellowship of God’s people yearning to share and show His love.

This is not to say that the Church should become one with the protests. The Gospel message is one which far surpasses any present world methods or goals: we look to another world, one without end: the glorious Return of Christ and the ushering in of His everlasting Kingdom. The Church must not become limited by focussing on social justice to the exclusion of the Eternal.

In addition, the Church should not be consumed by the anti-authority sentiment swelling the revolts and protests: we must be mindful that it is God who has made the authority structures as He has seen fit, and though we each have a role to play in any reform of those structures we must not become railing revolutionaries whose bitter desire is to tear down those we enviously see as being put “over us”.

The world is indeed at the cusp of something profound. Does the Church step up to the plate?

What are your views? Do you see that the Church can play an important role in the new movements spreading throughout the world? What is the best way in which Christians, and the Church as a whole, can engage with the protest movements?

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He Pitched His Tent Among Us

(Note: I intended on writing and posting this before Christmas Day, due to the topical nature of this post. However I decided that family time was more important, and so it is being posted today.)

This time last year St. Paul’s Cathedral were very busy, at least they were in front of the cathedral where Occupy LSX had set up their camp after being pre-emptively blocked from entering Paternoster Square, the Square upon which the London Stock Exchange is situated.

As some pointed out at the time, Occupy was demonstrating in a very real and actual sense a strong part of the Gospel message, even if the full Gospel was not in the forefront of people’s minds. The impressive part of the Gospel message that was powerfully voiced was this: to change the world one must make personal sacrifice, and the focus of our changing the world must be for the benefit primarily of the poor.

There was another aspect, missed by the great Glory of the Cathedral (though the Cathedral does show the glory of God, and Giles Fraser had preached on the needs of the poor the day after Occupy LSX set up), which is that on that first Noel Jesus, God the Son, gave up His eternal glory and dwelt in a sinful and fallen world amongst sinful and fallen people. A literal translation of John 1 verse 14 would have it that Jesus “pitched His tent among us”.

It is not my desire to any longer continue the battle over the rights and wrongs of the Cathedral’s stance during those days, but perhaps this Christmas season we can look at what the Church can learn from the protest movements, and what the protest movements can learn from Jesus.

Occupy and a large number of other protest organisations from Greenpeace to UK Uncut and even to the Anarchists (by and large a peaceful political philosophy despite government and media portrayals to the contrary) would state that their main and primary purpose is to further justice. Here they meet with God – God, in the Christian worldview, is a God who loves justice and wants His followers to practice justice in the same way that He does, through self-sacrifice. (God is also a God of mercy, and so we must always remember mercy even whilst pursuing justice.)

The Church can learn much from those who climb power station cooling towers in order that those in the poorest nations are not starving due to crop failures, or those who give up the warmth and comfort of a centrally-heated house, duvets and fluffy cushions to live for a few weeks, potentially many months, in a tent during the coldest part of the year. Such self-sacrifice for the benefit of others is highly commendable and one which many Christians (including, alas, this one as yet) fail to perform. The Occupiers and other protesters have learnt to “deny themselves, take up their crosses” (Matthew 16:24).

Yet even so, there remains within a majority of these protest movements a self-seeking and a selfishness that is not good, and here the protesters can learn from Jesus. They have learnt “to deny themselves”, and to “take up their crosses”, yet by refusing to “follow after [Jesus]” they deny the justice and mercy of God, claiming that they themselves are the arbiters of such concepts. (I am aware that this is a rather sweeping generalisation, yet to deal with every protester individually on a blog such as this is not possible.)

There is, in addition to this lack of humility, an aspect of self-seeking – a motivation often of envy rather than true love of mercy. My friend and Christian brother Glen Scrivener visited Occupy LSX with a group of people and he told me he was struck by a conversation he had with one protester. I cannot give an exact quote, but the protester said (after a short conversation) that he was protesting out of the motivation that “he wouldn’t have to be envious of the bankers any more.”

In these aspects the protesters need to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn the love of God, which is equally given to protesters and bankers alike, to come to learn from God, to value His principles above their own, and to love mercy as well as justice.

The Church needs to engage with these movements of protest, for the Church is not a domineering institution of hierarchy (or at least, it should not be) but is a subversive force that “turns the world upside down” and has conquered more hearts with the weapon of love than any amount of militaristic imperialist dominance could ever do.

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Does the Church Understand Protest?

This weekend past there were demonstrations organised by the unions against the austerity programme that has been implemented by the Government. Christians took part in these and peaceably showed their support for a grass-roots movement against swingeing cutbacks and the victimisation of the poor.

Yet a week before, on the anniversary of Occupy LSX – the camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral that became the focus of the Occupy movement in the UK – Christianity Uncut and Occupy London staged an ill-received protest at the cathedral.

Protest at St. Paul's Cathedral

Christianity Uncut members unfurl a banner outside St. Paul’s Cathedral – (Photo Credit: Christianity Uncut)

The protests involved a member of Occupy Faith standing reading a prayer; a group of four women chaining themselves to the pulpit; and a further group outside unfurling a banner. Except for the prayer reading, which was formally invited, the protests were not sanctioned by the cathedral and the cathedral made a strong rebuke to those who took part in the action.

Yet is not protest at the heart of the Gospel message? Jesus did not come to make peace, but came with a sword to divide the sheep from the goats. He Himself drove out the money-changers from the Temple; rebuked the religiously hypocritical; called the puppet king Herod names.

Yet so many in the Church (and in my usual manner I use the capital “C” to indicate the universal Church comprising of all believers without denominational bias) seem to regard protest as something inherently evil.

Sometimes a form of protest is allowed, such as in the prayer reading by Occupy Faith at St. Paul’s, or an orderly march through a police-ordained route with a set start and stop time and a clear chain of command that the police can use to control the procession.

Yet the form of protest that has written the British democratic history has not always been the kind of clean-shaven, well-to-do garden party. And we shouldn’t expect it to be.  (It is sad that if the triumphal entry into Jerusalem which we commemorate on Palm Sunday were held in Britain today it would require prior police approval.)

Many in the Church find the idea of protest unappealing – that is for their own consciences – yet equally they should not seek to prevent those who wish to make a demonstrable impact on political discourse.

A democratic society is a fragile one in many ways. We lack the clear autocratic mandate to wage war against enemies or impose necessary but unpopular polices. Yet we are also at constant threat from our own leaders, albeit if those leaders are oftentimes unaware of the danger. The threat of straying too far from the public will is a real one, and public protest is the important mechanism by which the masses make known their dissatisfaction to the privileged (and every member of a government is privileged in that degree) before such gruesome aspects of people-based rule as riot and uprising are manifest.

The response from St. Paul’s to the peaceable and respectful protests two weekends ago show that the Cathedral has not learned from its general rejection of Occupy LSX. And the general distaste which many in the Church have for peaceful direct protest reflects more on their own middle-class comfortability  than the Gospel message of the Man who died on a murderer’s cross to set the captives free.

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St. Paul’s Gave Police The Okay to Clear Steps

Yesterday the Independent newspaper revealed that St. Paul’s Cathedral had given the police permission to clear the cathedral’s steps during the eviction of the Occupy camp that was cleared on the 28th February 2012.

I do not wish to be dragging this on, as also yesterday the cathedral welcomed its new Dean, and my view is that Christian forgiveness should be paramount in this matter.

Yet the fact remains that many Christians have been exceedingly hurt by the dealings of St. Paul’s Chapter, as this open letter shows.  It must also be of further hurt to hear that the various statements released by the Chapter were, in fact, clearly misleading.

Those whose actions have brought such hurt do need to consider their positions and prayerfully consider if they have allowed the riches of City of London Cathedral life to skew their perspective regarding those who are poor and marginalised and those who were being faced with a forceful eviction – some of those being fellow Christians.

My hope is that the new Dean will make a statement of apology, but whether that is or is not forthcoming the Christian duty to forgive remains, and my prayer is that those who have been so hurt by this may come to have reconciliation with those who injured them.

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Occupy Faith

A new phase in the continuing Occupy movement in the UK has begun with the formation of a new charity, Occupy Faith.

This is a very important development as far as Church Peace is concerned, being as it is a melding of the Occupy protest movement and the faith community.

In part inspired by the Occupy Faith movement in the US (much as Occupy UK was inspired by Occupy Wall Street) the Occupy Faith UK movement has planned a 12 day pilgrimage from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral to highlight economic injustice and solidarity with the Occupy movement.

As a new link to build bridges between the protest and faith communities it is encouraging and inspiring to hear of this new initiative.

I do, however, have concerns.  I know other Christians and Christian groups view these things differently, yet the concept of seeking a form of economic salvation by allying too closely to non-Christian groups is not something I feel entirely comfortable about.

The rationale for Church Peace, as it stands, is to connect with the dissenting community, and though I would like this to include support for moral and ethical protests, an important part of Church Peace is the Christian input it seeks to provide.  The Occupy Faith UK statement of intent prohibits the sharing of the Christian faith and makes clear that there is no purpose to proselytise.  Whilst this is understandable considering their stated purpose of seeking economic justice, to me it seems as though the Gospel is being relegated to second place after carnal considerations of finance.

I am reminded of the situation where Israel was being attacked by the Assyrians and they then made an alliance with Egypt to fight the invaders back, which was robustly condemned by God through the prophet Isaiah.  Is it right that Christians should seek salvation from economic woes (even for the benefit of others) by allying with non-Christian faiths and movements?  Should we not, rather, seek to be witnesses of a better way than that which both Occupy and other faiths purport to be?

Of course, it is a Biblical imperative to speak up for the oppressed and the poor, and in this respect it is highly commendable that Christians should seek to do this.  But is such a close identification with Occupy and those of non-Christian faiths desirable, especially when the movement has banned evangelistic efforts by those Christians involved?

I appreciate that there are other views, and would welcome your comments below.

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Can the Offender Tell the Offended to Forgive?

As I wrote on this website a while back, I felt that the Christian response to the seeming collusion of the authorities at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the forced eviction of the Occupy camp on their doorstep would be to forgive and move on.  I felt that this would have been the correct response, even though praying Christians were dragged from the steps of a church – a sight that should be abhorrent to every person of faith.

Yet those who were so offended chose instead to seek understanding of how fellow believers could treat them in such a way.  This is most understandable, and the letter that those of the Ring of Prayer sent to the Chapter of St. Paul’s was polite and stressed that any meeting would be “in a spirit of love and respect”.

Yet such a move was roundly rejected by the Chapter, and instead the Rt. Rev. Michael Colclough wrote back saying that the matter should be “put behind us so that we can all continue our work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.

Then perhaps we can read the open letter, bravely and courageously put, by Tammy Semede, and perhaps understand the great distress and pain that those at the cathedral caused their brothers and sisters.

Tammy’s letter is both heartfelt and shows a serious flaw in the thinking of the Chapter of St. Paul’s.  Can he who has offended his brother then say “let us put this matter behind us”?  If I stole from you and you asked to meet me in a manner of love and respect to discuss the item I have stolen, should I then say “no, I will not meet but you should forgive”?

Yes, we must move on.  But in my view the authorities at the cathedral need to be taking some very serious assessments of their policies and attitudes.

And perhaps it is a question for the wider Church: are we so enamoured with the grandeur and pomp, the wealth and riches, the rotten carcass of Western consumerism and the sell-out to big money, that we can no longer discern that it is we, the Church, that have been acting not as the oppressed and the persecuted, but as the conniver in the oppression of the poor.

Many in the Church are good men and women, working hard to provide for those who are without, both spiritually and practically.  Yet we also have those whose links to the Establishment outweigh any imperative to help the underclass and any scrap of decency is merely a whitewashed tomb.

As the events at St. Paul’s fade to memory, let us now learn the bitter lesson that we are more comfortable with those who have reputation and wealth than with those who are the modern-day lepers and outcasts.  Let us learn the lesson, let us repent most earnestly, and let us be the hands and feet of Jesus, not the treasurers of the Sadducees.

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Open Letter to Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral

The following letter was written by Tammy Semede, one of the named defendants in the Occupy LSX case, and was originally published on the Ekklesia website.  It is a heartfelt and powerful letter.  I will, here, allow the letter to speak for itself.  I will, however, be posting comment on this in due course, as a separate post.

An Open Letter to the Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral

 

Dear Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral,

Here I am, almost two weeks after witnessing the destruction and inevitable eviction of the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

It has been a very difficult time seeing the vulnerable and frightened part of our Occupy community displaced. The City Of London Corporation had promised to attend the eviction and had assured us that they would make sure they looked after any vulnerable member of the community during and after. They assured us that they had all of those vulnerable people’s names. They said that they would send social workers and mental health professionals. Though you of course know all this from sitting with them in the same meetings as myself, week in, week out…

They sent no one. Not a single professional to assist such people. Instead they came after midnight when all the services that could help these people were closed.

Not a single clergyman attended us that evening. Not one priest or chaplain did you send from that Cathedral to minister to the frightened, or to comfort the distressed. Even Giles Fraser was prevented from coming through the police kettle. Does it concern you that people in distress were denied access to a priest, and that instead a cathedral chapter brought violence upon them in its own grounds?

It has been a fortnight since watching the wonderful community (even with its problems) destroyed. It has been a fortnight since I was threatened with arrest for aggravated trespass on church land. (The same one I have regularly received communion in).

You had assured us all that if we sat peacefully on the cathedral steps we would be safe from police violence or arrest. You even stated publicly you wanted to avoid violence on cathedral land. You told us (in front of Andrew Colvin the City Of London’s lawyer) that those steps would become a sanctuary for occupiers and any occupier who wished, not an obstruction for bailiffs. You told us to just sit and wait and take care of each other. You said publicly that you would not close those doors to us. You said this over and over again, promising the same thing to our Church Liaison Working Group who met with Canon Michael Hempsall, Canon Mark Oakley and the Rt Rev Michael Colclough, every single week in the Christopher Wren room in the basement of the cathedral. And often in the wall between Paternoster Square and the west churchyard.

So understandably, we were all terribly shocked with the events and violence that played out on St Paul’s Cathedral steps, while your workers watched from the balcony and while the Bishop of London turned his back, driving past it all without a second glance!

A fortnight later I feel shocked and numb and sad and hurt. I feel betrayed. I feel I saw a darkness of which I had no idea existed. A darkness which I would never have believed existed until I saw and felt it for myself. I have wished repeatedly since that night that I had not seen the things I did on those steps.

For the best part of three months I have been part of the Church Liaison Working Group, reporting back to the general assemblies of Occupy London Stock Exchange with whatever transpired between ourselves and the Canons and Bishop we met with.

I had become increasingly frustrated at your inability to discuss anything to do with social and economic injustice, always steering these meetings to your agenda. Of course, early on I thought (no, I actually believed) that you were good Christian men, men of God, shepherds for Christ’s flock, but over the weeks and months and quite shockingly the night the camp was evicted, I found out otherwise. I found it out rather painfully.

Not only physical pain from being stood on as I lay on the cathedral steps having fallen over in the crush, but emotionally and spiritually wounded, a wound which as I write this still continues to bleed and feel sore. A wound placed upon me and my soul and heart by the very people I should have looked to for examples of faith in action. A wound imposed upon the fibres of my soul which would give me a struggle of faith and something like that that St John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul”.

This dark night being a phase in which the soul struggles with its faith, can’t seem to find God, nor the hope it once had, but my soul did hold on, the tears did heal the wound, and the wound and painful experience taught me very, very well.

It taught me that the main players in the clergy and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral were not men of God, but puppets of the corporations and City Of London.

And as of today we still await answers or explanations from the cathedral. I still await a call back from Richard Chartres (Bishop of London). I am no stranger to him having met him several times. I am still waiting for their actions to stop hurting. Still waiting silently for some understanding of how anyone, but most certainly the chapter of St Paul’s, can condone such violence on Church steps.

And the last time I went to receive the holy sacrament of communion you tainted it by having your cathedral security watch me the whole time I was there.

Perhaps we will never have the answers.

Perhaps we will never understand.

Perhaps all I can do is wait, wait for a day when I can walk past St Paul’s and not feel hurt, or sad, or tearful whenever it’s called to mind.

“Be still and know that I am God”….

Perhaps that’s all we can do for now?

Perhaps that’s what you should have done too?….

Tammy Samede
Named defendant for Occupy London Stock Exchange

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