Tag Archive for bishop of london

Protests at Funeral of Margaret Thatcher

On Wednesday the 17th April the ceremonial funeral of Margaret Thatcher was held. Falling just short of a state funeral, the ceremonies were nevertheless full of pomp and circumstance, and cost the UK Government an estimated £10 million.

Many objected to the exaltation of such a divisive leader, who has been accused of ruining so many people’s lives in the UK during her tenure as Prime Minister and since, as the ideals of Thatcherism continue to outlive her. Many also objected at the cost to the Government of holding such a high-level funeral event, especially at a time when those in government are claiming that the poor must go without because money is so short.

These are important issues, and ones that need to be forthrightly debated. Protests are a part of that debate and are an important part, as the battle between those standing for provision for the poor and oppressed in the UK, and those who want the welfare state dismantled, is a very real and current fight.

Church Peace is very supportive of protest. Yet the scenes that appeared following the news of Thatcher’s death and subsequently at the funeral, where parties were held in celebration and, on the funeral day itself, protesters turned their backs of her coffin and shouted abusive insults – these were shameful scenes.


On the day of her death left-wingers issued forth a torrent of abuse on Twitter and at least one large party celebrating the death was held in Glasgow. On the day of the funeral itself a protest took place on the route of the funeral procession. This protest was organised to be a silent one – with the protesters turning their backs as the coffin went past – yet as the event took place there were boos and shouts of “Tory scum”.

Other protests and parties took place in other parts of Britain also, especially in northern cities who suffered greatly under Thatcher’s leadership.

Death has a finality: the end of a person’s tenure on this earth. However much one may feel opposed to a politician’s policies, that politician is also a person who has left behind a grieving family. The celebration over a death is a medieval dancing on the grave – an abhorrent expression of hatred.

As the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, stated in his funeral address:

There is an important place for debating policies and legacy; for assessing the impact of political decisions on the everyday lives of individuals and communities. Parliament held a frank debate last week – but here and today is neither the time nor the place.

Although the protests against Mrs. Thatcher’s legacy, and indeed the cost of the funeral service, may have my sympathy, I cannot support the disrespect and hatred that lies behind the celebration of her death and the protests during her funeral procession.

There is a real and very present need to debate the issues which Thatcherism has brought. There are so many in this country who suffered so terribly under Thatcher’s leadership, and the current government is seeming to be moving forward her ideal of a dismantled welfare state and the policies of promoting corporate business with rampant individualism. That debate should start now.

Credit must be given to Thatcher for her ideals – she entered politics to make a difference, not to have a career – and even though many disagreed and still disagree with the difference she made, she must be admired for her courage and commitment.

Yet she was a divisive figure. Her policies allowed the greedy to get super-fat on profits, whilst the poor and hard-working suffered. It is a situation with many parallels to today, except that under Thatcher economic growth was high and in these present times economic growth is virtually non-existent.

The debates must be held. Some wanted to make their views known on the day of the funeral, when so many were watching. Yet we must have respect for the dead. If we give up our common humanity to make a political point, then we are no better than our enemies.

In the words of the Bishop of London, as the founder of Thatcherism lay dead in a coffin:

Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings.

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Joint Letter to St. Paul’s Cathedral

The following letter is being sent to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral and cc to the Bishop of London.  We have a number of signatories including Rev. George Pitcher and Simon Barrow (co-director of Ekklesia).

 

Dear Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral,

We are writing to you to express our grave concern at the prospect of a forcible eviction of the Occupy camp currently situated in the grounds of the Cathedral.

We understand that the semi-permanent camp has resulted in challenges for the Cathedral and we are not unsympathetic to this.

We also accept that ultimately the decision on eviction is the City of London Corporation’s.  The Cathedral, however, is not powerless in this situation.

We commend you and others for efforts to seek a compromise solution and we are saddened that these seem not to have borne fruit as yet.

We are very much concerned for the impact on the Church as well as the camp of a forcible eviction.  The Name of Christ will not be honoured by such an action, and the stance of the Cathedral will be seen as being at least in part responsible.

We do not believe that the Church should ever be in a position where it is identified with oppression.  Its mission and ministry is, rather, about freeing people.

We therefore hope that the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral will make a public statement saying that they do not support a forced eviction of the Occupy camp.

Signatories:

Mark Hanson (Founder, Church Peace)

Simon Barrow (Co-Director, Ekklesia)

Dr Zoe Bennett (Theologian, Cambridge)

Dr Andrew Francis (Co-ordinating Group, Radix Community UK)

Rev Ray Gaston (Tutor, Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham)

Savitri Hensman (Christian writer, Hackney)

Symon Hill (Christianity Uncut)

Rev Vaughan Jones (United Reformed Church)

Dr Gillian Paterson (Theologian, London)

Rev George Pitcher (St Bride’s, Fleet Street)

Rev Ian Rathbone (Elim Pentecostal Church)

Prof Christopher Rowland (Biblical scholar, Oxford)

Jill Segger (Quaker journalist)

Rev Dr Steven Shakespeare (Department of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Liverpool Hope University)

Jordan Tchilingirian (Research sociologist)

 

(If you would like to indicate your support for this letter then please leave a comment here.  Please do not make lengthy comments or negative comments – the intention is to gather names of those who support this letter.  Many thanks.)

As at 1pm on Wednesday 15th February we have had an additional 82 names added to the letter.  Many thanks to all!

We have received a reply from the Chapter of St. Paul’s and this can be viewed here.

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City of London and St. Paul’s

The City of London Corporation, which owns some of the land upon which Occupy LSX are camped, has now renewed its pursuit of court action to evict the protesters.  The London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has also voiced that the “crusties” are not welcome in London, despite many permanently living and working in the area.

This development was always expected, but there are some very profound difficulties the Corporation faces and court proceedings should last a lengthy period.

One of the major obstacles for the City of London is that the land where Occupy LSX is encamped is partly owned by St. Paul’s Cathedral and the exact demarcation of Corporation land and Church land is not clear.  St. Paul’s faced mounting criticism when the Dean and Chapter decided to pursue their own eviction plans, and eventually the Dean resigned and the Bishop of London, Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, was called in.

The Bishop steered St. Paul’s into a new direction, one it should have taken all along, of holding dialogue and discussions with the Occupy camp on a variety of issues, including both the practicalities of the camp and the concerns and views regarding the key aim of the camp in furthering democracy and economic justice.

Yet I would be surprised if the Cathedral, which has a varied and extensive range of links with many in the City, does not come under pressure from the Corporation to return to an aggressive approach to dealings with the Occupiers.  (It should be said that the links the Cathedral has with those in the City are not to be regarded as ominous – a church, of whatever “status” or denomination, would be seriously neglectful of its duties as an embassy of Christ if it did not have good relations with those who are its neighbours.)

At this time some Christians (including some leading voices in the Christian community) are again considering protesting with the protesters and standing with them to peacefully resist any forced eviction, whether St. Paul’s become involved in the eviction or not.

It would be unlikely that the Cathedral again seeks a forced eviction.  Yet it is imperative that we who believe in the power of prayer lift up the Cathedral Chapter and the Bishop of London as they will face many pressures from high establishment figures.  The Prime Minister, who through a constitutional anomaly, wields an undue influence on the Church of England, has himself suggested that he opposes the Occupy movement and is considering new laws to make eviction and punishment swifter for those who engage in residential protest.

Please do pray.

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Thoughts, Prayers and Considerations

I have had some feedback from asking for input into the “where now” question for Church Peace.

Andrew commented on the previous post saying that the Church Peace group should continue in order to provide a “common man’s input into the churches”.

I would be hesitant of having a pressure group aimed at altering the views of the Church and churches, yet, providing that good arguments that fit with Biblical principles can be put forward, then it is possible that Church Peace could play a role in enabling a more social-justice activist Church.  Church Peace would, in that instance, continue the initial vision to speak for reconciliation and dialogue between #OccupyLSX and St. Paul’s and then widen it to other protests and churches.

I also have received feedback from George Pitcher, who has written for the Daily Telegraph.  He advised that Church Peace is a vital ministry and a profound witness.  He also advised that I write to the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, and that letter is being posted today.

I have also made contact with the Vicar at my own church and am awaiting a reply.  In addition, I have learned that a curate at a church in my home town has already visited the OccupyLSX camp.  I contacted him, and he shares my concern for the “the oftentimes non-conformist, sidelined and “church-reluctant” members of our society.”  He added that “it was a good time with the protesters last Sunday and I would be up for another visit before Christmas.”

These developments, along with my own prayers and seeking after God’s will has led me to firmly believe that Church Peace should continue.  I have altered the Twitter account name and profile, and have also altered the profile and name on Facebook, to better reflect current status.

Input is still very much required.  I myself hope to visit Occupy Brighton very soon, with looking to visit OccupyLSX in early December.

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Eviction of Occupy LSX has been Halted – What Next for Church Peace?

The news has come in today that first St. Paul’s Chapter suspended its pursuit of legal proceedings against Occupy LSX and then the City of London Corporation announced a “pause” in its own proceedings.

Neither of these announcements, and especially the City of London’s stance, is a renouncement on the possibility of a forceful eviction in future, yet they are to be rejoiced over and very warmly welcomed.

St. Paul’s decision seems to be mainly based upon the desire to enter into dialogue with Occupy LSX, which St. Paul’s claimed was not legally wise during the legal process.  Yet even so, the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, gave hint that the huge public response to the prospect of the Church of England taking part in a forced, possibly violent, eviction had swayed the thinking at St. Paul’s when he said that: “The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St Paul’s has now heard that call.”

These developments, as welcome as they are, do not bring to an end the prospect of scenes of riot police and protesters being dragged away by the hair with the grandeur of St. Paul’s Cathedral as a backdrop.

The question that must now concern me and those involved in the Church Peace campaign must be: what do we now do?

In my view, three possibilities now exist:

  1. The Church Peace project is ended.
  2. We remain in place, but enter into a “dormant” state.
  3. We use these developments as an opportunity to become a grass-roots source of input into the relationships of the Church with the protest, demonstration and activist community.

I would very much like those who have supported Church Peace by following on Twitter or by liking the Facebook page to give a good amount of input into which option we choose.  If we do opt for the 3rd option then I will need continued support and input.

I had always felt led by God to use my passion for Jesus and my passion for the civil liberties and freedoms of the UK to campaign for those freedoms and act, in some small way, as a peace-maker in these situations, and started Rabel Christian Civil Liberties because of that.  It is possible that Church Peace may be a big part of that mission, but I do not see that it can continue unless others also feel that it is something worth taking forward.

I would, therefore, ask all those involved or who may want to be involved to make input at this stage.

Thank you.

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