Tag Archive for CofE

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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St. Paul’s Cathedral and Occupy – Reply to Joint Letter

Last week Church Peace, along with 14 other initial signatories including Simon Barrow (of Ekklesia think-tank), Rev. George Pitcher (journalist and minister) and numerous other prominent academics and clergy, wrote to the Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  82 further names were added to this on the letter published on this blog.

Our request was that the Cathedral make a public statement saying that they oppose a forcible eviction of the Occupy camp situated outside St. Paul’s.

Church Peace has now received a reply to this letter from the Rt. Rev. Michael Colclough, the Canon in Residence at the cathedral.

This comes as the application for appeal from the Occupy camp against the eviction by the City of London Corporation has been heard by the Court of Appeal.  After submissions from the appellants and the Corporation had been heard, the court adjourned and reserved judgement until the 22nd February.

The reply to our letter makes no mention of the primary purpose of our writing.  It is polite and makes a statement of defence of St. Paul’s well-known stance.  It is frustrating that the Canon has stated that:

We very much agree with Occupy and the Corporation about the priority of caring for vulnerable people whenever and however the camp disbands.

This fails to acknowledge that it is Occupy that has been raising the issue of protecting the vulnerable and has made requests for assurances that the Corporation has not responded to.  It is also disappointing that a forceful removal has been re-framed as “disbanding”.

There is, however, a positive aspect to this letter, in that the Cathedral Chapter have committed themselves to continuing to speak with the camp and seek a satisfactory and peaceful outcome, and they have said that “we are also discussing with Occupy how assemblies might continue to meet periodically outside the cathedral.”

Yet time is running short for a peaceful solution.  Occupy, as a group, are committed to peaceful resistance of any eviction, as are a large group of Christian believers who have signed the “Ring of Prayer” pledge.  Whilst the protest is peaceful; St. Paul’s are advocating for a peaceful and periodic assembly; and the Corporation is seeking a forceful and ugly confrontation based on the principle that tents cannot be used as a means of protest, Church Peace will be continuing to ask all concerned that a value-based and ethical compromise be found.

The full letter received from Rt Rev. Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor of St. Paul’s Cathedral, can be viewed here.

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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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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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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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Meeting with Local Evangelist

Yesterday I met with a local reverend who is now working as a full-time evangelist with the Hour of Revival Association.  The main purpose of this meeting was to discuss Church Peace.

The meeting did go very well indeed, and I shared how far Church Peace has developed and where it is at now, and he came back with a number of very good points.

Glen Scrivener, who is ordained in the Church of England and was formerly a curate at All Souls Church, Eastbourne, spoke a number of very good points.

He was very clear that Jesus should never be used as a “mascot”.  We discussed that Jesus can be appropriated by any number of political leanings and movements, but the aim in true Christianity is not to attempt mold Jesus around our beliefs but to mold our beliefs as we get to know Him better.  Linked to this was an interesting discussion on the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement and two points were raised: one, it should be more about What Jesus Has Already Done, and two, that can we really know what Jesus would do in a situation?  Do we really know Him that well as to say we know what He would do about, say, the Euro crisis?  Surely our task is to get to know Him better rather than appropriating Him for our ends.

These are challenges to Church Peace, the Church itself, and the dissenting community.

Glen is an evangelist, and obviously coming from that perspective he is very keen to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but he was clear on the great opportunity for this that the Occupy movement has brought; St. Paul’s initial failure; and the possibility of a different approach from the Church elsewhere.  We spoke about Occupy Brighton and may be making a visit there and he, like I, was keen to draw alongside the protesters and facilitate Church input in both a practical serving of demonstartors and in sharing and listening to the issues involved.

We also spoke of the role of the bankers, and we were clear that in Jesus’ eyes the rich banker is just as precious as the poor and needy beggar.  We warned ourselves about “religious self-righteousness” also.

Would do others think?  Do protesters actually want any input from the Christian community or should the Church just “butt out”?  Is practical service to Occupy appropriate?  Does drawring alongside the demonstrators show a bias?

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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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