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.