Tag Archive for st.paul’s

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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After Forced Eviction, Now is the Time for Forgiveness

After the eviction of Occupy LSX from the land outside St. Paul’s Cathedral there are many who are hurt.

Christians who had formed the “Ring of Prayer” initiative were praying on the steps of the cathedral when the police dragged them away, with the report of at least one policeman kicking a praying Christian.

Yet the presence of Christians and others praying and urging a peaceful eviction did bear fruit, and the eviction was largely a peaceful affair.  The majority of the protesters left without needing to be forcibly removed, and though there were reports of some water bottles being thrown by a hardcore group who built a makeshift “fort” the level of violence was remarkable by its absence.

An excellent report in the Independent highlighted one concern: how much and how willingly was the Cathedral involved?  Jerome Taylor and Charlie Cooper at The Independent write:

A carefully worded statement released by St Paul’s after the eviction made no mention of the forcible removals from the steps of the cathedral. Instead, it effectively welcomed the clearance of the camp, stating only that the cathedral regretted that such a removal had to be done by bailiffs.

“In the past few months, we have all been made to re-examine important issues about social and economic justice and the role the cathedral can play,” the statement said. “We regret the camp had to be removed by bailiffs but we are fully committed to continuing to promote these issues through our worship, teaching and [the St Paul’s] Institute.”

Indeed there were reports that after the Cathedral lights were briefly turned off just before the eviction began police could be seen on the building balconies.  Such reports led to speculation that the cathedral was actively facilitating the eviction, yet at the present time it is seeming that those on the balconies of the cathedral were not police.

The events with the floodlights, and St. Paul’s following comments, leave important questions laying unanswered as to how pro-active the St. Paul’s authorities were in the eviction.  A spokesperson for St. Paul’s made a comment when pressed saying:

“The police did not ask for permission from us regarding any aspect of the action taken last night, but we were clear that we would not stand in the way of the legal process or prevent the police from taking the steps they needed to deal with the situation in an orderly and peaceful manner,”

It either shows naivety or dis-ingenuity that St. Paul’s would not realise that such a green light to the police would be taken in a sweeping manner, and a video from the night shows police telling Christians on the steps that they did have permission from the cathedral to remove them.

Yet the eviction is passed.  It was largely peaceful and for that we must be very grateful.  That many Christians have stood up and sought peace in this matter testifies to the love and grace that Jesus grants us.

As such, we must now move on.  St. Paul’s Cathedral were in an unenviable position given their strong links with the City.  I believe they made a series of blunders and moral failings.  Yet we must forgive and move on.  No profit is to be found in constantly berating past mistakes.  Church Peace seeks peace, and peace cannot occur when bitterness and desire for revenge of any sort is harboured.  As God has forgiven us, let us now forgive St. Paul’s and pray that the future may be brighter for the cathedral than it may appear at this time.

 

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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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Ring of Prayer and Prayer Vigils

Christianity Uncut, a group of Christians that are campaigning against the Coalition government’s austerity policies, has organised a well-publicized “Ring of Prayer” for the protection of and solidarity with Occupy London Stock Exchange, or Occupy LSX.

The pledge which interested Christians are asked to sign is as follows:

I stand in solidarity with people of all religions and none who are resisting economic injustice with active non-violence.

In the event of Occupy London Stock Exchange being evicted, I intend to go to the camp to worship and to join with others in forming a ring of prayer.

I will seek to act in a spirit of love towards all concerned.

It has currently been signed by over 300 people and a list has been started enabling notification should the eviction take place at short notice.

More details here…

Prayer Vigils

As well as the Ring of Prayer, some groups have said that they will hold prayer vigils timed to coincide with any eviction taking place.

Currently we are aware of two groups endeavouring to hold vigils in Cambridge and Bradford.

I would also like to organise one in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

If you have any further details on these prayer vigils; are setting one up in your own locality; or would like to be part of one in Eastbourne, please do comment below or email admin@churchpeace.org.uk.

With many thanks.

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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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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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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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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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