First, let's review the arrests. Retired Bp George Packard was the first over the fence in his purple cassock, and was arrested. His wife was not arrested, but was in a group standing in the street and assaulted by the police. We have now seen over and over again the disproportionate violence practiced by the police in dealing with nonviolent OWS protestors. Bp Packard writes,
A police force that has lost respect for the people it supposedly protects is dangerous to Democracy. These acts were done on behalf of Trinity Wall Street, and by extension, TEC. I am waiting to hear "church officials" speak out loudly and with dismay about any acts of violence against non-violent protestors done on behalf of the church.
This became an opportunity for individual and gratuitous violence by policemen. The simple arrests were done, why were they messing with these people? Which brings me to the melodrama of the day and the forecasts by our leaders. The only "force or arms" present on Saturday was not in (or at) the han ds of demonstrators....The cop who kneed my wife in the chest three times and threw her into other demonstrators was the same Officer who walked me harmlessly to the paddy wagon.
Put your sword back in its place...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matt. 26:52)Next, another protester, the Rev. John Merz calls out Trinity Wall Street (from The Lead):
Privately I must remark on the shocking dissonance between their professed support, their vast resources and power and the things they provided: leaving a drop in center open, allowing group meetings in other space literally a handful if not less of times, deleting posts on their blogs that enjoined them for basic relief of human needs (porta-potties). They never intended to connect, listen to and support this movement in any real way.It is a re hash of their 9/11 record and as many know all too well, locally in times of social crisis, they do the right thing only if self preservation (image) requires it and even then only haltingly.
[T]he vestry list reads as a who’s-who of the rich and powerful in New York, including Wall Street bankers, media and real estate executives, and in the most telling case, a former executive vice president of Brookfield Properties, the company that owns Zuccotti Park and pressured the city to evict the occupiers in the first place.I think every church deals with the balancing act of investment for the future and protection of the institution, and action in the here-and-now. I'm sure some on one edge think that the church should sell everything, and "follow Him". But you won't effect much change as an itinerant, once you've spent the money. The other extreme might be what Trinity is doing--which appears to be pretty much the minimum, and protecting its massive assets. And in response to a protestor who says, "We have nothing, you have more, give it to us," one can understand to some extent. That's theft, right? Or Godless Communism? Or is it instead a voice demanding Biblical justice? And how do you tell the difference?
But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17)The challenge to the Church is to walk the balance, and it's a fine balance indeed. Because a beautiful church building with an endowment to maintain it is not a bad thing in and of itself. A beautiful liturgical space that offers spiritual sanctuary is not a bad thing. Taking steps to protect it is not a bad thing either. The question surely comes about how much is needed, and whether or not "building the endowment" takes precedence over justice. Does it become about the money as an end, rather than a means?
Bishop Gene Robinson famously says something like this: "Pulling drowning people out of a river is a good thing. But it's even more important to go upstream and stop the person who's throwing them in the water." Similarly, feeding the hungry is a good thing. But it's even more important to stop the policies that are driving them to hunger. As an institution (and yes, one with beautiful buildings and endowments, and that's okay), TEC has a strong voice, large in influence and bigger than its numbers. It's time, surely to use that voice for prophecy. Even if it costs.
As one commenter on Bp Packard's blog wrote,
Upon seeing you in the crowd I was confused why a Bishop was among our ranks in full regalia, but when the stairs went up and I saw you climbing into the park, tears of joy started streaming down my face. I cannot describe the hope and inspiration you gave me in that moment.And because I can, let's finish with one more Bible quote:
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:52-53)