Occupy Wall Street

Last December, Bishop George Packard, along with a handful of clergy and protesters, sought to occupy X park, owned by Trinity Church, an Episcopal church of great wealth and prosperity.

Of course, clergy in the interwebs are divided.  A few consider this a missed opportunity, and more militant ones paint Trinity Church with the Iron Heel’s colors.   The non-retired episcopacy wrings their hands and frets.  It’s a pretty good representation how the liberal elite think of occupy wall street.

I admit, I’m perplexed as to why the occupiers want the space owned by Trinity.  It’s hard for any institution to negotiate with a non-institution.  Might OWS consist of double agents (not necessarily Lutherans), republicans in liberal clothing, or Trotskyists?  Who is held accountable for the mistakes of individual saboteurs?

If only Dr Cooper could have asked for an insurance certificate.

But it does raise some questions.  Who is representing the occupiers?  Were there other opportunities to build relationships?  Who has authority?  Who pays the consequences?

The occupiers, to their credit, choose places that were not illegal to occupy.  Zuccotti Park was a safer choice than Goldman Sachs.  University campuses are probably easier to occupy than Bank of America.  Public spaces allow for the persons to participate, without actually threatening the private enterprises that control most commerce.

Over the last forty years, we’ve constrained and confined our public, democratic places.  The result:  environments where we have echo chambers, where extreme views are forbidden, especially those that critique commerce.   Each media institution has a modest particular “slant” so people don’t accidentally become informed about a variety of issues or perspectives.  All a businessman knows, thus, is business; but not much about anything else.  We are made into ideologues and consumers, rather than citizens of mutual concern.  We become limited: we examine how any change affects us personally, but have little consideration for its consequences upon other people.

The commons, our public spaces, the non-commercial locations where people of different walks of life can become safely acquainted, require public subsidy.  The institutions that protect liberty require commitment, from each according to their ability.   It is the cost for living in a country free from violence, where the different classes can engage each other without fear of theft or exploitation.

Surely, protests are where our parishes may step in.  When the government prohibits persons to organize freely, the church, whose primary role in the culture is precisely organizing voluntary work, can offers its space, in hospitality, toward the stranger.

This may be just one step along the movement’s maturity.   OWS will build  with already effective institutions and consider their next step.  But its hard work that requires patience, tenacity, resilience and courage.    If they could pay rent and buy the porta-potties themselves, perhaps they’d find more sympathetic relationships.

OWS, however, may want to analyze a bit who Trinity is.  It ‘s not simply the one percent.  It’s congregants are actually not all from the surrounding area.   They are engaged in multiple ministries world wide.  It’s not an enemy, nor should it be made one.

Building the movement to change the awful system of arrangements that has impoverished many Americans will take more than the deeds of the impatient.  It will take years of building relationships, of listening to the many individuals who can effectively contribute to revealing and changing the system.  Trinity is one of those organizations.  They are not the enemy, and need not be made to feel as if they are.


I decided to clean up some of the links and add a few more along the side.   Most of them are political at this time.  They don’t reflect my own political thinking – but I find that the way they think is useful.  I’ll include more links once I get through the Christian Century list.

David Frum at Frum Forum, the conservative conservatives hate, in part because he maintains his principles while still affirming science and math.   He got lambasted by the Heritage foundation when he argued that the Republicans weren’t prepared for Obama’s health care successes.

Glenn Greenwald is a lawyer who writes for Salon.  He’s insightful, principled, and makes no excuses for Obama’s conservative foreign policy.    I find him stimulating, if a bit unaware of the complexities of power.  For that I turn to…

Walter Russell Mead is a writer from the realist school of foreign policy.  He’s brilliant, wry, and deeply anti-utopian.  He explains the world in discomfiting ways, and is steadfast in his refusal to offer idealistic solutions.

That’s just a few.  More articles to come out this year, as I continue to work on writing… writing… writing…

Anglicans and Catholics

The Vatican has given a home to Anglicans.

I’m glad.  Everyone needs a home.

We, the Episcopal Church, were not a good home for everyone.  We’ve decided that gender and sexuality are no bars to liturgical authority.   So although we gave lip service to being inclusive, we’re not nimble enough to share our institution with those who think differently.

But God need not be a zero-sum game.  If anything, let us praise them for not to join the various splinter Anglican groups, with their army of mitre-hungry, purple loving priests, sects who have nearly as many bishops as congregations.

Instead, they’ve shown humility.  For a bishop, the formerly Rt. Reverend Steenson, to give up the benefits of purple for the sake of their view of truth, shows some spiritual depth.  Although I’m sure the former Bishop (now just an ordinary priest) didn’t give up the generous pension, we should not begrudge him many years of service for the Episcopal Church.  Instead, praise him for offering solace for disaffected Anglicans.   Their views may not be correct, but there’s no need for a war or judgement.  Our faith allows some grace that we may not know what the ultimate truth holds.

Anglicanism has always held its Catholic traditions close.   But for them gender and sexuality are crucial parts of it.  Let them now say their rosaries, pray to the saints and the pope.  We can, in different spaces, pray alongside them.  But perhaps now we can each do so with less acrimony between us.  We’re not fighting for the same crumbs anymore, and they will be in a church that loves them.

Let’s be honest – we’re secretly glad they’ve left.

It won’t be easy for them.  Many of them were politically conservative, and see religious traditionalism and contemporary conservatism as coterminus.  But they may be surprised by the Roman Church’s liberal views on immigration, health care and poverty.  They may find the Catholic Church too culturally strident on contraception.   They may be blindsided by the private accommodations of the Roman church to its closeted gay clergy.

And will they find their voices heard within the vast hierarchy of the church?  Or will they also eventually find themselves as sidelined as so many Catholics, who go to church but find their voices mute?    Perhaps this small ordinariate may provide even more grace, more room for the Roman church to consider matrimonial options for their vocations, as it struggles with the implications of mandatory celibacy.

So we need not gleefully either despair or cheer when people decide they need a different sort of authority.  When a Roman Catholic enters our doors, often they do so with guilt, ambivalence and fear.  It is our duty to handle their journey with charity and magnanimity.  It’s never easy to leave a family, no matter how challenging that family is.  We must respect that journey, even when it is not in our favor.

Gloating over the failures, the mistakes, or the challenges of our mother church is not our mission.  It speaks ill of us when we do so.   We want people to find a home that is best for them.

If it is within the Holy Roman Church, then let it be.   Our building of disciples need not include any anger or hostility toward the church that has held, however imperfectly, the gospel.  If anything, being good Episcopalians means, I suggest, helping the Roman Church become more responsive church.  We can do this by always welcoming their disaffected with joy and hope, and becoming diligent disciples of the same Christ in the way that we know how – by showing no bigotry toward them, or their church – the one that nurtured them.

I hope that is the Episcopal way.