Iowa Catholic Official and UCC Pastor Condemn Extreme Economic Individualism

January 2, 2012, 1:35 pm | Posted by

While much of the political world is focusing on how the religious conservative vote will break in tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses, some faith leaders in Iowa are standing up to remind people that their traditions reject the “you’re on your own” economic values espoused by many candidates on the campaign trail.

In an op-ed in the Quad-City Times, Kent Ferris, Director of Social Action and Director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Davenport, and Rev. David Sickelka, Senior Pastor at Urbandale United Church of Christ, explain:

While presidential candidates sprinkle their speeches with vague references to values, they devote far more energy to a political gospel filled with soaring praise for the “free market” and thunderous denunciations of “big government.” This rarely speaks to the life experiences of most Iowans.

Wall Street greed and corporate abuses reveal the need to temper the market’s destructive excesses by building a more humane, moral economy that treats workers with dignity.

Our political dialogue and economic policies ignore those who Jesus described as “the least, the last and the lost.” Compassionate conservatism has been replaced with a “you’re on your own” libertarianism that mocks Judeo-Christian values of solidarity and the common good that have always inspired our nation to be more than a collection of individuals.

Charity provided by churches and other non-governmental organizations is essential, but as Christians we know charity alone cannot provide opportunity and security for all people. Charity must also work together with the pursuit of justice.

Perhaps in this season of hope and compassion, religious leaders and those who seek the presidency can help rekindle faith in the deeply American proposition that we are all in this together.

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The Lesser-Known Refusal of Trinity Wall Street

December 22, 2011, 2:00 pm | Posted by

Last Thursday, in anticipation of the larger re-occupation of Duarte Square in Lower Manhattan that weekend, and a group of The Yes Men and Occupy Wall Street members (including Rev. Michael Ellick of Judson Memorial Church) delivered a petition from 12,000 Faithful America members to Trinity Wall Street and set up an Occupy tent-themed nativity scene in front of the church.

Here’s a video from the event by the Meerkat Media Collective:

The most interesting part of the video is at about the 0:42 mark when Rev. Ellick engages with representatives from Trinity. Acknowledging that Trinity was unwilling to grant space at the vacant lot at 6th and Canal (Duarte Square) to Occupy Wall Street, Rev. Ellick clarifies that he just wants to know if Trinity will use its significant influence and resources to help OWS find any space at all. The response he receives is somewhat ambiguous.

Here’s a clip of just that exchange:

This, of course, confirms what retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard (who had been mediating between OWS and Trinity in the preceding weeks) reported of his own meetings with Trinity leadership. He emphasized that the church’s refusal to even talk to protesters about their search for a space convinced him that Trintiy was not committed to broadly supporting the Occupy movement.

Now that the media and the public have seen Trinity’s clear rejection of the specific request for access to Duarte Square, it may be worthwhile for OWS to try to highlight this lower-level ask for Trinity’s help finding an alternate space. It could provide context and pushback on some of the media coverage that has framed the protesters as asking too much of an otherwise fully supportive parish.

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Minnesota Faith Leaders Call for Moratorium on Foreclosures

December 14, 2011, 1:45 pm | Posted by

Foreclosure SignContinuing the strong work of people of faith across the country, a group of interfaith leaders in Minneapolis have called on banks in their city to hold a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures, commit to working on loan modifications with struggling homeowners instead of kicking them to the curb.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Rev. Jerry McAfee of the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church and the head of the Minnesota State Baptist Convention, said that if the banks reject the moratorium, “We will have to join our brothers and sisters of Occupy Minnesota and occupy the banks.”

The coalition consists of Rev. McAfee, Bishop Richard Howell of Shiloh Temple, Rev. Dwight Seawood of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Paul Slack of New Creation Church, Scott Grey, president of the Minneapolis Urban League, Vic Rosenthal, executive director of Jewish Community Action and Dave Snyder, an organizer with Jewish Community Action working with the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Photo credit: BasicGov, Flickr

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Retired Episcopal Bishop to Join Occupation of Church-Owned Square

December 14, 2011, 12:52 pm | Posted by

Re-Occupy Duarte SquareAs the Occupy Wall Street organizers continue to search for a public gathering space to resume their work after being forcibly removed from Zuccotti Park, Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church continues to deny the movement’s request for access to the vacant, church-owned Duarte Square. Instead, they’ve chosen to have the police arrest anyone who enters — a decision that has provoked an outcry from thousands of people of faith across the country.

As we highlighted, Trinity has even refused the pleas of retired Episcopal bishop George Packard, who has been serving as a negotiating mediator for the Occupiers. After the latest round of dialogue broke down, Bishop Packard has announced on his blog that he plans to participate in Occupy’s non-violent occupation of Duarte Square this Saturday.

Packard explains:

Trinity might mobilize platoons of police in riot gear and ring this sad little space with multiple barricades. No room in this Inn!

It’s one thing to write about this but to come face-to-face with hundreds of expressionless cops with batons protecting a church-owned haven is to be in some mythological drama out of C.S. Lewis.

I plan to be with the marchers on Saturday not because I don’t like and respect the Rector, the staff, and all the work of this historic parish. I believe they are making a profoundly wrong decision in this matter. Certainly they could record what they think is a trespass on the property with a note to the Occupiers but then have the grace to look the other way.

Trinity’s decision about how to respond to Saturday’s action will significantly affect the narrative about the faith community’s role in the Occupy movement.

H/T Episcopal Cafe

Photo credit: Re-Occupy 12.17.11 Tumblr

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The complicated situation with Occupy Wall Street and Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church

December 13, 2011, 10:16 am | Posted by

Since the eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park in New York City, Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church has been under pressure from people of faith to open their doors and provide sanctuary to the displaced protesters.  With the situation increasingly tense, a retired Episcopal bishop was recruited to engage in what he terms “shuttle diplomacy” between the Occupy movement (and supportive churches) and the staff of Trinity Wall Street.

This weekend, that bishop, Bishop George Packard, posted this to Trinity Wall Street’s Facebook page:

I have this great worry that this venerable parish will be on the wrong side of history in a few weeks. Surely there’s some consummate wisdom in the leadership that can offer Occupiers a chance to express their prophetic destiny in these days. It’s a matter of record that the church is good with the provision of service and succor for the neighborhood; they are unable, it seems, to understand their dynamic needs. Plainly said, this means looking afresh at lease arrangements for a season regarding the Duarte property. Think of it as offering hospitality to travelers from our future who bring the message of “no injustice, no more.” If we really saw OWS for who they are rather than putting up roadblocks in their path we’d truly delight in their coming!

Bishop Packard alleges that the staff at Trinity Wall Street subsequently deleted the comment, prompting his blog post wondering about the church’s involvement and noting that Occupy Wall Street has a “deep bench and a very long attention span.”

The situation appears to have taken a slight turn for the better, with news that protesters worshiped and took communion at Trinity Wall Street on Sunday.

I hope that the Trinity clergy, while serving the Eucharist and worshiping alongside those fighting for economic justice through the Occupy movement, listened and reconsidered their decision to put roadblocks up instead of providing the public gathering space the movement needs.  We’ll keep watching as things unfold.

Photo via Flickr, sfcityscape

UPDATE: Per the comments, a staffer at Trinity disputes Bishop Packard’s assertion that his comment was deleted from the Trinity Facebook page. We’ve updated the post language to reflect that as well.

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