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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Community members, jobless workers from around the country, and interfaith clergy leaders will hold a flower prayer vigil at Upper Senate Park on December 8 at 11 a.m. to call for justice for the jobless.
Millions of jobless workers and their families are at risk of losing their unemployment insurance lifeline if Congress fails to pass an extension by the end of the month. The prayer service will include stories from jobless workers and an action with thousands of white carnations that symbolize jobless Americans. It will lead into a day of lobbying Congress to extend unemployment benefits immediately.
The vigil on the Hill is one of many taking place across the country for a national day of mobilization to urge Congressional leaders in D.C. and in their districts to pass the extension of unemployment benefits.
WHO: Unemployed workers and interfaith clergy leaders including:
Rev. Paul Sherry—Director, DC Office, Interfaith Worker Justice and Coordinator, Faith Advocates for Jobs Campaign
Rabbi Elizabeth Richman—Jews United for Justicee
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik—Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
Rev. Jennifer Butler—Executive Director, Faith in Public Life
Rev. Michael Livingston—Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative
Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, Senior Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church
WHAT: Interfaith prayer vigil for unemployed workers
WHEN: Thursday, December 8 at 11:00 A.M.
WHERE: Upper Senate Park
New Jersey Ave and Constitution Ave. NW
Reporters interested in attending please contact: Amaya Tune: email@example.com
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On Sunday, as the Super Committee was in the final stages of its ultimately fruitless negotiations, faith leaders in DC and around the country held prayer vigils warning committee members against striking a deal that made harmful budget cuts to programs protecting the poor while cutting taxes for the wealthy.
The DC “Super Vigil” was the latest component of an interfaith “Faithful Budget” campaign that has featured daily prayer vigils near the Capitol, education about the people and programs affected by cuts, and actions highlighting the connection between policy debates and values.
Rev. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, opened the vigil by praying, “We gather this time with an audacious purpose and that is to ask God …to move the hearts of policy makers that they will act and make decisions with compassion and fairness.”
On Monday, the committee confirmed its failure to reach a deal. While Democrats were willing to entertain changes to Medicare and Social Security, Republicans doomed the negotiations by refusing to consider increased taxes on the wealthy.
The religious community has made clear that no matter how many times Congress plays politics with vulnerable Americans, they’ll be there to speak out for the moral principles that should guide these decisions.
Photo credit: Justice and Witness Ministries, Flickr
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In response to Rep. Todd Akin’s recent, insensitive comment that “at the heart of liberalism is a hatred for God,” a group of clergy from Akin’s district visited his office today. In light of his failed attempts to justify his statement yesterday, the group of faith leaders sought a real apology from their Congressman for the disrespect his remarks showed towards their religious commitments. Instead, the Congressman sent a staff person to meet the group, while refusing to address the substance of his offensive remarks.
Rev. Kevin Cameron, senior pastor of Parkway United Church of Christ in St. Louis, described his disappointment with his own Congressman’s remarks:
“Congressman Akin continues to insist that liberalism is anti-religion. As a pastor and a constituent of his, I find this deeply offensive. I hold my liberal political views because of my faith.”
While Akin’s remarks were in reference to a decision by NBC to remove “under god” from a video of people saying the pledge, Rev. Krista Taves, minister of the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel in Ellisville, noted that the substance of faith is more than just symbolic displays of belief:
“Congressman Akin needs to understand that there’s more to faith in the public square than mentioning ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance. Akin recently voted for a federal budget that would deprive the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable of healthcare while giving tax giveaways to millionaires. Mainstream people of faith reject these immoral priorities.”
Akin’s comments demonstrate a real lack of understanding of liberal people of faith, including many his constituents. Rev. Jeffrey Whitman, Conference Minister for the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the United Church of Christ stated:
“Congressman Akin is dealing in political stereotypes that malign his liberal religious constituents. As a liberal and a person of faith, I’m quite certain that the Congressman is mistaken when he says liberalism is anti-religion.”
The delegation of faith leaders delivered the letter from local clergy expressing concerns about his comments, as well as 200 petition signatures from Missouri members of Faithful America, an online community of people of faith standing up for social justice and the common good.
UPDATE: Progress Missouri has video of the delivery and subsequent press conference here:
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This past October, we collected and published messages from faith leaders as part of our “Faith Gets Better” project. Faith leaders spoke directly to LGBT youth, reassuring them that they are accepted and have a place in faith communities. Today in the New York Times, Erik Eckholm looks at faith leaders at Bible colleges who are doing the opposite:
…[G]ay students are running up against administrators who defend what they describe as God’s law on sexual morality, and who must also answer to conservative trustees and alumni. Facing vague prohibitions against “homosexual behavior,” many students worry about what steps — holding hands with a partner, say, or posting a photograph on a gay Web site — could jeopardize scholarships or risk expulsion.
“It’s like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object,” said Adam R. Short, a freshman engineering student at Baylor University who is openly gay and has fought, without success, for campus recognition of a club to discuss sexuality and fight homophobia.
While it’s disheartening to see some religious institutions openly target LGBT students through expulsion and denial of students’ freedom of association, the Times editors who formulated the story’s headline “Even on Religious Campuses, Students Fight for Gay Identity,” went too far in generalizing about Christian colleges. Eckholm, highlighting the diversity of religious schools, profiles one seminarian who left a discriminatory school for a welcoming one:
David Coleman was suspended by North Central University in his senior year in 2005, after he distributed fliers advertising a gay-support site and admitted to intimate relations (but not sexual intercourse) with other men. He calls the university’s environment “spiritually violent.”
Mr. Coleman, 28, is now enrolled at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minn., which is run by the more accepting United Church of Christ. He still dreams of becoming a pastor. “I have a calling,” he said.
Coleman’s story uncovers the choice faith leaders in academia have: exclude students on the basis of sexual orientation, or welcome all who feel called into ministry. As more colleges and denominations choose to embrace all people, we can see collegiate faith getting better.
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