This isn’t going to end well, and once again, the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church is not acquitting itself particularly well.
I’ve blogged about the relationship between Trinity and the Occupy Wall Street protestors before. Things have only gotten more tense in the last month. There was actually something of a moment of grace last week, when retired Bishop George Packer and his wife, accompanied by the Rector of Trinity and his wife, visited the OWS encampment. After conversation, many of the protestors attended services at Trinity. Read about it here.
Unfortunately, that was only a temporary break in the growing tension. On Friday, Bishop of New York Mark Sisk and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori weighed in, urging the protestors to abandon their demands that Trinity allow them use of a portion of Duarte Square for their encampment.
Today, Bishop Packard, who has been advocating more loudly on behalf of the protestors, was arrested for entering the disputed area of Duarte Square.
As Drescher points out in her essay:
Trinity Wall Street and the Episcopal Church are, it seems, trying to maintain a delicate balance in their approach to Occupy Wall Street, and their consistent ministry to participants in the movement is laudable. Their active chaplaincy, preaching, and material support has been a powerful reminder of the moral role that churches and other religious groups continue to play even as institutional religion becomes more and more irrelevant in everyday life. Indeed, Trinity Wall Street and many other Episcopal Churchcommunities, have made clear that “being church” is much more than maintaining a building where fewer and fewer people gather to worship for an hour or so on Sundays. They have illustrated the Christian understanding of the call of the faithful to be Christ’s body in the world throughout the Occupy protests, and this has made me proud to be an Episcopalian.
Unfortunately, with the responses from Sisk and Jefforts Schori, as well as the ongoing response from Trinity, the Episcopal Church seems once again to be coming down on the side of the powers that be. For Trinity, that might not be surprising given the amount of real estate they own in the area. I also know well how difficult it is to maintain program, ministry, and perspective in the midst of ongoing protests, so I am not unsympathetic with the position Trinity’s leadership finds itself in. But I believe there ought to be some room for compromise, some creative response to the situation that would begin to shape a vision of what church might be in the twenty-first century.
I find it especially troubling that all those goes on as I prepare a sermon on Mary, and reflect on her words in the Magnificat:
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
Bishop Packard’s blog is probably well-worth following.