Posted by: Alex | October 31, 2011

The Church and the Occupy Movement

Alright, to get some discussion rolling here:

I’m sure we have all heard at this point of the #Occupy protests that began in New York and have now moved to cities across the US and the globe.  Whether or not we agree with the political stance or the economic views of this movement, they have certainly raised some interesting questions about our society.  One question that is immediately relevant to those of us involved in this blog is how the church should react to movements like this.  Here in New Haven, a peripheral group has popped up on the city green.  While they are not really accomplishing a lot (its kinda just a glorified camping trip), they are getting the backing of several local churches and a group of “Protest Chaplains” has formed.  While watching this situation in my own backyard with a bit of amusement, the more interesting story to me has come out of London where the #Occupy protest has set up shop right outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral (which is right next door to the London Stock Exchange, the protesters official target).  The Dean of the Cathedral initially showed sympathy to the protest, asking only that they respected the Cathedral’s day-to-day operations, and even went so far as to request the police presence around the protest be scaled back to make everyone more comfortable.  That was all well and good until the encampment got so large that it posed a possible health risk and actually forced the Cathedral to close its normal operations a few days ago.

Today, I read this article about the announced resignation of the Cathedral Dean:

Dean of St Paul’s resigns

So several interesting questions here:

First, should the church take sides in a political/economic issue like this?

Second, even if the church doesn’t take sides, what would be the proper response to a mass of people camped right outside the church doors?

Third, to what extent should the church respond to “media criticism” in making decisions about issues like this?  Does criticism of the church make one’s position “untenable”?  Granted, there is an added layer of complication in this particular instance because the Cathedral is also a national monument and the Church is a State Church and the Dean represents on some level the State/Crown.  But was the proper response of the Dean to media criticism to resign?

For my own part, I am not categorically opposed to the church taking a stance on issues such as this, though in this particular case I don’t think this movement represents a clear enough position or ideal for the Church to take sides.  I do, however, think that the Dean did a good thing in attempting to extend hospitality to the protesters and attempting to diffuse possible tensions (like was seen in Oakland a few nights ago).  I’m also a bit surprised that he resigned over criticism to the stance he took, though I have not followed this nearly closely enough to know much about the shape the criticism took as it came his way.

Interested to hear what others think about this potentially thorny issue!

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Responses

  1. To add another layer of interest to this, here is the latest news from London about St. Paul’s Cathedral:

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/01/world/europe/uk-cathedral-occupy/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    Essentially, the Cathedral has decided to not push for the eviction of the protesters but to instead enter into dialogue with them to see that their concerns are addressed. Does this constitute taking sides? Do you agree with what St. Paul’s is doing?


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