Evicted Christians submit letter to St Paul’s Cathedral
The following letter was submitted to St Paul’s Cathedral this morning.
St Paul’s Cathedral
London EC4M 8AD
13 March 2012
Dear Michael Colclough,
We are writing following our removal by police from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. We were dragged away from the steps as we knelt in prayer on the morning of Tuesday 28 February.
We were profoundly shocked to be forcibly removed from the steps of a church as we prayed.
The incident occurred during the eviction of the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp. We were present at the eviction, showing our support for the general approach of the Occupy movement, and praying for all those involved – including protesters, police, bailiffs, cleaners, cathedral staff and passers-by.
As you know, the eviction order applied only to land belonging to the City of London Corporation. After praying in the middle of the camp area, we decided to pray on the steps, not least because many of the occupiers were sitting there, some of them in a state of considerable distress.
We were very surprised to be told by police that we risked arrest if we did not leave the steps. A police officer was recorded stating that the cathedral had given permission for the police to forcibly remove us from the steps.
Later that day, a cathedral spokesperson told the Independent newspaper: “The police did not ask for permission from us regarding any aspect of the action taken last night. We were clear that we would not stand in the way of the legal process or prevent the police from taking the steps they needed to deal with the situation in an orderly and peaceful manner”. It remains unclear whether you regard the removal of people who were praying on cathedral premises as what was “needed to deal with the situation”. If you do believe that this is the case, it is not clear why.
Forced removal from cathedral steps is not of course as great a form of suffering as the realities of poverty and extreme abuses of human rights to which the Occupy movement seeks to bring attention. Our campaigning is focused on economic systems which perpetuate such injustices.
The current controversies over the economic future are a challenge to all Christians and Christian churches to determine where they stand. It is, of course, extremely unusual in Britain for Christians to be dragged away by police while praying on the steps of a church. We consider that it is reasonable for us, and for the general public, to expect answers from the cathedral authorities.
We have two requests.
Firstly, we would like to meet with senior representatives of St Paul’s Cathedral to discuss these issues. We would like to meet in a spirit of love and respect and to listen to what you have to say, while also asking that you will listen to us.
Secondly, we would like to see a very clear public statement from the Cathedral Chapter concerning communication with the police and with the City of London Corporation prior to and during the eviction. Please can you tell us what permission was given, either explicitly or implicitly? Please can you tell us if you consider that the police were right to remove us from the steps and, if so, why?
We look forward to hearing from you soon. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in the fellowship of Christ,
George Barda, Jonathan Bartley, Siobhan Grimes, Symon Hill and Sam Walton
The following people have expressed their support for the requests made in this letter.
Rev David Anderson, Redcar (Baptist minister)Rev Al Barrett, Hodge Hill, Birmingham (Church of England priest)
Rev Barney Barron (Baptist minister)
Simon Barrow, Co-Director, Ekklesia
Rev Paul Butler (Church of England priest), Society of Sacramental Socialists
Rev Mark Coleman, St Mary and St James’, Liverpool (Church of England priest)
Rev Andy Delmage, Diocese of Birmingham (Church of England priest)
Adam Dickson, Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham (Church of England priest in training)
Rev Chris Duffet (Baptist minister)
Rev Ray Gaston, Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham (Church of England priest)
Rev Ruth Goldourne, Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church (Baptist minister)
Rev Dr Keith Hebden, Diocese of Gloucester (Church of England priest)
Rev Chris Howson, Bradford (Church of England priest)
Rev Jim Kilpin (Baptist minister)
Rev Juliet Kilpin (Baptist minister)
Louise Polhill, Minister in Training, Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, London
Rev Canon Dr Jeni Parsons, Matson, Gloucester (Church of England priest)
Rev Ian Rathbone, River Church, London (Elim Pentecostal Church minister)
Rev Mark Umpleby, Leeds (Church of England priest)
Rev Stephen Waters, Newcastle upon Tyne (Church of England priest)
Stuart Murray Williams, Anabaptist Network
Chris Wood, Christianity Uncut