Christians for Economic Justice

Previously called Christianity Uncut

Christian anti-capitalists rebut untrue claims about protest at St Paul’s

The following news release was issued this morning (15 October 2012):

Christian anti-capitalists rebut untrue claims about protest at St Paul’s

A network of Christians who co-organised an act of witness around St Paul’s Cathedralin London yesterday (14 October) have expressed their dismay with a misleading statement from the cathedral authorities, along with untrue accusations made on the internet and in parts of the media

The Dean said that Christianity Uncut should have engaged “constructively”. However, members of Christianity Uncut had sought a constructive meeting with the cathedral’s clergy in March. This was after they had been dragged by police from cathedral steps as they prayed during the eviction of the Occupy camp. The cathedral authorities refused to meet with them.

There were also suggestions that those involved had “stormed” into the cathedral, that they had interrupted a wreath-laying and that they had stopped people praying. These claims are all contradicted by the evidence. Christianity Uncut co-organised yesterday’s actions with Occupy London, as a nonviolent and dignified act of witness.

Four women, dressed in white, peacefully chained themselves to the cathedral pulpit and calmly read out a statement encouraging church authorities to follow Jesus’ example of siding with the poor. Meanwhile, others held a banner on the cathedral steps depicting Jesus’ protest in the Jerusalem Temple, with the caption “Throw the moneychangers out of the Temple”. Several worshippers and tourists spontaneously expressed their support.

Many of those involved in both acts were Christians. The four women by the pulpit included two Anglicans.

Siobhan Grimes, an Anglican who was one of the four women by the pulpit, said:

At least five Christians, including me, were dragged away from St Paul’s while we were kneeling in prayer on the steps during the eviction of Occupy in February. We wrote a polite letter to the cathedral authorities requesting to meet in a spirit of respect to discuss the incident. The Canon Pastor replied, refusing to meet us. We have long been wanting a constructive meeting. It’s only now that we have taken this action that we have been offered one.”
Symon Hill, who was among those displaying the banner outside, and who was also removed from the steps during the eviction in February, said:

We did not take this action lightly. Christianity Uncut is committed to active nonviolence, love for opponents and a rejection of verbal abuse. We do not believe any of our actions undermined those commitments. We have received many supportive messages from both Christians and non-Christians. We have also received a few critical messages, but some of these seem to be based on inaccurate reports of the event.

The cathedral have pointed out that this action followed a service in which an occupier had been invited to read a prayer. Sadly, thetokenistic nature of this service shows just how far St Paul’s Cathedral has to go to live up to its own rhetoric about economic justice. They can still take the opportunity to speak out clearly against the government’s cuts agenda and the sins of usury.”

ENDS

 

Notes
  1. Christianity Uncut is an informal network of Christians campaigning against the government’s cuts agenda and the injustices of capitalism. We are inspired by the example of Jesus, who took nonviolent direct action in the Jerusalem Temple, in solidarity with people who are poor, exploited and marginalised.
  2. Christianity Uncut is committed to active nonviolence in all its work, rejecting both violence and passivity. Christianity Uncut is committed to campaigning alongside people of other religions and of none and to love and respect for its opponents. Christianity Uncut rejects verbal abuse and personal hatred.
  3. The act of witness began at around 4.00pm yesterday (14 October). It was organised jointly by Christianity Uncut and Occupy London.
  4. On 28 February 2012, five members of Christianity Uncut were dragged by police from the cathedral steps as Occupy London Stock Exchange was evicted. Please see https://christianityuncut.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/christians-dragged-from-their-knees-on-cathedral-steps/.
  5. On 15 March 2012, the Canon Pastor of St Paul’s Cathedral, Michael Colclough, refused a request by Christians who had been removed from the steps to meet with him or other senior cathedral clergy. They had asked to meet in “a spirit of love and respect”. Their letter requesting a meeting had been countersigned by twenty clergy. Please see https://christianityuncut.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/st-pauls-cathedral-refuses-meeting-with-christians-evicted-from-steps/.
  6. On 19 April 2012, the City of London Police Commissioner, Adrian Leppard, stated in writing, “I can confirm permission was given by St Paul’s to clear the steps on 28th February 2012″. Please see https://christianityuncut.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/police-letter-reveals-st-pauls-misled-public-over-occupy-eviction/.
  7. Photographs of both parts of yesterday’s act of witness are available to media on request.
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7 thoughts on “Christian anti-capitalists rebut untrue claims about protest at St Paul’s

  1. Chaining yourself to a pulpit is an extreme action … IMHO.

    Is this what modern Christianity has become? A venue for activists? I am curious. I would hope there is more life and love left within the Church.

    ghost.

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    • Thanks for your comments, Ghost.

      We agree that there should be life and love in the Church. We sought to carry out our actions on Sunday in a spirit of life and love. We did not engage in violence, damage to property, personal hatred or verbal abuse. We seek to follow Jesus’ example of siding with the poor and loving our enemies.

      The message of Jesus is about love. As the biblical prophets made clear, love for all involves sharing the world’s resources. Jesus demonstrated this by saying he had come “to bring good news to the poor” and by continually siding with the poor. In a situation of grave economic injustice, in which the government is demanding that the poor pay for the sins of the rich, love requires us to speak out. We do not suggest that political activism is the be-all and end-all of Christian life. Living out our faith is a daily struggle and affects lots of very personal matters and relationships. But it cannot be confined to them.

      I hope this helps you to understand our motives.

      With thanks,

      Symon

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      • TheWordpressGhost on said:

        Symon.

        I appreciate your clarification.

        But, I think I read Jesus behaving totally differently.

        😉

        In Him,

        ghost.

        Like

  2. Pingback: Was yesterday’s demonstration at St Paul’s a valid protest or just a stunt? | God and Politics in the UK

  3. Don’t accuse others of being misleading when you are doing exactly the same thing. You may have sought a meeting in March, but David Ison was not in post until May.

    You imply that the Cathedral has made “suggestions that those involved had “stormed” into the cathedral, that they had interrupted a wreath-laying and that they had stopped people praying” It has not said any of these things.

    And please explain why you feel the service was tokenistic, because that is not at all clear.

    To this interested observer it looks very much like the charges levelled last year are still valid, of picking on the Cathedral as a soft target and a way of making gimmicky points. Why not chain yourselves up in the foyer of Morgan Stanley or Barclays?

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  4. Thanks for your comments, Charlie.

    We sought a meeting in March, as you say. It is true that David Ison was not appointed until May. However, it is inconceivable that he was unaware that we had been refused a meeting (indeed, I know the media asked him about it). But he did not offer us a meeting or express any concern over what had happened.

    With regards to the suggestions about “storming” and so on, these were accusations made in parts of the media, not by the cathedral. I don’t think the statement does imply that they were made by the cathedral (that certainly wasn’t our intention). However, if it reads that way to you, then we’re truly sorry that it’s not clearer.

    As for the “tokenistic” comment: A prayer in a service would not be tokenistic if it were part of a real engagement with Occupy and with issues of economic justice. In reality, St Paul’s Cathedral claim to have engaged with the issues seems to rest on hosting a debate and producing a report. While debates and reports are important, they are not enough in a situation of grave economic injustice. To allow a group to say one prayer in one service, eight months after calling the police to drag the same group from the church steps, is not only tokenistic but offensive.

    Thanks for encouraging us to chain ourselves in Morgan Stanley’s or Barclay’s! We hope you’ll join us if we do. Christianity Uncut’s was launched in March 2011 with a plan to hold an act of worship and protest in a branch of Barclay’s (this was publicised and the branch shut early and avoided us). Since then, the vast majority of our campaigning has been directed at a government and corporations that are promoting the interests of the super-rich. Staging a protest at a church is for us an exception, not the norm. Nor will it become the norm. Our intention was to call St Paul’s Cathedral’s leadership, and church leaders generally, to stand with us in resisting cuts and inequalilty.

    This was not an action we took lightly, on the spur of the moment, or because St Paul’s is a “soft target”. We were inviting St Paul’s to join us in challenging the “hard targets” (who we have been challenging for months). You might want to read my thoughts about how the protest came about at http://www.newint.org/blog/2012/10/15/st-pauls-protest-occupy/.

    I appreciate that you are unlikely to agree with our action, Charlie, but I hope you will understand why we took it. I would genuinely like to hear your thoughts on my comments here.

    With thanks,

    Symon Hill

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    • Hi, thanks for your response, which clarifies the original post. You’re right in thinking that I haven’t changed my mind about what I wrote – on the other hand I wouldn’t go so far as to say I don’t “agree” with what these people did. Partly because it’s not up to me, it’s a free and democratic country which gives you the right to do this kind of thing and be tolerated. But also because I’m broadly in agreement with your message. It’s just that what you’re doing to St Paul’s doesn’t seem very constructive to me.

      The tone of your comments seems to suggest that whatever the Cathedral does, you won’t accept that it’s valid, unless it does exactly what you prescribe. Apart from being unrealistic, that’s not how life works. If you want someone to change their mind, you have to negotiate with them, and the chances are you will end up with a compromise.

      Like

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