Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trinity Wall Street and Social Justice

Fr. Dale Matson

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” 1 Cor. 1:27, NASB)
“The Executive Council at its October meeting passed a resolution (AN037) affirming ‘the growing movement of peaceful protests in public spaces in the United States and throughout the world in resistance to the exploitation of people for profit or power bears faithful witness in the tradition of Jesus to the sinful inequities in society’ and calling upon Episcopalians ‘to witness in the tradition of Jesus to inequities in society.’” [ENS Dec. 15th]
“Trinity Church, Wall Street, has provided extensive practical and pastoral support to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Trinity congregation has decided that the property known as Duarte Park is not appropriate for use by the Occupy movement, and that property remains closed. Other facilities of Trinity continue to be open to support the Occupy movement, for which I give great thanks. It is regrettable that Occupy members feel it necessary to provoke potential legal and police action by attempting to trespass on other parish property. Seekers after justice have more often achieved success through non-violent action, rather than acts of force or arms.  I would urge all concerned to stand down and seek justice in ways that do not further alienate potential allies.”
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church. [ENS Dec. 16th]
I believe this is a social justice issue, one of many issues, championed by TEC that conveniently presents an evaluative metric that TEC or any organization for that matter, can be judged by. Does it walk the walk or just talk the talk?  Trinity Wall Street is really not seen by the OWS folks as a church but as one Episcopal blog commenter put it, “a soft target.” Trinity Wall Street is a corporation with deep pockets and huge assets making it look a lot like other area firms.   TEC is not offering pastoral counseling but it is offering other comforts.  “Recognizing the need for social, homeless and medical services, Trinity hired the Rev. Mary Caliendo, a Wiccan priest who works with Occupy’ s medical clinic — which includes doctors, nurses and psychiatrists aiding protestors — to work at Charlotte’s Place and facilitate care.”
Here, on its doorstep is a perfect opportunity for embracing diversity in an inclusive environment.The park was almost a perfect microcosm for the racism, classism and entitlement present in society — all of the corruption OWS is attacking, ‘manifested in our movement,’ said Zink, adding that her focus is to bring the voices of the marginalized to the table. [ENS Dec. 16th]
Is there any glee in this for me? No, I have written about similar concerns regarding the homeless on our campus.  There are some differences. We have an open campus with no fences. We see it as an ongoing ministry (“The poor will always be with you”, Mark 14:7) not an inconvenient situation that requires a position statement and the homeless who reside on our campus do not consider themselves occupiers. They attend our services and see themselves as a part of our faith community. We have rules, which include no weapons, drugs and no permanent residence. Do we have all the answers? No we don’t. We also have two deacons that supervise this ministry and a congregation willing to support it as part of our church mission.
Who best speaks for TEC? I believe it is retired Bishop George Packard. ““I have this great worry that this venerable parish will be on the wrong side of history in a few weeks,” Packard said in a post on Trinity’s Facebook page that later was deleted. [ENS Dec. 16th] “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” Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ one of those dynamic needs Bishop?
It is not what happens to us. It is how we deal with what happens to us. Where is the grace in the TEC response? Is the response of KJS a teaching and comforting response or a threat. Is there no outer court for the gentiles? TEC has become so accustomed to using the law over the last decade that it needs the prophetic voice of a retired Bishop to remind itself that it is in fact the broad church and not just a litigious corporation.


Anonymous said...

You don’t need to be religious to understand -and embrace- the ideal that "Whatsoever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." But the 1%, in their blind greed and schemes, have forgotten and closed their eyes to what the word "society" should really mean. Because of Occupy Wall Street, we are finally talking less about CUTS and more about BLEEDING. Instead of demanding m-o-r-e budget cuts -to be borne by the middle class and poor- we are FINALLY focusing on the shameful bleeding that the poor and middle class has endured for all too long. Instead of talking about even m-o-r-e cuts in the taxes of millionaires....we are now talking about fairness and justice - about an economy and a political system that is increasingly run for the rich, and by the rich. Instead of talking about LESS government, we are talking about a government that WORKS FOR ALL OF US, not just a favored few. Thank you OWS, for reminding us that people -ordinary working people- really DO matter, and for helping open our eyes to what’s really going on in this country. Trinity Church should look deep into its collective soul, and at its ultimate mission. It should do the right thing, and help OWS. For I would bet my life, that if He were physically with us He was 2000 years ago, He himself would be the FIRST to climb those fences, and occupy Trinity’s Duarte Square. Of this I am certain.

Dale Matson said...

The St. James Cathedral campus is now in the hands of TEC. Will the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin continue our ministry to the homeless and poor in the Dakota and Cedar area of Fresno? No. Will they even hold services in their "recovered" property via their lawsuit? It is more likely that they will sell the entire campus. How is this in any way "...preserving the legacy of TEC" [KJS]?