Fraser column marks anniversary of Occupy London

The Rev. Giles Fraser, who left his job as canon chancellor of St. Paul's Cathedral in London rather than assent to the cathedral's plans to forcibly remove Occupy London protestors from its property has written a forceful column to mark the one-year anniversary of the movement. He writes:

Despite the facade of respectability and ordered control presented by our great financial institutions, modern capitalism – turbo-charged by absurd levels of borrowing – is responsible for much of the world's chaos. In the name of freedom and deregulation, financial anarchy has spread from the housing market to the banks and is now being swallowed up as massive sovereign debt which we will now pass on to our children and grandchildren. The euro will probably collapse and millions more people will suffer enormous hardship. More jobs will be lost and houses repossessed.

The wealthy will be protected by stored-up money. The poor and the not-so-poor will be exposed to the elements. ....This is the Dionysian truth named by Occupy. But it is so overwhelming, we don't begin to know how to fix it. And so it goes in the mental box marked "too difficult to think about". ....

The church ought to have a great deal to say about all of this, and ought to be as angry as the Occupiers, but it is stuck in the position of never wanting to take sides. Traditionally, the Church of England has styled itself as the honest broker, a host organisation that stages debates rather than take part in them. Like the BBC, though completely unlike Jesus himself, it is constantly reaching for a sensible balance, defining its position by charting a mean between extremes. This way it justifies its role as an established church. The problem for the Church of England, and specifically for places like St Paul's, is that this lofty Apollonianism has little to say to angry people other than calm down and (if they won't) go home.

Putting aside Occupy's tactics for the moment, what do you think of Fraser's analysis? And if you agree with it, what do you think Christians should be doing to respond to the situation that he describes?

Comments (2)

Fraser is right to point out the discrepancy between the willingness of St. Paul's to toss out the Occupiers and their unwillingness to call to account the financial gangsters who engineered the crisis that has sparked worldwide uprisings.

So here in the Diocese of Massachusetts, this is what we're doing. http://epgr.org/?page_id=361 Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation is working with several partners to sponsor a Move Your Money campaign, a diocesan resolution to encourage the diocese and parishes to move their money out of Wall Street banks, and a series of workshops and parish-based discussions on everything from getting out of debt to socially responsible banking and investing, all beginning this Advent and continuing through Lent.

On October 27, Bishop Tom Shaw, SSJE, will be closing his Bank of America credit cards in solidarity with the hundreds of Episcopalians around here who have already moved their money into local banks and credit unions. We're going to begin a new year of expanding the conversation on our economic relationships and the Church with a celebratory procession and Eucharist in Government Center in Boston.

We cannot fail to respond to this crisis. As Christians, we have such an immense obligation - and an opportunity. I hope we can find the courage to rise to meet the challenge of being people of the Gospel in such rapidly darkening times.

Fraser's analysis is spot on. It can be applied to the Episcopal Church, too.

I wonder how powerful institutions of the Episcopal Church like the Church Pension Group (whose longstanding relationship to Bain Capital among other firms) and Trinity Wall Street fit into the unsustainable course we've charted as a species on Earth. If we believe that sinful institutions are redeemable in Christ then shouldn't we look to reform the way they are invested and operate?

The Church rallied to divest of South African apartheid stocks when it mattered the most-will we have the will to do it again and divest of JP Morgan Chase or Citigroup or Bank of America during worldwide economic apartheid? What else do we need to examine?

By no means would it be easy to do but it is possible. What if we actually did examine the process that builds Episcopal pensions and insurance, Trinity Wall Street grant programs and endowments in other Episcopal institutions which fund significant ministries? What if we were bold enough as baptized Christians to consider our vows at Baptism as the ground for this work?

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation and the Move Your Money campaign is a good start and I'm excited to head there on Oct. 27th. Here's to a thousand more Episcopal Church campaigns just like it.

Weston Mathews
Virginia Theological Seminary

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