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Breaking: Presiding Bishop and +Sisk of NY support Trinity vs. OWS

Breaking: Presiding Bishop and +Sisk of NY support Trinity vs. OWS

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Letters from The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori and The Rev. Mark Sisk:

Statements from the Rt. Rev Mark S. Sisk and the Presiding Bishop Concerning

Occupy Wall Street, Trinity Church and Duarte Square

From Bishop Sisk

December 16, 2011

As many of you know, Trinity Wall Street is being challenged to provide a small parcel of parish-owned land, Duarte Square, to the Occupy Wall Street movement for encampment or other undefined use.

Trinity has clearly shown its support for the wider goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and has aided protesters directly through pastoral care and extensive use of parish facilities. They have said “yes” to requests for meeting space, bathroom facilities, private conference rooms, housing referrals, and pastoral care, and continue to look for ways to provide direct support to those who identify with the movement in Lower Manhattan. Providing private land without facilities for indeterminate usage, however, poses significant health and safety concerns, and is beyond the scope of Trinity’s mission. To this, the parish has reasonably said, “no.”

In and of itself, a request for use of a parish space by an outside group would not necessitate a bishop’s involvement. But alarmingly, some clergy and protesters have attempted to “take” or “liberate” the space without Trinity’s consent, and have clearly indicated their intent to engage in other attempts to do so in the coming days.

While many tactics of the Occupy movement have proven effective and creative, I feel it necessary now to reiterate our Church-wide commitment to non-violence. The movement should not be used to justify breaking the law, nor is it necessary to break into property for the movement to continue.

Together, let us pray for peaceful articulation, in word and deed, of the issues of justice and fairness that have brought the Occupy movement into the national conversation.


The Rt. Rev Mark S. Sisk, Bishop of New York


From the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate

December 16, 2011

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


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Jane Ellen

I read these letters and hear echoes of the past… Specifically, I am reminded of the letter to Martin Luther King (signed by, among others, the Bishop Coajutor of Alabama) encouraging him to cease and desist, that caused him to write “A letter from a Birmingham Jail.” The communication from Trinity and now Bishops Sisk and Jefferts Schori sound sadly reminiscent.

Jane Schmoetzer

Boon Hogganbeck

Hi. It appears Jefferts Schori’s statement has been taken down. Can anyone confirm that for me? If not, I sure would like to go to the source. (Sisk’s is still up on the site.)

I am equally disheartened and wish to write a letter, but perhaps she is reconsidering.

Thank you.

Brook Packard

There is a deeper story here. A story about the death and possible resurrection of a denomination.

Last Sunday, the OWS Hunger Strikers attended Trinity Wall Street in an attempt at reconciliation through the Eucharist and to propose a conversation between Trinity’s staff and an OWS Working Action Group. The occupation of the vacant lot adjacent to Duarte Square was up for negotiation. Trinity had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear.

This Sunday morning, those young, vibrant, deep-thinking, and committed young people will be attending Judson Memorial Church. May God bless Judson and other churches who are willing to follow The Holy Spirit and open their ears to Her call.

Michael Smith

Deeply disappointing. Trinity’s response is couched in the language of a landlord rather than our Lord; and the bishops’ censorious and vaguely threatening comments (alienating potential supporters, forsooth) are both un-Christian and intellectually shallow. For example, ‘violence’ and ‘lawbreaking’ are not the same thing. Rosa Parks violated the law when she refused to move to the back of the bus. When the law has become an instrument of domination and exploitation — as it most certainly has in our society — breaking it is a duty. We pray every Sunday to a man who was executed for breaking the law.

Priscilla Cardinale

Kathryn, that is a nicely worded and thoughtful take on this situation. Being a radical at heart I wonder myself what would happen if, instead of investing in expensive altar wares and furnishings, our churches were refuges that provided a safe place to sleep, take a shower, do a load of laundry, or talk to someone with a sympathetic ear? Imagine worshipping God in thought and deed every moment of the day instead of at carefully planned times at the convenience of the worshippers! I know this is heresy to many but it is what I seek.

Who is really served by having silver and gold accoutrements? Does God need such frippery to be glorified or would God be glorified as well or better by outreach and care to the least of these?

Martyrologies are full of stories of saints who seemed to get this. Whatever their human faults many have indeed cast their lot with the dregs of humanity and the poor who are with us always precisely because they believed that’s what God wants.

In my former hometown there was a lovely elderly RC priest who ran the “big” downtown parish. He opened the doors to the church and allowed the homeless to sleep in the sanctuary at night, use the restrooms and his laundry facilities in the rectory, he provided clothing and food and was tireless in seeking medical care, legal counsel, and any other kind of help needed with no strings attached. I was in awe of him and felt the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven so strongly in and around that church that it drew me like a magnet.

After he retired the new monsignor locked the doors, “cleaned up” the church, installed fancy brass chandeliers, purchased new silver altar service pieces, and generally went the opposite way of his predecessor. The well-to-do members of the parish were ecstatic that the “embarrassment” of the former priest’s do-gooding was past and soon to be forgotten. Services there now are indeed formal, clean, and only the right kind of people who do the right kind of things dare to worship there. The Kingdom of Heaven? Hard to find there now in my opinion.

I have taken quite literally Jesus’s words to the rich young man — I have spent my life in service to the poor through education and I give more of my income to them than I keep. I have no home that I own, no retirement savings, no good insurance, and at 50 I worry a bit about what will happen to me. But I trust God will provide and I’m not at all offended by the idea of being discomfited or challenged by the OWS protesters. I see Jesus in there midst every time I go.

Thank you for your important thoughts on this issue.

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