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The challenge of Bp. Packard’s actions

The challenge of Bp. Packard’s actions

Bishop George Packard, arrested during the occupation of Zuccotti park last December, was arrested again over the weekend at the Vietnam Veteran’s memorial in New York City this weekend. He was participating in a protest by the group “Veterans for Peace“.

Chris Hedges, in an essay reposted on Truth-Out, reports on this latest arrest and then goes on to talk about how Packard’s actions are a challenge to other clergy:

“Packard’s moral and intellectual courage stands in stark contrast with the timidity of nearly all clergy and congregants in all of our major religious institutions. Religious leaders, in churches, synagogues and mosques, at best voice pious and empty platitudes about justice or carry out nominal acts of charity aimed at those bearing the weight of resistance in the streets. And Packard’s arrests serve as a reminder of the price that we—especially those who claim to be informed by the message of the Christian Gospel—must be willing to pay to defy the destruction visited on us all by the corporate state. He is one of the few clergy members who dare to bear a genuine Christian witness in an age that cries out in anguish for moral guidance.

”Arrests are not arrests anymore,’ Packard said as we talked Friday in a restaurant overlooking Zuccotti Park in New York. ”They are badges of honor. They are, as you are taken away with your comrades, exhilarating. The spirit is calling us now into the streets, calling us to reject the old institutional orders. There is no going back. You can’t sit anymore in churches listening to stodgy liturgies. They put you to sleep. Most of these churches are museums with floorshows. They are a caricature of what Jesus intended. Jesus would be turning over the money-changing tables in their vestibules. Those in the church may be good-hearted and even well-meaning, but they are ignoring the urgent, beckoning call to engage with the world. It is only outside the church that you will find the spirit of God and Christ. And with the rise of the Occupy movement it has become clear that the institutional church has failed. It mouths hollow statements. It publishes pale Lenten study tracts. It observes from a distance without getting its hands dirty. It makes itself feel good by doing marginal charitable works, like making cocoa for Occupy protesters or providing bathrooms from 9 to 5 at Trinity Church’s Charlotte’s Place. We don’t need these little acts of charity. We need the church to have a real presence on the Jericho Road. We need people in the church to leave their comfort zones, to turn away from the hierarchy, and this is still terrifying to a lot of people in the church and especially the church leadership.'”

More of Bishop Packard’s profile here. It’s long but worth the read as it gives the background to Bishop Packard’s thinking as well as a glimpse into the motivations of the Occupy movement.


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John D. Andrews

It sure seems like the above posts are reading a lot into one statement, which to me seems quite unfair and reactionary. Perhaps he’s being strident, but there is much truth in what he is saying. Much of what he’s saying, if not all, has been talked about on this site before, just in less strident language.

Some are drawn to the Kingdom by sacraments and liturgy. Some are drawn by protests and arrests. God bless the Revolution!

[There really is a book by that name. Check it out:

[Editor’s note: Thanks for the comment. Please leave your name next time.]

Gregory Orloff

Bishop George Packard might be disappointed in or frustrated with the church, part of the church or even most of the church, but it sounds like he’s painting with too broad of a brush.

“It is only outside the church that you will find the spirit of God and Christ.”

Oh really? In contrast to Bishop George Packard’s pronouncement, we have the contemporaneous example of soon-to-be Bishop Justin Duckworth, the dreadlocked, unconventional bishop-elect of Wellington, New Zealand, who, after many years of practicing freelance “new monasticism” and street ministry on his own, actually returned to church, liturgy and sacraments to sustain his movement of monastic service to the least, realizing it was unsustainable without church, liturgy and sacraments. He found that vivifying and sustaining spirit of God and Christ inside the church, and it vivifies and sustains his efforts to touch the world outside of it.

There may be both wheat and weeds in the field of the Church, but we mustn’t be so hasty that we throw the baby out with the bath water when we’re disappointed or frustrated by that. Community, liturgy and sacraments do matter. They enliven and sustain us so we can serve the world and in the world.

A Facebook User

Try to understand. Check the story above about the declining number of congregations with rectors. Where are all the 20 somethings? the 30 somethings? Bishop Packard found a bunch of them and tried to show them that the Episcopal Church was different from all the rest. He wanted them to see that we understood them and believed in the kind of world they hoped to achieve. They could believe in our church. He turned to Trinity Wall Street to back him up, to show them that Episcopalians can be different, could be partners in a Christ-like cause. What did Tinity do? Offered hot coco and bathrooms during regular business hours…maybe a meeting room now and then. Same old same old. I think +George is greatly disappointed in our Church; I think he believes we missed a great opportunity to rediscover a sense of Godly mission and at the same time bring a couple of generations of young people closer to the Church.


Tom Sramek Jr

It is only outside the church that you will find the spirit of God and Christ.

This should offend just about anyone who pledges, sits in a pew, or does anything within the four walls of a church building, including the clergy. An otherwise prophetic call to action was scuttled with that one statement. The fact that it was uttered by a bishop who owes his livelihood to a church he now has no use for simply adds to the tragedy. Call the moribund church to action, yes, but not be essentially saying that God has left the building.

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