Support the Café

Search our Site

What should Trinity, Wall Street have done?

What should Trinity, Wall Street have done?

I have had a difficult time understanding exactly what Trinity, Wall Street could and couldn’t have done to avoid a situation in which an Episcopal Church was involved in the criminal prosecution of a retired Episcopal bishop and an Episcopal priest for what seems to me, at this point, to be little more than street theater.

The difficulty is exacerbated, I think, by the fact that Trinity itself hasn’t answered that question clearly, taking refuge in difficult to penetrate legalistic language in its frequent press statements. That Trinity choose to use the first sentence of the most recent release to praise itself for its long record of giving away a small percentage of its enormous fortune isn’t helpful either.

If I understand correctly, and I may not, Trinity was not in a position to have the charges against Bishop George Packard (whose sentencing statement is here), the Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem and their six co-defendants dismissed. Trinity did request that the Manhattan District attorney offer most of those arrested at Duarte Square on December 17–including Packard and Kooperkamp–non-criminal disposition of their cases, that involved neither fines nor incarceration. Some defendants accepted this offer. Some refused.

The defendants who refused bear responsibility for that choice. It isn’t as though they were being offered five to ten instead of fifteen to life and felt they had to take a gamble for the sake of freedom. If they had wanted these charges to go away, they could have made them go away. They seem to have made a calculation in which going through with this trial, and risking conviction and the very minor sentences that they received, was in their best interest. Perhaps this had to do with principle. Perhaps it had to do with garnering useful publicity. I don’ know. But I do know that a choice was made.

That said, if Trinity’s lawyer Amy Jedlicka had not testified, the district attorney would have had no case, so it seems highly unlikely that the prosecution could have continued. Trinity seemingly made some calculation in which publicly participating in the prosecution of a bishop and a priest for climbing a fence into an empty lot in which they were immediately arrested was a better move than just letting the whole thing slide. I don’t have enough information to speculate about why that would be the case. I am also unclear on what Trinity has at stake here–but unless they are acting out of sheer stubbornness, it would seem to be so valuable that it is worth withstanding the onslaught of atrocious publicity that they have brought upon themselves, the church leaders–including the Presiding Bishop and the Bishop of New York–who have lent them public support and, the wider Episcopal Church.

I’d be happy to have the story as I have sketched it out above fleshed out or revised by people with first hand information. Happy to hear other’s opinions about who should have done what.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Does anyone think that TEC was wrong in defending its property in the places where dissident clergy and congregations sought to retain title to Church property?

Granted, this is light years away from TWS vs OWS in degrees of malice, but some issues are similar.

It would have been kinder and more appropriate (read Christian?) if TWS, with its considerable clout, had thrown its weight on the side of OWS and helped them find an alternative site when Duarte was unavailable.

Adelaide Kent

Nicole Porter

Nothing was wrong with what they did in the first place.

Daniel A. Shockley

Marisa Egerstrom said it very well.

As far as “boots on the ground,” I was outside the lot on D17. The protesters made a symbolic gesture that hurt no one. In response, TWS sent in a police force they knew or should have known would employ violence against peaceful protesters, as they had already done so many times before. They did, on behalf of a _church_!

Whatever you think of the efficacy of the protesters’ actions, Trinity Wall Street acted as a force of political repression through violence. Then, they failed to ask the DA to drop charges. The “non-criminal disposition” offered to some but not all of the protesters was an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD). This means that if the defendant isn’t arrested for a specified time, usually six months, the case will be dropped. However, the NYPD has made it clear they are happy to arrest people without any reason to do so. So, accepting an ACD means deciding to drop out as an activist or know that the ACD is likely to fail, in which case the original charge goes to trial. For an OWS activist targeted by the police for unlawful arrests an ACD is either a waste of time or a sicxmonth hiatus from any, even strictly legal, protest.

In addition, not only did TWS supply their attorney to the prosecution to provide testimony against the defendants, they fought subpoenas from the defense, doing their best to weaken it.

Make no mistake: TWS made a decision to go after these folks to teach them a lesson, putting property over the gospel.


At heart, Benedict, I’m an anarchist.

Regardless of who’s doing the “occupying” (see re anti-choice demonstrators blockading abortion clinics for a RL example. See, even closer to home, trespassing “Anglican” schismatics in TEC churches), I believe in responding to direct action, w/ (nonviolent) direct action. Not in calling the cops.

[I recognize many, if not most, will disagree w/ me. I understand calling the cops, to stop trespass. But I wouldn’t do it.]

JC Fisher

Jonathan Grieser

Coincidentally, I am participating on a panel this evening with the topic, “Justice and the Homeless: A Faith Perspective.” My prepared remarks, which address the Trinity/Occupy issue are here:

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café