British Clergy to Support #OccupyLondon with Circle of Protection, Prayer

By Cathleen Falsani 10-31-2011

occupy londonOn Sunday (10/30), the Anglican Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Richard Chartres, met with Occupy London protesters who have encamped for several weeks now on the ground of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, in an ongoing attempt to get the demonstrators to leave church grounds.

Chartres wants the Occupiers to vacate cathedral property and stopped short, in an interview with the BBC yesterday, of saying he would oppose their forcible removal. Other British clergy, however, are rallying behind the demonstrators, saying they would physically (and spiritually) surround protesters at St. Paul's with a circle of prayer or "circle of protection."

A report posted this morning (10/31) on the Web site of Ekklesia, a U.K. Christian "think tank," says:

Christian activists have pledged to defend the camp with a peaceful 'ring of prayer' if St Paul's and the City of London Corporation go ahead with threats to take action that would result in forcible eviction. ...

The Rev Dr Kevin Snyman, a minister of the United Reformed Church, was among a number of religious figures who spoke during a 'Sermon on the Steps' event outside St Paul's Cathedral on Saturday 29 October. The title and style was intended to echo Jesus' famous 'Sermon on the Mount', in which the poor and peacemakers were blessed, and those struggling to see right to prevail commended.

The Occupy London tent dwellers and supporters are part of a global grassroots movement opposing corporate greed and inequality within the world's dominant financial and economic systems. They are also seeking to open up public spaces for meaningful discussion of alternatives to rapacious neoliberalism.

Many reject the terms "anti-capitalist demonstrators" bandied around by the media, saying that it is too simplistic and misses the point that many of those involved in Occupy events are not just 'the usual suspects', but are drawn from a surprsingly wide range of backgrounds.

The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday that:

Christian groups have drawn up plans to protect protesters by forming a ring of prayer around the camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, should an attempt be made to forcibly remove them.

As the storm of controversy over the handling of the Occupy London Stock Exchange demonstration deepened on Saturday, Christian activists said it was their duty to stand up for peaceful protest in the absence of support from St Paul's. One Christian protester, Tanya Paton, said: "We represent peace, unity and love. A ring of prayer is a wonderful symbol."...

Christian groups that have publicly sided with the protesters include one of the oldest Christian charities, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the oldest national student organisation, the Student Christian Movement, Christianity Uncut, the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust and the Christian magazine Third Way. In addition, London Catholic Worker, the Society of Sacramental Socialists and Quaker groups have offered their support.

A statement by the groups said: "As Christians, we stand alongside people of all religions who are resisting economic injustice with active nonviolence. The global economic system perpetuates the wealth of the few at the expense of the many. It is based on idolatrous subservience to markets. We cannot worship both God and money."

Bartley said: "There are some very unhappy people within the Church of England. The protesters seem to articulate many of the issues that the church has paid lip-service to. Many people are disillusioned with the position St Paul's has adopted. To evict rather than offer sanctuary is contrary to what many people think the church is all about. The whole thing has been a car crash."

On Saturday afternoon, more than 20 religious figures gathered on the steps of St Paul's to support the occupation, which began two weeks ago.

A report titled "God vs. Mammon: Britain takes sides," in Sunday's U.K. Independent newspaper, examined ongoing tensions betwixt and between religious authorities over the Occupy London protests at St. Paul's, saying:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, privately despairs of the cathedral's handling of the financial protest, The Independent understands.

Dr Williams has been criticised for not intervening as questions are asked about the conduct of the cathedral and the role played by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, in antagonising protesters.

Dr Williams's natural sympathies lie with the protesters but because of Church of England politics he does not want to be seen to interfere. His silence, and that of high-ranking bishops, has left the Church's leadership accused of not practising what Jesus preached

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