The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Bishop of London
The Old Deanery
01 November 2011
Dear Archbishop and Bishop,
Does the intervention of the church reflected Christ?
It is with a deep concern that I chose to write you at this very dire time on the issue of protest right in the courts of St Paul’s Cathedral, London over the past 2 weeks.
Without re-telling the story so far, I am concerned that the Church’s management of the situation has reflected a Church that do not represent its claims of fairness and love. Although I know very well from the tones of the Church’s various voices, this opinion would be dismissed. Yet in the true reality of things, the Church missed the point.
Although I am not a Christian, I hold the Church in high esteem having been brought up in it and still lays claim to her in a way, hence I was fascinated and touched that people, both of faith and none, chose to sit-in in front of the Church at their time of frustration with the polity. It was with great relief that I observed a different trend to their protest; the absence of violence.
If I may draw from the Bible, we can recall vividly that when Jesus was going about his business, a large multitude followed him. At a point, his disciples wanted to send them away because there was no food – and I assume because they (the disciples) were worried that that crowd would exhaust their master. Jesus Christ refused and went further to ask for food to give to the crowd. He did feed the five thousand.
In that crowd must have been those who believed and not, those who were oppressed, poor, frustrated, sick, hopeless, disillusioned and whatever it may be. We know that they followed Jesus because they expected a better world; that included freedom from the oppression of the then Roman Empire, from tax collectors and all the capitalist ills of their then societies. It is the same society of the crowd who made joke of his death.
Some sought healing, deliverance, miracle but above all, they sought a world that is kinder and where they have the opportunity to live without fear.
In your sermon 10 months ago on Christmas day (2010) in Canterbury Cathedral, you preached that "We can and will as a society bear hardship if we are confident that it is being fairly shared; and we shall have that confidence only if there are signs that everyone is committed to their neighbour, that no one is just forgotten, that no interest group or pressure group is able to opt out."
Today Archbishop, St Paul’s Cathedral itself has not been committed to her neighbour nor has been fair about the hardship that the ordinary persons face.
In his response, the Bishop of London refuted the suspicion that money is contributing to the Church’s shameful response; however, while the Church may not have been directly advised by its rich funders, it is clear that the Church has acted mostly by the influence of money amongst other things.
In fact, only an alien may believe that this is not so. But not only that, even the church berated closing down for one week and the amount it was losing daily. Shameful!
I pray you Archbishop to, with your church and clergy men, pause, ponder and listen for the sake of the gospel which you preach.
It would not have been the Church’s responsibility to remove the protesters in the first place if it was being a Church indeed. In the book of 1 Kings, the prophet Elijah was fed by a widow, from nothing for days…. Why is the Church today focused on money? Where is the faith for the test when it is required?
This is an opportunity missed by an institution that had faced continued depletion of its audience over the years. Coupled with the abuses that had gone on in the Catholic Church, more and more people are reconsidering if truly the Church is loving, caring, non-discriminatory and above all, a place for all regardless.
The Church should have ministered to these people, as it did on the first few days and continue while leaving the Corporation of London to deal with whether they stayed or go. Why is the Churchyard more important that ‘people, who are made in the image of God’?
Why is earning money more important that earning soulds? Is it any wonder that Jesus said to Peter and the others that he would make them fishers of men? Anyone could tell that that promise must have been an answer to their worry of losing their livelihood and business behind?
The Church should be open to all; thieves, hooligans and angels alike. But by this act, it is vivid that the frustrated are not welcomed in the Church. Yet, it is to the ‘Church’ that Hannah went to shed her sorrow for not having a child until Eli spoke to her (1 Samuel).
In most cases, even unbelievers go into the Church because it calms them down although they do not believe; it is a sign of respect and that trust exists. Why then should the mere mortals who run a church do such a shameful thing of entangling the church in the politics of capitalism?
Whether the society knows the details or not, it is the reputation that the Church has created today that matters; not how right the Church is.
On an ordinary day in London, negotiating one’s way around St Paul’s is difficult enough amongst tourists, locals and all manner of businesses, and nothing so much different to having tents around it.
The protesters may have gone over the bar, but their anger is genuine and their peacefulness is tolerable.
I hope that you would now take the lead and announce, together with the Bishop of London and the Church;
1. a heart-felt apology to the nation, not just Christians but to everyone who looks up to the Church as a beacon of unconditional love;
2. that mistakes were made and that the Church has learnt from it.
3. that the Church will now help to organise a meeting with representatives of financial players in the Stock Exchange, the banking sector, Corporation of London and the organizers of the protests to listen and negotiate assurances that each party is working towards a better tomorrow;
4. the Church’s assurance that it puts souls before money; and
5. that the Church remains wide open as a place of solace and everyone is welcomed.
Along the line, it would be great if you then use that opportunity to invite people to Church as a sign of healing the injury that has been caused to all party.
Regardless of the current situation, I see a lot of opportunities even as many predict difficulty for the Church mending its reputation back.
I suggest, for that a Sunday beset aside as soon as possible in the same Church for an open service for all. In this service, a selection of members of the public could do the readings; sing together, with less formality but a sense of equality.
The Church is not, and should not take sides but should facilitate peace and discussion in the society. However, I am very aware that the formality or governance has made the present day Church more a systemic procedure rather than a symbol of communal bonding.
I hope that my humble prayer is useful and contributes to the steps you hope to take “given the massive crises of trust that have shaken us all in the last couple of years” (taken from your 2010 Christmas sermon).
I look forward to hearing from you and also would be willing to contribute or meet to contribute to rebuilding and returning the Church to the community where it belongs for all.
Yours sincerely and in peace,