From Occupied Bishop

from the blog by Bishop George Packard: Occupied Bishop

Mark Adams Makes Us Better

(c) Tracie Willams

Mark Adams was convicted of trespassing with us this past Monday for that infamous intrusion on Trinity’s hallowed vacant lot on December 17th. And so, Judge Matthew Sciarrino became the next unwitting person to be encircled by Mark’s spell. His Honor intended a lesson to be learned–even a national point to be made with, “this country was founded on the principle of private property”, in his sentencing statement. You wouldn’t have thought Mark had directed or charmed anyone but goodness finds a way.

Our cases were all referred to as “Mark Adams, et al.” We seven were the “et al.” and Mark remained in a class by himself, gentle, attentive, staunchly loyal to friends, with a back bone of steel. We knew the District Attorney’s whiz kids had him in the cross hairs; they even announced a “deal” which summarized the system’s frustration with “Mr. Adams.” There would be jail time since this miscreant dared to defy authority. It’s a public worry: such dangerous characters on the loose.

The judge got right to it quickly announcing who was guilty and what would happen. He barely took a breath. I wish I had thought faster—and didn’t have to pee—since the sentences forced us to huddle under the benign label of “4 days of community service.” If I was better prepared, centered and ready—like Mark—I would have asked for jail time in solidarity. It all happened so fast.

The court police swarmed Mark in a pitiful display of force. The charade of a decorous trial on behalf of pitifully wounded Trinity was called out for all to see and the unassuming, guileless man, with the bushy beard and kind face did that for us. Judge Sciarrino was a goner even though he had urged for a stern, well-paced trial. Court agents put Mark Adams in handcuffs with all the deftness of raw meat being rush-wrapped for a customer. Mark faced it all with a quiet certainty, a silent, “See what I mean?”

For as long as I’ve known of OWS there’s been Mark Adams. He’s the poster person for this phenomenon coming from somewhere else after his home was swallowed up in foreclosure. There are other parts of his story he should tell you, not me. Those details add fuel to that motor of energy inside him of, “Why not justice? Why not now?” He said to me last week that he “came to join a social movement in Occupy and found a family instead.”

I think that discernment is what makes his representation in Occupy so compelling. When others might be drawing from personal agendas he fulfills what Jesus said of Nathanael in John’s Gospel, “Here is a man of no guile!” (John 1:47) By no design of his, circumstances around him drop pretense…like a court room revealing itself as nothing more than a star chamber so Trinity can collect rents and swagger.

Even as I prepare to pick up trash at Tompkins Park for my days of community service I still breath the air in freedom but my sweet brother languishes behind bars where he has started a hunger strike “for all those who are unjustly imprisoned.” Even from jail Mark Adams beckons to our better selves.

photo (c) Tracie Williams (Tracie Williams Photography)

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Another person in prison courtesy of The Episcopal Church

The verdict and sentencing for the Duarte defendants came yesterday afternoon.  The day was marked by the completion of testimony from Bishop George Packard and the testimony of Rev. James Cooper, Rector and CEO of Trinity Wall Street.

I remember when the Anita Hill hearings were going on, Clarence Thomas would look from side to side during questioning – like someone behind a painting in a Scooby Doo episode set in a haunted house.  Thomas was literally shifty-eyed.

In downtown Manhattan yesterday, family and friends of the defendants were galvanized at the sight of Rector James Cooper on the stand. Wearing the vestments of someone who had taken vows for the priesthood, he visibly turned his head away from the courtroom. No eye contact.

Then came the testimony. I give Cooper the benefit of the doubt, he most likely has a bad memory. He couldn’t recall a petition in late 2011 with over 13,000 signatures on it asking Trinity Wall Street to give Occupy Wall Street sanctuary. Another petition -again with over 13,000 signatures on it- to ask for clemency and forgiveness when it came to prosecuting the defendants who would not be suppressed with ACDs.  He forgot about 15 additional phone calls between himself and George Packard . (Jim – we could really use some reimbursement for those calls. Happy to show your people the Verizon bill.)

There were many moments where Cooper was unsure and unclear. And that’s all right, really because he’s human. But he’s a human who gets an annual package of over 1 million dollars.  He sanctions teach-ins and gives lip service to the values of OWS. Is this how Wall Street and the corporate ethos has corrupted The Episcopal Church? I know of golden parachutes given to failing rectors, but are we seeing right in front of us the phenomenon exemplified during the administration of Bush 43 – that of  “failing upwards”? (Heckuva job Brownie!)

Cooper not only unleashed the brutal berserker of our so-called justice machine, he did nothing to stop it. He said nothing about the violence done to OWS nor about the violence done to people gathered around Duarte Square on December 17th. Beatings done in his name.
…or your personal benefits and perks.

The defense team – Paul Mills, Meghan Maurus, Gideon Oliver, and Martin Stolar – presented insightful closing statements. The heart of the matter is First Amendment rights. Does private property trump free speech? According to Judge Matthew Sciarrino, yes. Yes it does.

The first sentencing was alphabetical and the most harsh. Mark Adams, a sweet spirit, comrade of everyone in OWS got 45 days in Rikers. Forty five days for clipping a chain link fence and trespassing on property that never really belonged to Trinity Wall Street in the first place.

Sentencing statements were made by Bishop George Packard and Medic Ed Mortimer. Packard’s can be read on his blog Occupied Bishop. Ed’s statement and his humanitarian witness will be written about soon.

The trial transcript is a rich document.The morality play that is this trial, what it uncovered about The Episcopal Church’s collusion and adoption of the Wall Street/corporate culture will be unpacked and explored for years.

Most important now, is active support for Mark Adams through visiting, writing letters, advocacy, and prayer.  Parishioners of Trinity Wall Street – some portraits of the man Jim Cooper sent to the environment that is Rikers Island.

Trinity Sunday

For the past few months there have been actions and rallies to draw attention to Trinity Wall Street’s prosecution of eight people who stepped on “their land”. These are the eight who didn’t take ACDs (adjournment in contemplation of dismissal) trying to call out Trinity Wall Street for putting business over mission. Trinity Wall Street is playing a game of chicken with dire consequences –particularly with Jack Boyle.  All this for some civil disobedience with Santa.

We all know the institutional church is dying and asking the equivalent of  its tribal witch doctors why rather than the 19,000 of us who leave each year.  The bad PR is contained by the fact that there are more important things for the faithful to think about. But in Trinity’s case it’s truly puzzling. The director of PR attends the trial every day as the surreal game of chicken unfolds. The dark stallion of bad press escaped from Trinity’s barn years ago and running wild, picks up more untamed horses for the herd.  A stampede is inevitable. (Trinity’s spin machine and St. Paul’s Chapel after 9.11.01 – in the original German)

One of these actions is on Trinity Sunday. God’s timing or OWS’s?  In the days preceding the trial I ponder what I know about Trinco and feel it’s important for those passing by to get some spiritual context for this narrative. On June 3, the materials below are handed out in front of Trinity Wall Street.

Trinity Sunday, June 3
Trinity Sunday is a big day. On this day Christians ponder the deep realities of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a mystery. The Triune God: God, Creator; God’s Spirit which inspires and moves through all creation – believers, atheists, the sentient and non-sentient; and the Nazarene Rabbi Jesus – God incarnate.

Symbols of the Trinity draw us to meditate on how Creator, Spirit, and Jesus are separate yet the same. Christians are called to contemplate how this mystery affects their lives. How they are to act, for example. The lectionary readings appointed for today include Isaiah 6: 1-8. The final verse reads “Here I am, send me!” in response to God’s call for acting on God’s behalf for justice in the world.

Today we ask how the leadership at Trinity Church Wall Street has responded to God’s question: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

To whom does Trinity’s leadership answer?

Leadership at Trinity Wall Street: A Track Record

What is it about the promising parish of Trinity Wall Street that it repeatedly chooses leadership oblivious to significant historical moments?
• A petulant and vindictive Dan Matthews fights transforming St. Paul’s Chapel into a haven for recovery workers after 9.11.01, wanting it to stay a “pretty little chapel”. Then gleans credit and awards for someone else’s vision and hard work.
• Jim Cooper simultaneously ignores not only Occupy Wall Street’s search for a winter home but actual dialog while claiming “It is perhaps one of the most important movements since the Civil Rights and antiwar movements of the 50s and 60s”.
• Delays in withdrawing trespassing charges for 18 citizens, toying with people’s lives

When destiny hands the football of justice, truth, and the Gospel to rectors of Trinity Wall Street they are so consumed with minutiae and ego—or perhaps bad administrative advice—they fumble and lose the game. Why does this noble parish with so many blessings to share choose leaders with a poverty of wisdom and foresight?

Trinity – you could have been a contender.

 Trinity Church’s board in open revolt against Rev. James Cooper’s extravagant ways
By ISABEL VINCENT, MELISSA KLEIN and JAMES COVERT
Last Updated: 9:55 AM, March 18, 2012
Posted: 11:20 PM, March 17, 2012

During a Sunday morning service at Trinity Church last summer, a longtime parishioner looked around during the reading of the Gospel and counted the worshippers. By her tally, there were 49 people in the pews of the historic lower Manhattan church — a meager turnout for the storied, 314-year-old parish. She was puzzled, then, when the next week’s church bulletin reported attendance at 113.

Trinity’s rector, the Rev. James Cooper, had decided that tourists who wander in and out of the chapel should be counted as well, she was told.

“That’s just a little snapshot into the way he presents everything,” said the parishioner, who was also a member of the governing board until she resigned in protest. “Everything has a little bit of truth to it but a lot of deception around it.”

Playing fast and loose with the numbers, and official church records, is one of the many complaints that dog the man who heads the richest parish in the Anglican world, a church with at least $1 billion in Manhattan real estate.

Cooper was supposed to be the guardian angel of Trinity. Instead, former board members say his dictatorial style of leadership and grandiose ambitions have fomented insurrection in the staid Episcopal community. They accuse him of undermining Trinity’s mission of good works since taking over as rector in 2004.

UNSACKABLE: Rev. James Cooper, the much-maligned yet immovable head of historic Trinity Church (opposite), blesses the football Giants victory parade in February after Big Blue’s stirring Super Bowl win.

Instead of helping the poor, Cooper’s helped himself — with demands for a $5.5 million SoHo townhouse, an allowance for his Florida condo, trips around the world including an African safari and a fat salary.

Rather than building an endowment, he is accused of wasting more than $1 million on development plans for a luxury condo tower that has been likened to a pipe dream and burning another $5 million on a publicity campaign.

Cooper, 67, whose compensation totaled $1.3 million in 2010, even added CEO to his title of rector. He began listing himself first on the annual directory of vestry members. The atmosphere has become so poisonous that nearly half the 22 members of the vestry, or board, have been forced out or quit in recent months.

“When the fox ends up guarding the henhouse, it never ends well for the chickens,” ousted board member Thomas Flexner, global head of real estate for Citigroup, wrote in a Feb. 13 resignation letter. “But this is what has happened at Trinity.”

Among the perks Cooper negotiated was a lavish home in SoHo, a Federal-style townhouse built in the 1820s with a price tag of $5.5 million.

“He chose the residence and said this shall be the rectory,” a former board member said. “Not in recent history . . . has the church ever provided so extravagant a living arrangement for the rector, but that’s what he wanted.”

Instead of concentrating on the endowment, Cooper began planning for a grand development on Trinity Place. He proposed tearing down two Trinity-owned buildings across from the church. One, a 25-story tower at 74 Trinity Place, housed the church offices, its preschool and a gathering place for parishioners.

Cooper wanted to build a luxury condominium tower, with church offices on the lower floors. He also looked at buying the adjacent American Stock Exchange and demolishing it, even though the building has long been considered for landmark status. One former board member called the plan insensitive and too big for the area. Others questioned the need for such a development, which would involve borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Another former board member said Cooper spent years studying the condo development, “not at all paying attention to the principal focus of those that hired him, which was try to solve the problem and try to make the church more of a powerful force in the philanthropy world.”

Trinity has had a long tradition of global giving and has taken credit for being one of the early opponents of apartheid in South Africa. It gave millions to the activist Bishop Desmond Tutu.

But for years, Trinity’s grant program gave out only $2.7 million annually, despite having the resources to fund more causes, a former board member said. More money was spent on church publicity in one year — $5 million — than grants. Last year, Trinity doled out grants to causes including a jobs program in Bedford-Stuyvesant and to churches in Africa.

Cooper traveled to Africa on church business but found time to fit in at least one safari, with his family along, at Trinity’s expense. The church also paid for jaunts to Asia and Australia.

The longtime and respected head of the grants program, the Rev. James Callaway, was forced out by Cooper, according to a former board member.

Episcopal So-Called News

During General Convention 2009 everyone going in and out of the center was greeted by the usual gang of idiots. I’d say they were biker types but that would give bikers a bad name. Just big-bellied, bearded dudes in tee shirts carrying signs about hating “homos” and that anyone going into the building was going to hell.

The appearance of the Phelps Family and other hatemongers is more of a tradition at GC than the seminary cocktail parties where they try to drum up donations from alums.

So I stole an idea for an action I’d heard about. I started a Sponsor-a-Protester campaign. I asked if people wanted to pledge cash for the Protest-a-thon occurring right in front of them. With the help of Utah’s enthusiastic youth group , $120 was raised in less than 25 minutes. We had a blast. People pointed out the angriest–and by now they were angrier than hornets rousted from a nest–protesters and hand the cash over while waving to the protester. We thanked them for their work – they were raising funds for a home for LGBT teens who needed a safe haven. There were about 100 people laughing, donating, joining in.

This would have gone on for hours, but I was approached by a factotum of GC wearing collar and eye-searing shirt that really should be featured on Bad Vestments . He insisted I stop. Naively, I thought he was concerned about my personal safety.  Since I was still a Bishop’s Wife, I followed orders.Turns out I was one step ahead of the law – the protesters had called the police on me.  It’s possible the factotum with collar was trying to control the press.  A Bishop’s Wife arrested during General Convention would certainly get a squib…somewhere.  Too bad. I would have very much liked to appear before a judge in Orange County on charges of soliciting for charity.

The next day’s General Convention news had not a word about that. Outreach, mission, activism is only newsworthy if it has the corporate stamp of TEC. Individual prophetic action is not recognized.

Which brings me to an additional gift from the trial of Trinity Wall Street versus Occupy Wall Street. It confirms what most of us knew all along: That Episcopal News Service, Episcopal Cafe, and Episcopal New Yorker are simply the Pravda/Fox News of TEC. (Well, Episcopal Cafe is kind of the MSNBC wing of the church. But ye fans of MSNBC, remember it is owned by GE.)

A retired bishop and a priest recently active in the Diocese of NY are facing incarceration at Rikers at the insistence of a parish in Manhattan and there is no coverage. Two members of the clergy and there’s not a word about it. None. It’s not surprising, just affirming.

When an institution sets up a PR instrument to talk to the world, what happens is a filter of mendacity.

So what does it say about Katharine Jefferts-Schori that one of the first things she did when she moved into 815 Second Ave was have ENS on the same floor so that it sitteth at her right elbow?

Out of the closet

My friend Frances decided to stop smoking on Presidents’ Day 1991. She found it a more inspirational anniversary—most likely a good conversation starter—than saying she had quit as a New Year’s resolution.

In that spirit, I am using the eve of Father’s Day 2012 as the day to come out of the closet. When I started this blog in 2009, my husband was an active bishop in The Episcopal Church. I did not want to offend or confront. The role of a bishop’s wife is to be “nice”. (Nice – one of the best examples of a four-letter word.)

Civility can be a form of suppression and control, particularly in the House of Bishops and institutional church.

So for three years I have written under the name Monika – patron saint of clergy wives and mother of St. Augustine.

But now he is retired and I am free from the shackles of niceness. He is very likely facing incarceration at Rikers Island for trespassing on a vacant lot. What makes this all the richer, grist for the mill that is the theme of this blog, is his accuser is an Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York. Among the defendants – people of integrity he is proud to stand trial with – is an priest active in the Diocese of New York.

The bishops of New York have been silent about the trial and the gift here is they are successfully hammering in the final nails into the coffin of the institutional church.  God is offering me a feast of irony and affirmation.

More to come – it is rather draining to go through the trial process waiting for the sentencing.  It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop only to discover the guy who lives upstairs has one leg.

Brook Packard, married for 13 years to George E. Packard.