Occupy Trinity Wall Street: How it Started – D17

Part 2 of 4

On December 17th (D17) OWS gathered near Duarte Square for a celebration. A number of people climbed a ladder and trespassed. It was clearly street theater and civil disobedience-Santa Claus and Miss America were first over the ladder. One bishop, three Episcopal priests, a nun, and two Roman Catholic priests were arrested with others.

The lead up to the event involved Bishop Desmond Tutu releasing two conflicting messages regarding Occupy Wall Street and generating questions regarding his intentions, Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and Bishop Mark Sisk. Jeffets-Schori’s and Sisk’s letters on December 16, 2011 can be found HERE.

Reverend Earl Koopercamp crossing the ladder into Duarte Square on D17.

Reverend Earl Koopercamp crossing the ladder into Duarte Square on D17.

Unfortunately some attending clipped wires on the fencing, committing vandalism. Few of the 52 trespassers who were arrested, tried, and prosecuted at the insistence of TWS committed any vandalism. The majority of vandals ran away when the NYPD appeared.

That day the fence was pushed down on the crowd outside the no trespassing zone by the NYPD while other officers kettled the crowd from the street side, thus terrorizing observers.

People who were exercising First Amendment rights were beaten up by the NYPD in the name of TWS and by extension the Diocese of NY. The statement from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church added an ironic overtone: “Seekers after justice have more often achieved success through non-violent action, rather than acts of force or arms.” The Church remained silent on the violence perpetrated against those who were merely observing non-violent actions.

Collaborating with the District Attorney’s office, TWS and CEO/Rector Cooper began work on prosecuting the trespassers to the full extent of the law. During the course of the most visible trial (held June 10-21) it became evident that Trinity Real Estate, its CEO Cooper and staff enjoyed a cozy relationship with the NYPD as well as the DA’s office. For example, vans of police in full riot gear were parked at the ready for 5 hours in advance to arrest people for “possible trespass”. Will Gusakov, a master carpenter who designed and built the ladder but did not trespass, was arrested blocks away from Duarte Square and put on trial . One of the ways taxpayer money paid for protection of Trinity Wall Street’s private assets.

NYPD protects Trinity Wall Street's private property

NYPD protects Trinity Wall Street’s private property

At the end of the trial, one defendant, Mark Adams, was sent to jail. Adams was the only defendant who is Muslim, born in Pakistan. Adams joined OWS after his home went into foreclosure.

OTWS began in response to Mark Adams being sentenced to 45 days on Riker’s Island. After rallies, vigils, and teach-ins themed around “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”, Jack Boyle, a D17 defendant, initiated the occupation/sleep-in. The occupation gained momentum when Adams began serving his time in prison on Riker’s Island.

Parishioners at TWS were told Adams’ sentence was related to offenses other than trespassing on the vacant lot. However court records show that Adams went to prison solely at the insistence of an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of NY.

Adams served time in the heat of July just as General Convention made resolutions to increase ministry to those in prison and while the 5 Marks of Mission were embraced as a standard to move missionally forward in the 21st century. Trials for trespassing continue today-most recently for Charles Meyers-TWS’s accusations compounding on other “infractions” and generating prison records for young men and women based on inflated charges.

Interviews with those involved with Occupy Trinity Wall Street and who have been sent to Riker’s Island at the insistence of Trinity Wall Street and CEO/Rector James Cooper can be found HERE.

The OWS community has a well-organized, dedicated group who visit those in prison, write them, and provide support. On release, the OWS community finds them shelter mostly in the form of couch surfing and facilitates access to social workers and therapists who donate time.

As of this writing no one behind bars because of TWS has been visited by Episcopal clergy to include the primary colluder with the NYPD and DA, CEO/Rector Cooper. No offer of shelter or of psychological counseling have been proffered despite TWS’s considerable assets.
Duarte Text Box OTWS

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Long live the Church!

The  Hopeful Episcopalian is delighted at this critical response to a blog post from  June 22, 2009:

It appears you don’t understand the history, heirarchy (sic) and governing canons of the Church. Perhaps you should go elsewhere. Deliberation will never be out-of-date. Elitism is not present when each diocese elects its own delegates. Please – a little more research before you throw out the presiding Bishop, etc., with the bathwater.

No one is throwing the baby out. People are siphoning out the bathwater so the real baby-Christian faith- doesn’t drown.

Delegates to General Convention are typically the same people elected by a tiny in crowd.  Voting is not an exercise in populism: the elite elect (and re-elect, and re-elect, and re-elect) the elite without term limits.

Local parishes can barely recognize their diocesan bishop unless there’s a mitre on his or her head on Confirmation Day. The majority have no idea what General Convention is or who attends. Most Americans  can’t recognize their congressperson. You think they know who Katharine Jefferts-Schori is?  Ask an Episcopalian to provide the surname for “Rowan” and you’ll hear silence or “Atkins”.

Of what use are governing canons if 20,000 people are leaving TEC each year? Who will be around to govern over? And have you asked the faithful church attendees if they are aware they are being governed?

The hierarchy, i.e. the leadership and the elite, is leading the institution in a direction that ensures TEC will be an oddity read about in history books.

Your post indicates that you don’t see church as a home for the faithful seeking God’s face in a spiritual community.  To you, it is a museum where delegates and governing canons are priorities. You want people like me to go elsewhere.  Not to worry – I have and we are! We want to worship, pray, and be part of a Eucharistic community.

And with a drain of 20,000 a year, who will fund General Convention?  The costs are huge: travel, copying, hotel rooms, hospitality suites, salaries of coordinators, etc.  Producing GC is an industry of its own at 815.

You and others like you can take refuge in your “rightness” when we ignorant faithful who haven’t done our research have gone elsewhere.   I’ve witnessed that many times on a parish level.  Those  entrenched in certainty about history and the right way to “do church” –and frequently it was a skewed as Glen Beck’s interpretation of US History–were left with no children, no one with the gifts of hospitality, prayer, prophecy, joy, patience, kindness, or goodness.  Ironically, even self control is absent.

But dad gummit – they sure knew how the governances worked and peppered their conversation with references to the PB! (When PB is used in conversation, most people think the person talking left out “and J”.)

The history of the presiding bishop as figurehead and self-proclaimed primate is astonishingly brief. Primate is as recent as Griswold. What was THAT about?

The presiding bishop was once a bishop with a geographical episcopacy who presided over House of Bishops meetings. Meeting over, everyone went home,  and next year the bishop with the most seniority got to bang the gavel when Roberts Rules of Order went astray.

The luxury penthouse  with terrace on 2nd Avenue and 44th Street, the international travel budget, the personal media machine of ENS were never part of that position until the latter part of the 20th century. Many of us yearn for the old days. This is an entitled baby with a silver spoon in its mouth. We’re willing  to toss her out because we understand that church is local.

Speaking of local and the importance of deliberations: is your local parish familiar with the resolutions about the the military base on Okinawa, or the one about honoring the much-anticipated first Eucharist on the moon?  The latter made it into the House of Bishops for a “yea”  vote. I was there during the deliberations for the former – educated as other significant international issues were discussed.  On returning to my parish, the biggest local deliberation was all about who was going to do coffee hour.

After the approval of Gene Robinson’s election in 2003, the September newsletters from all the local parishes in my area led with a letter from their rectors: Don’t panic! Nothing’s changing in your home parish!  Everything will be exactly the same as always.

For me, the biggest wake-up call regarding the relevance of GC resolutions sounded during a discussion with a fourth-year EFM student who could not be swayed from her entrenched belief that death penalty ought to stand.  She was educated, a big fan of the hierarchy, well-acquainted with the several resolutions about the death penalty, and still wanted state-sanctioned murder. “Forgive us our trespasses as we lethally inject those who sin against us.” – John Fugelsang

Here’s an idea: perhaps the church should be more concerned about changing hearts and nurturing faith.

There are some wonderful, hard-working delegates who have come to similar conclusions:  the church is dead. Long live the church.

Promises to Keep…conflating rights with rites

A blip on the sonar screen of history occurred this week: the synchronous moment when secular liberals stood firm that Elena Kagan’s sexuality was nobody’s business while Episcopalian liberals ensured that the sexual orientation and gender of Mary Glasspool, newly-ordained Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles was everybody’s business.

Historians of the United States Supreme Court have observed that the primary qualification for the life-long appointment is “greatness”:  hard to define with specifics, but an important quality in the consideration process.

What is the primary qualification for a competent bishop? It would be disrespectful to say that gender or sexual orientation ride in the front seat. Then why is this the lead in every TEC news story or grassroots Facebook post about Mary Glasspool?

I maintain that a significant path for Christians parallels the one followed by of John the Baptist: point the way to the Christ. Therefore, the role of a bishop in The Episcopal Church is to live into the specifics of episcopacy, rejecting entitlement, honoring tradition and culture yet responding to it in a vibrant, meaningful way. Thus a good bishop defines the leadership of a servant in order to hand it off to the next person elected.  The cycle continues. Rather than “greatness” as the singular quality for a bishop, a bishop’s duty evolves from prayerful responsive action to time and place. Never from grand gestures.

In the Episcopal Church – as in the case of Elena Kagan – sexuality and gender ought to be nobody’s business. Since 2003, the argument breaking up the church has been over an adverb: Openly.

Note to Episcopalian liberal idealogs – that teeny tiny little circle in the jumbo Venn diagram of liberals in the US -you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t have sexual orientation both private and an important raison d’etre for the future of the church.  It is not responsive, prayerful, nor appropriate to have Katharine Jefferts-Schori show up on a Native American reservation to discuss the ordination of homosexuals while omitting economic justice and suicide issues that scar the community daily.

Some bishops didn’t even try to have it both ways. They said one thing in 2008 then did another in 2009.
Where were you in July 2008? Did your Church pay for your European vacation?

In 2008, the bishops of The Episcopal Church used tithes of the faithful to go to the Lambeth conference pursuing the noble cause of  relationship in the Anglican Communion.  There, they heard bishops from countries where the issue of homosexuality was dealt with barbarically.  They heard of Anglicans around the world who were harassed and beaten because they were part of a greater family that allowed homosexuals to be ordained. They also heard from bishops who weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed… but I’m sure that went both ways.

There’s an interesting phenomenon in the House of Bishops – the ones who talk the most tend to be the ones who think the least.

In July 2008, the elected leadership of The Episcopal Church was faced with a quandary. On one side of the scale were those who suffered physical pain, complete social shunning in small villages, and possibly death because th Americans had consecrated an openly gay man. It did not help that the House of Bishops voted “yea” on Gene Robinson a few months after America illegally invaded a sovereign nation.  On the other side, openly homosexual men and women were denied their life’s true call.  Openly gay men and women who felt that their one true path in life was to be ordained would be forced to live in the closet with all the dreadful soul-killing, potentially life threatening and health damaging, implications.

It was a difficult justice and mercy conundrum.

The TEC bishops looked their brother bishops in the eye during the Indaba (Bible study and prayer) groups, promising there would be a respite from ordaining openly homosexual clergy until the rest of the world could understand to the point of compassion.

It makes me uncomfortable, leaving entrenched, secure notions; but as a liberal who strives not to be an ideolog, there are a few grains that balance the scale towards honoring the promise made at Lambeth.

Grain one: beatings, shunning in community in a developing nation without the mobility- as flawed as it can be – of the United States.

Grain two: Promises are broken, integrity eroded. The bishops vowed to maintain the unity of the Church when they were consecrated.  You can’t get it both ways – can’t promise to hold the church together, enjoy all the entitlements some episcopacies offer and do whatever you want in your diocese.  They took diocesan funds to attend a conference focused on international relationships. They shook hands – no, they prayed – on a promise. Then they broke it.

Grain three: Confusing rights with rites. We are not dealing with suicidal gay teens, we are not dealing with civil rights: There is no right that everyone should be ordained in the church. In fact, there are so many collars and mitres and people confusing collars and mitres with spiritual journey and holiness that it’s like 8 anthropologists tracking one indigenous person smashing yucca root.

Ah..the theology of yucca root! Sounds like a new title for Church Publishing!

We are dealing with adult men and women who think they have a call to be clergy.  Anyone exposed to the discernment process knows that this is more often than not a battle of wills at worst, or acknowledgement of a moment of grace at best. There’s still a lot of red tape, tic marks in plus columns for dioceses and parishes, and shuttling  people into archaic institutions with serious budget problems hoping tuition income will prop them up for the next program year. Somewhere, a human being gets on the seminary conveyor belt and pops out the other side ordained.  (But not trained for the 21st century!)  Confusing call to be a priest or deacon with some God-paved tarmac highway is as disingenuous as saying the U.S. Constitution was written by the finger of God.  There are plenty of people called to do the work of the Lord not wearing collars.

Having the benefit of not having to validate my church salary or my seminary degree, I recognize the quandary. Here’s my Monday morning quarterback solution: solve it locally.  It’s a perception issue.  Bishops, get real. Dioceses are locally based for a reason, the exception are those that are relationally based.  You listened to the pain of bishops caring for their local flocks and at that moment in time made a promise.  You – like everyone else in the church – are working on the John the Baptist level.  Employ some wisdom.

A bishop in the United States is elected – there is nothing sacred about the  process. It can have all the nuances and hard-nosed realities of Tammany Hall  politics. Sometimes the most popular person wins. Or the person with the team  that works the room the hardest. Or one memorable speech – maybe a nifty  one about whales!

The election process is clarified and becomes healthier, when a bishop has      defined the role by acting in the moment that history has offered.  If a bishop  has taken diocesan funds to participate in Lambeth, that bishop has been  centered in a historical moment, charged by the men and women he or she  serves.

When anyone makes a vow to another Christian in another land, that promise  that needs to be honored.

God is stronger than any of this.  In my circle of gay and lesbian friends, I don’t   know of anyone with an opinion about Gene “is my mike working?” Robinson.  But my friends and I are in contact constantly about legislation that will change civil rights the U.S. We pass around petitions, call our representatives, standing firm together.  When the world sees that Massachusetts, a state with legal same-sex marriage, does not get plagues or earthquakes; when partners are allowed to visit each other in hospitals and the sun still shines, the dominos of legal prejudice will continue to fall.

The church is not a political party and if it were it would be hard-pressed to get a mayoral campaign rolling.

Mary Glasspool may be the perfect person to lead the Diocese of Los Angeles in the next decade or so. I hope the bishop that preceded her had wisdom enough to define the assignment, not getting distracted with high-profile projects or making promises he had no intention of keeping.  But as long as the rhetoric is all about her gender and sexual orientation, it will take a long time to determine whether the best candidate was elected.

Stop the spin

The Hopeful Episcopalian has a daily struggle not to believe The Episcopal Church can do nothing right because she comes up against so many who believe TEC can do no wrong.

When confronted with the cheerocracy of TEC, it requires enormous discipline to not lose heart entirely.

On December 1st, the first Tuesday of Advent, The top story of Episcopal News Service was a report from the Committee on the State of the Church.  Headline: Committee sees vitality in Episcopal Church despite challenges.

The challenges faced by TEC are cultural and economic, one having a direct effect on the other.  Since 1990, the part of the American population claiming no religious identity in has doubled from 10 per cent of the population to 20 per cent.  As the church involvement declines, so do the financial resources.

I offer the hyperlink to the article for the data on the state of religion in America:

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_117454_ENG_HTM.htm

Question for those in the TEC loop:  Does the number of committees, commissions reflect a proportional downsizing?  If not, who exactly are these teams producing reports for?

Matilda Kistler, chair of the of the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church and the person who presented, first deflects responsibility by citing data that indicates all protestant mainline denominations are losing congregants. It seems other denominations matter to TEC when they’re all caught with chocolate on their faces from digging into dessert before dinner.  When it’s time for sharing resources or credit, TEC holds them at arm’s length. Witness the other ENS news release this week about online Advent calendars – not a link to anything but Anglican resources provided.

Then Matilda gets on to the optimistic part of the report:  “However, we believe that the committee’s research will confirm what most of us know instinctively — that active, vital and transformative gospel ministry is being done on all levels of the church.”

Matilda and the House of Deputies Committee are not doing their jobs. We can’t operate on instinct and happy talk in times of crises. When you’re in a life boat on open water, you need to actually have flares and rations on hand and know where they’re located.  The sharks are operating on instinctive knowledge.

TEC is in desperate need of emergency room or possibly hospice care. All we get from the top of the food chain is propaganda.  Is it coincidence that the primary generator of this hype now has offices adjacent to the Presiding Bishop?

We are a people of story and hope, not of spin and optimism. The stories of vital gospel ministry are there, happening from the ground up.  When spin becomes the official language of The Episcopal Church, it encourages an disingenuous ethos in parishes that are trying to find or have lost their way in naufragous waters.

This was a week where as I lived into my prayer of watching attentively, I heard news of three more vital Episcopalians with enormous gifts to offer who have stopped going to church. I saw a child’s relationship to learning transformed – possibly for life – through administrators and teachers employing flexibility. At a Christmas pageant rehearsal, I heard 40 children sing new songs of their faith, making promise a reality with their unique gift.

I heard from a friend who is married to a Missouri Synod pastor. After watching the street activity and community life surrounding her husband’s church in a neighborhood filled with cultural, racial, and economic diversity, she has started a community music school.  She is enormously accomplished, with a doctorate in organ and liturgical music and said “What is the point of putting on these concerts where all we do is pay ourselves? Is that what God wants us to do?”

Missouri Synod is notoriously “conservative”. I have no idea what my friend believes about openly gay bishops.  I do know that with a son in the military, who has been deployed in Iraq twice, she does not believe there is a “just” war. I know she and her husband do their best to serve the poor. Maybe political ideology isn’t what gathering on Sunday morning is supposed to be about.  Maybe if we focused on the work of the kingdom instead of producing another press release, we would all be transformed.