When I called on a friend to sing an original song for my wedding, he asked me about dress requirements. ” Oh…whatever. I trust your judgment. You should know the Bishop of NY will be there and dressed like a bishop.”
There is something inherently comical about bishops. Their outfits are just the beginning.
Bishops become supremely comical when they take not just their outfits but themselves seriously. To observe the behavior of those with egos that put them in the delusional world – one in which they imagine they have authority outside the priests in their regional management districts—is classic comedy. Rudy Vallee in a Preston Sturges movie without the endearing charm.
The latest edition of The Episcopal New Yorker has one with a head scratch asking “Real…or Onion?” The issue, released in this post-Sandy/Advent/wealth disparity-financial cliff/climate change crisis/people leaving TEC to find God elsewhere time was devoted to Real Estate! And it’s not dedicated to actual real estate issues in New York, a city with home health care givers, families, and shop clerks living in shelters; a metropolitan area with a disproportionate amount of empty homes for every homeless family. No, the bulk of the issue is dedicated to diocesan real estate, the problems of its upkeep; the Bishop’s Message culminating with the observation that “the Church’s property can be a problem, but it is a nice problem to have.”
What a punch line! It’s one of those real-life instances that if you heard it in a movie about a clueless, quasi-villainous religious leader, you wouldn’t believe it real.
Coincidence? On November 17th, I handed out broadsides at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine during the Diocesan convention that told the story of ongoing harassment on the steps of Trinity Wall. In addition to shining the light on the spiritual sickness that has infected Trinity Wall Street and its staff, the intention was to initiate a horizontal discussion regarding the responsibility the church has when it comes to its properties.
The content of the broadside will be posted on this blog in the days to come. Until then, you can check out interviews with those who have been sleeping on the front steps of Trinity Wall Street HERE.
The broadside was written primarily to give voice to those who have been sleeping at Trinity Wall Street since June 8th and suffered harassment in the form of beatings, theft, verbal insults, and more from the NYPD and the Trinity Wall Street staff. Some have been put in jail at the insistence of CEO/Rector James Cooper. No one – and no one means no one – from Trinity Wall Street parish has offered so much as a glass of water let alone visited those in prison. These people are my friends and comrades. They are the friends and comrades of every person who leads a spiritually intentional life. Naively I thought that if Cooper’s and Trinity Wall Street’s colleagues and supervisors (i.e. bishops) were aware that there were homeless, hungry, troubled people treated like chattel on the church steps they would be held accountable in some way. They would have the opportunity to heal the spiritual sickness that for so long has infected Trinity Wall Street.
More importantly this is a time when the institutional Church has to evaluate honestly and quickly whether the way it maintains itself is sustainable or even Christian. It has got to realize as so many of us have, that the Spirit-led life of commitment to Jesus includes finding the service on your doorstep. In Trinity Wall Street’s case and the Diocese of New York that is not metaphoric.
You can read the Diocese of New York’s puff piece here, keeping in mind George Orwell’s thought on PR – Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.
As you read, carry with you this protective amulet of The Word from John 18:37 – “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
To whom does Bishop Mark Sisk listen? To whom does CEO/Rector James Cooper listen?
Jesus would have us turn the other cheek not look the other way.