The “Occupy Wall Street” movement generates heat, light and more than a little anxiety in the financial capitals of the world. In some cities, the church is forced to be involved – by virtue of location, or by virtue of how much capital those churches themselves may own. Here in the U.S., Trinity Episcopal Church, at the head of Wall Street, has opened its community center, Charlotte’s Place, for rest, revitalization and hospitality for those involved in the occupation of Zuccotti Park. Here is a link to the statement of the Rec. Dr. James Cooper, Trinity’s Rector, on how that church deals with the movement on their doorsteps, and to sermons and statements from other clergy and staff of Trinity Church.
In London, one of Anglicanism’s other major houses of worship, St. Paul’s Cathedral, found it more difficult to decide to embrace or to reject the Occupy London movement. For some, the protestors came too close; for others, the church was not close enough. Two of St. Paul’s clergy, a canon and the dean, resigned over whether the cathedral should join with the City of London to take legal action to remove the occupiers.
This week, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote about this crisis at the confluence of the spiritual and financial center of London. Archbishop Williams’ theological writings have frequently addressed social and economic issues. In this case, he looked at both sides of the economic and political divide marked by the Occupy movement, and noted, as others have, that the movement strikes a chord with many. He mentioned “a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment” and “a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers.”
If you read Rowan Williams essay in The Financial Times, you will see that he is well versed in economics, making the various options and challenges facing the U.K. and the world economy understandable. As he says, these “do not amount to a simplistic call for the end of capitalism, but they are far more than a general expression of discontent.” He mentions the Roman Catholic Church’s recent statement on the imperatives for Christians to engage in economic and social justice. He concludes that the Church Universal is indeed the proper place for these discussions to take place, that we “have a proper interest in the ethics of the financial world and in the question of whether our financial practices serve those who need to be served – or have simply become idols that themselves demand uncritical service.”
Trinity Church, Wall Street – St. Paul’s Cathedral, London – St. David’s, DeWitt: all of us, in churches everywhere, are closer than we think, or that maybe we want to be, from the challenges posed by the Occupy movement. And it is within each of these churches, equipped as we are with scripture as our basis, tradition as our guide, and reason as our tool, that we can come to grips with what God wants us to do with the abundance we have received.