St Pauls Four: Direct Christian Action
Four activists, from Occupy in London and Christianity Uncut, have agreed to release themselves at 10pm Sunday 14th October, after chaining themselves to the pulpit at St Pauls for over 6 hours. Their message was against its collusion and connections to the City of London, highlighting the Cathedral’s actions against Occupy. These included the attacks it made on the Occupy during the Legal case against the eviction in the Royal Courts of Justice, and its decision to allow the police to violently evict occupiers: removing any sanctuary, on the steps of St Pauls, during the early hours of the 28th February 2012. This was contrary to its previous promises.
Whilst locked to the pulpit, Tammy expressed that, ‘Jesus threw the money lenders out of the temple: the Chapter of St Pauls should do the same.’ Siobhan another from the four, added that the action was aimed to, ‘Encourage the church to use their morale voice to protect the poorest and most vulnerable.’
The activists chained themselves to the pulpit at the end of even song. This sermon, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Occupy camp outside St Pauls, included participation from Occupy Faith. Tanya Paton, from this working group, read out a prayer that called on the church to “challenge” the City of London Corporation, and spoke about the importance of, “courage to speak out against injustice.” After the prayers, the four women chained themselves to the pulpit and read out a Mic Checked statement. This is included in full below.
After even song, I overheard one member of the Cathedral’s staff saying to the police that there was no disruption. He requested that the police to move back to the back of the cathedral. The rest of the schedule went on, uninterrupted, except from when the four women were joined in Mic Checking their statement. They announced this twice more: to those who coming in to hear an Organ Recital by Colin Andrews and then before the 6pm Eucharist.
The Cathedral’s response seemed generally to turn a blind eye to the protest, much in the same way as you could say they turn a blind eye to the City of London’s unethical business malpractices.
After the day’s ceremonies the four activists had a lengthy discussion with the Dean, Reverend Dr David Ison. He has only been in position at St Pauls since June. The Dean suggested that mistakes had been made on both sides. When asked about unethical sponsors of the cathedral, and corporations that profit whilst causing death, the Dean replied that 80% of its revenue came from the sale of tickets. The protestors quickly pointed out though that the other 20% came from financial institutions and corporations which are immoral. They highlighted that Jesus and the message of the church should be 100% ethical.
This 20% of other sources of revenue for St Pauls Cathedral includes money from corporations. Four of these contributors include[i]:
Lloyds TSB Group plc.
They do the banking for illegal cluster bombs, have invested in toxic loans that created the financial crisis, have been involved in the Libor Scandal and their executives have benefited in massive bonuses despite the financial crisis.[ii]
An Independent Trust associated with Barclays.
This bank were complicit in funding atrocities in Darfur, by providing banking services for Amec, the oil companies that created revenue for the Sudanese Government. It also provides banking services for Freeport McMoran. This mining corporation are destroying the rainforest in Papua, which threatens the very existence of the Amungme and Kamoro peoples.[iii]
Goldman Sachs International.
This global investment bank speculates in essential human needs such as grain. This speculation is rapidly increasing food prices. By distorting prices, this practice creates food inflation and therefore food instability, leading to people starving who cannot afford the inflated prices.
The City of London Corporation.
They represent many corporations, companies and financial institutions that are linked to tax evasion, ecological destruction, financial injustice and human rights abuses.[iv]
The four activists also spoke about how St Pauls supported the City of London through its board of trustees and also the testimony of Nicholas Cottam. During the trial, he was a registrar, although has recently been promoted to director status. He swore on the bible and testified against the camp, making many claims that seemed misleading or out of touch with reality.
The dilemma for the church seems to be massive. On the one hand it puts forward a message of compassion and love. In the even song before the direct action, the sermon’s first lesson made a direct reference to the power of people in overcoming tyranny. This came from the thirteenth verse of the fifth Chapter of the Book of Joshua. I also heard a preacher, at the Eucharist, explain that: “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” However, despite all these words and the good work the Church does do: it should end its connections with global finance. In following Jesus’ example, it should throw the money lenders out of it temple.
The following statement was “mic checked” by the four activists and by members of the congregation:
We do not wish to distress you, only to appeal to you.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We stand here as Occupiers, as women, Queers, disabled, grandmas, young, old, as women of all faiths and none in solidarity with all other groups who are marginalised by economic injustice.
Even when times are good, women, along with our children, are usually those who suffer the most. In times of economic crisis our inequality is amplified but we refuse to be victims.
We will not be silent.
One year ago tomorrow, Occupy arrived on your doorstep and pitched our tents in the tradition of St Paul.
We offered you an opportunity to live out our shared truth: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
In the fight for economic justice Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, but you invited them in
And instead evicted us.
Your collusion with the City of London Corporation led to our violent eviction on your doorstep.
You testified against us which acted to uphold injustice and inequality that is growing by the day.
St Paul’s Cathedral you must stand up and be counted at this great trial of history.
But you have denied us twice already.
Once when you closed your doors on us and watched on as praying Christians were dragged from the steps of St Paul’s and twice when you failed to act when we were gone.
Today we offer you a third chance. The resurrected Jesus spoke first to a woman.
He said, go to my brothers and tell them the truth. We come to you and we say, The truth is an urgent call for radical action in the Way of Christ.
There is no time left to procrastinate.
This is what democracy looks like.
Come and join us.