A network of Christians who co-organised an act of witness at St Paul's Cathedral in London yesterday (14 October 2012) have expressed their dismay with a misleading statement from the cathedral authorities, along with untrue accusations made on the internet and in parts of the media.
The Cathedral's Dean expressed disappointment that Christianity Uncut had not engaged "constructively” rather than protesting.
However, members of Christianity Uncut point out that they had actively sought a constructive meeting with the cathedral's clergy in March 2012. This was after they had been dragged by police from cathedral steps as they prayed during the eviction of the Occupy camp. The cathedral authorities refused to meet with them.
There were also suggestions that those involved had "stormed" into the cathedral, that they had interrupted a wreath-laying and that they had stopped people praying.
These claims are all contradicted by the evidence. Christianity Uncut co-organised yesterday's actions with Occupy London, on what they describe as "a nonviolent and dignified act of witness".
Four women, dressed in white, peacefully chained themselves to the cathedral pulpit and calmly read out a statement encouraging church authorities to follow Jesus' example of siding with the poor. Meanwhile, others held a banner on the cathedral steps depicting Jesus' protest in the Jerusalem Temple, with the caption “Throw the moneychangers out of the Temple”. Several worshippers and tourists spontaneously expressed their support.
Many of those involved in both acts were Christians. The four women by the pulpit included two Anglicans and a Quaker.
Siobhan Grimes, an Anglican who was one of the four women by the pulpit, said: “At least five Christians, including me, were dragged away from St Paul's while we were kneeling in prayer on the steps during the eviction of Occupy in February. We wrote a polite letter to the cathedral authorities requesting to meet in a spirit of respect to discuss the incident. The Canon Pastor replied, refusing to meet us. We have long been wanting a constructive meeting. It's only now that we have taken this action that we have been offered one.”
Symon Hill, who was among those displaying the banner outside, and who was also removed from the steps during the eviction in February, added: "We did not take this action lightly. Christianity Uncut is committed to active nonviolence, love for opponents and a rejection of verbal abuse. We do not believe any of our actions undermined those commitments. We have received many supportive messages from both Christians and non-Christians. We have also received a few critical messages, but some of these seem to be based on inaccurate reports of the event."
He continued: “The cathedral have pointed out that this action followed a service in which an occupier had been invited to read a prayer. Sadly, the tokenistic nature of this service shows just how far St Paul's Cathedral has to go to live up to its own rhetoric about economic justice. They can still take the opportunity to speak out clearly against the government's cuts agenda and the sins of usury.”
Christianity Uncut is an informal network of Christians campaigning against the government's cuts agenda and the injustices of neoliberal capitalism.
They declare: "We are inspired by the example of Jesus, who took nonviolent direct action in the Jerusalem Temple, in solidarity with people who are poor, exploited and marginalised."
* More on Christianity Uncut: http://christianityuncut.wordpress.com