British Christian groups back 'Occupy London' movement

By staff writers
27 Oct 2011

Several Christian organisations have signed a statement declaring their support for the 'Occupy London' protests. They include the Student Christian Movement, the thinktank Ekklesia and the magazine Third Way. Other groups and churches are expected to add their backing shortly.

The level of support for the "Statement of Christian Solidarity" is a challenge to suggestions that churchgoers are turning against the protest due to the controversy involving St Paul's Cathedral.

The cathedral's Canon Chancellor, Giles Fraser, announced his resignation yesterday (27 October) over cathedral plans to take legal action and possibly evict protesters by force.

Fraser says that he shares some of the protesters' concerns but that he is not against capitalism in itself. The signatories to the statement go further, declaring that the global economic system is contrary to the love and justice of God. They cite the example of Jesus' protest in the Jerusalem Temple as an inspiration for nonviolent direct action.

Signatories include Britain's oldest national student organisation, the Student Christian Movement, along with one of the country's oldest Christian charities, the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The are joined by the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia and the Christian current affairs magazine Third Way.

The statement has also been signed by Speak, a network of young, mostly evangelical Christians. Other signatories are London Catholic Worker, Christianity Uncut and the Society of Sacramental Socialists.

The Bishop of London has taken a different view, joining the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in asking protesters to leave the area near the cathedral. They set up camp there on 15 October after they were prevented from moving closer to the London Stock Exchange.

The statement of solidarity begins, "As Christians, we stand alongside people of all religions and none who are resisting economic injustice with active nonviolence".

It declares that the gospel is a challenge to an economic system that "divides people one from another and separates humanity from creation". It suggests that the system creates "wealth for the few at the expense of the many" and "fuels violence and environmental destruction".

The signatories criticise "idolatrous subservience to markets" and insist "we cannot worship God and money". They speak of Jesus' challenge to economic exploitation and quote his assertion that he had come to "set free the oppressed".

In the wake of claims that the camp is threatening health and safety, the statement applauds the protesters for seeking to co-operate with cathedral staff and to address safety concerns. The organisations backing the statement say that they want to see the difficulties with the cathedral quickly resolved so that the focus can be on the City of London and the injustices of the financial system.

Several Christian groups supportive of the protests are holding alternative acts of worship on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. Saturday will see a multifaith "sermon on the steps".

The full text of the Statement of Christian Solidarity can be read at http://occupylsx.org/?p=388.

[Ekk/1]

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