Would a CofC Bishop Get Arrested for Occupy Wall Street?

I was at Duarte Square, Lower Manhattan, this afternoon as retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, and several other clergy were arrested supporting Occupy Wall Street’s attempt to start a new occupation on land owned by Trinity Church Wall Street. For a video of him talking with protestors in the back of an NYPD paddywagon, click here.

“I am still baffled that the Episcopal Church of which I have been a member all my life could not–through Trinity–find some way to embrace these thousands of young people in our very diminishing ranks,” said Bishop Packard, the former bishop for the armed services, on his blog, Occupied Bishop.

Packard is not the only high-ranking Episcopal leader who has supported the movement. In an open letter to Occupy Wall Street, anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and former Deacon at Trinity Church, said:

“Injustice, unfairness, and the strangle hold of greed which has beset humanity in our times must be answered with a resounding, ‘No!’ You are that answer. I write this to you not many miles away from the houses of the poor in my country. It pains me despite all the progress we have made. You see, the heartbeat of what you are asking for–that those who have too much must wake up to the cries of their brothers and sisters who have so little–beats in me and all South Africans who believe in justice.”

To watch a video of interfaith leaders addressing the Occupiers at Duarte Square today, click here.

Do you think Community of Christ clergy should join the Occupy Movement? How should the church more generally interact with the Occupy Movement?

[Updated 19 December 2011]

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Do we need an Occupy C of C Movement? A Response

[This thoughtful post was written by Jim Craft, in response to the earlier post by Matthew Bolton: “How Should the Church Interact with the Occupy Movement?” — Ed.]

During the last few months, we have been bombarded with images of fellow citizens camped out in public parks around the nation. Most of the attention has focused on a group in Manhattan which is called “Occupy Wall Street”. This group has taken their grievances to the people they feel are responsible for whatever ills society is suffering from today, Wall Street.

What I have noticed is that the message isn’t entirely clear. When the protests first started, I was listening to a broadcast from Dave Ramsey while driving back to my office from a rural courthouse. Mr. Ramsey was having audience members who identified with the Occupy movement call in and explain what and why they were protesting or considering themselves members of this group. There was absolutely no clear consensus among ANY of the callers why they were protesting, other than they were just “mad” about the way things were going for them. Almost none of them could explain the economic injustices they were protesting, or even what they were experiencing.

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How Should the Church Interact with the Occupy Movement?

…it is incumbent upon the Saints … to be in the world but not of it, … using the things of this world in the manner designed of God, that the places where they occupy may shine as Zion, the redeemed of the Lord. Condensed from Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants 128:8b, 8c.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers den.” Matthew 21:12-16.

“It’s time to invite the Occupy Movement to church!” says Jim Wallis of Sojourners, who this week called for the creation of a “church sanctuary for the Occupy Movement.

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The Globalization of Zion

‘Zion’ has been a central theological concept and practical imperative of the Community of Christ, since its very beginnings.  Particularly in the first half of the 20th century, Zion (not to be confused with Zionism) represented a vision of ‘the kingdom of heaven on earth’ – not to be realized in some far off future, but to be built in the here and now. But the political and economic forces of globalization have significantly impacted the way the Community of Christ now thinks of Zion. Continue reading

CofConomics 2: Exit, Voice and Loyalty

When we are dissatisfied with an organization, said economist Albert O. Hirschman, we have three basic options:

1. Exit: We can leave it, either physically, or by mentally and emotionally disengaging,

2. Voice: We can voice our discontent through protest or dialogue, or

3. Loyalty: We may stick with what we have. This might be because our freedom of exit and/or voice is limited (e.g. in an authoritarian state). However, we may stick with it  because we feel that the world would be a worse place without the organization, even if it is broken, and that weakening it would be worse that the current situation.

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CofConomics: Congregation Size and the Theory of the Firm

Scholarly study of the Community of Christ has tended to focus on its history and theology. These are clearly important, but there gaps in Community of Christ studies that could be productively filled with reference to insight from the social sciences, like economics, political science, sociology, anthropology and social psychology. In this post, I want to highlight this potentially fruitful avenue of research by applying microeconomic theory to explore why Community of Christ congregations tend to be quite small (in the 30-50 people range).

Before I begin, I must start with a caveat. I am not actually an economist; I am a political scientist.  I dabbled around the very edges of economics in my Master’s and PhD degrees, and went to a graduate school obsessed with economics. So, if there are any real economists out there reading this — feel free to comment below.

I will start with a problematic: Why is that most CofC congregations in North America and Europe rarely average more than 30 to 50 active members? My hypothesis is that they rarely expand beyond this size because of their predominantly lay leadership and middle-class members. As a result, congregations do not have have the money or human resources to attract or to minister to many more people. Pastors have other jobs, so have little extra time for counseling, home visits, outreach, etc. Moreover, a lack of seminary training reduces pastors ‘productivity’ as spiritual leaders.

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