New York bishop, presiding bishop issue statements on OWS

[Episcopal Diocese of New York]

From the Rt. Rev Mark S. Sisk, bishop of New York

December 16, 2011

As many of you know, Trinity Wall Street is being challenged to provide a small parcel of parish-owned land, Duarte Square, to the Occupy Wall Street movement for encampment or other undefined use.

Trinity has clearly shown its support for the wider goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and has aided protesters directly through pastoral care and extensive use of parish facilities. They have said “yes” to requests for meeting space, bathroom facilities, private conference rooms, housing referrals, and pastoral care, and continue to look for ways to provide direct support to those who identify with the movement in Lower Manhattan. Providing private land without facilities for indeterminate usage, however, poses significant health and safety concerns, and is beyond the scope of Trinity’s mission. To this, the parish has reasonably said, “no.”

In and of itself, a request for use of a parish space by an outside group would not necessitate a bishop’s involvement. But alarmingly, some clergy and protesters have attempted to “take” or “liberate” the space without Trinity’s consent, and have clearly indicated their intent to engage in other attempts to do so in the coming days.

While many tactics of the Occupy movement have proven effective and creative, I feel it necessary now to reiterate our Church-wide commitment to non-violence. The movement should not be used to justify breaking the law, nor is it necessary to break into property for the movement to continue.

Together, let us pray for peaceful articulation, in word and deed, of the issues of justice and fairness that have brought the Occupy movement into the national conversation.


The Rt. Rev Mark S. Sisk,
Bishop of New York


From the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate

December 16, 2011

Trinity Church, Wall Street, has provided extensive practical and pastoral support to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Trinity congregation has decided that the property known as Duarte Park is not appropriate for use by the Occupy movement, and that property remains closed. Other facilities of Trinity continue to be open to support the Occupy movement, for which I give great thanks. It is regrettable that Occupy members feel it necessary to provoke potential legal and police action by attempting to trespass on other parish property. Seekers after justice have more often achieved success through non-violent action, rather than acts of force or arms.  I would urge all concerned to stand down and seek justice in ways that do not further alienate potential allies.


The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori,
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church


  1. Tim Schreier says:

    I believe a man who has a bit of a proven track record on fighting for justice may disagree…

    I do not condone vandalizing by any stretch but I think it is odd that Trinity Wall Street seems to be listening to it’s very wealthy vestry while preaching the the lessons of Jesus. Words are one thing, actions are another, please consult Matthew.

    Tim Schreier
    New York, NY
    And neighbor of Duarte Square (empty chained in, gravel lot and subjectively speaking, “eyesore”).

  2. Gary L Lake Dillensnyder, OSL+ says:

    I am so thankful for the ways that Trinity Church has and continues to support and assist in the Occupy Movement. I also agree that the decision above is made in good stewardship and reasonable. I hope the Occupy Movement will make manifest its non-violent and justice oriented protest by respecting the decision and not trespassing on ground not open to such. The integrity of non-violence and justice needs to be kept in this matter. Just peace, always, all ways, forever…G

  3. Trinity Wall Street is bringing a crisis of legitimacy to the entire Episcopal Church…

  4. Michael Russell says:

    Is this really the fight OWS should be provoking? Really? How does it advance the movement? Is it smart to diss and embarrass someone who has been an ally? Fight the financial predators and bring your allies and undecideds along. That is your strength, this is a feckless sideshow.

  5. Derek A Collins says:

    Oh come on New York! Hiding behind health and safety is pretty shoddy! How healthy and safe was Central Park? How healthy and safe is St Paul’s Cathedral Steps? How healthy and safe was it to put a baby in a feeding trough in a stable?

    The Occupy movement is bigger than health and safety. It’s bigger than our churches. It’s bigger than rules and regulations. It’s a worldwide moment of the Holy Spirit, of God breaking into the world the way She always has. We are very grateful for all the help that Trinity and the New York Diocese has already given Occupy, But these communications seem rather mealy-mouthed and ungracious…

    Derek A Collins,

  6. Steve Macon-GA says:

    There may be a few in the OWS who respect property, but there are a great many tag-alongs who do not, and the few who do respect property have not the skill to control those who do not. Trinity has had to make this stand based on these problems. If Trinity property is left in a mess, it will be Trinity who will have to absorb the fees to clean it up and dispose of the refuse. This is not good management of the Lord’s money and they know it. So fault the OWS and not Trinity.

  7. Tim Schreier says:

    Mr Macon,
    Today (Saturday 12/17/2011) I wistnessed a number of protesters being shoved and penned into the fence at Duarte Square by the NYPD, some had grown frustrated. A minority took it upon themselves to try to tear the fence down. They started to shake it. They were penned in, mind you. They were shaking it and clearly they could have taken it down. I spoke up. I asked them to stop. It took all of one to two sentences to get them to stop. They did immediately. This was a group of about forty people actively shaking the fence. This was a group who listened to reason. At first they were caught up in the moment. Some scared. Some penned in by the police. When spoken to, as adults, they thought and they stopped. So please do not make broad generalizations without any facts to back them up. Reason prevailed today.
    Tim Schreier
    Soho, New York, NY

  8. Craig Stephans says:

    “support for the wider goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement” And what exactly are these goals? Do they have anything to do with the kingdom of God and leading people to repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ? Because that is what a church ought to be about.

    • Suzanne Smith says:

      You are right and if our churches actually lived out Jesus’ radical messages – –then we would have people pouring into our churches instead of talking about our hypocrisies. The best way to bring people to God? Act like Christians – then unbelievers will always respond!! [Craig — See Act 4:32-35.]

    • Craig I agree with you. Why doesn’t the church do the work of church and get out of governments business?

  9. Suzanne Smith says:

    It is easy to offer a meeting room or a bathroom or a conference room! How civilized is our charity! But Jesus asks us to do things that take us way, way outside our comfort zones. Like giving people we’ve never met the use of a barn when the inns are full …. I guess they could have offered Mary and Joseph a place to go to the bathroom or a conference room. Sounds like Bishop Sisk has forgotten the message. Concerns over hygiene – that is ridiculous! Who wants a strange woman giving birth in their barn? What about the hygiene there?!

    Since when is trespassing a violent act? According to Bishop Sisk’s thinking – African-Americans were violent when they “trespassed” into whites-only places during the Civil Rights Movement! Should they have waited for an invitation Bishop Sisk?

    Bishop Sisk needs to stop courting wealthy donors and worrying about the Trinity Church vestry and spend some time in soup kitchens. He should be joined by our presiding bishop. Three cheers for the Packards – true Christians and heroes of the faith!

  10. Gianluigi Gugliermetto says:

    It seems quite obvious to me that “breaking the law” has been part of strategies of nonviolent resistance throughout the world at least since Ghandi (and perhaps since ever). This is not to say that OWS is right or wrong in choosing a course of action, but to express my feeling of disconcert while reading the statements by the PB, Sisk and even Tutu. Again, OWS might have been wrong in breaking the law in this particular instance, but to make a general statement about not breaking the law, not ever, sounds very strange to me. Sounds very much like the early Apologists trying to convince the Emperor that Christians are totally law-abiding people. Yes, in most cases yes, but I am very worried if this means “always”.
    I find wise in the PB’s message, however, the implied suggestion that OWS is wrongly redirecting its anger; maybe “rich” Episcopalians are not the best of allies, or not the allies one would want, yet real change is not about total agreement and unanimity, nor one should forget that one of the main strategy of the “demonic powers” is that of making a movement for change deflect from its real target.

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