Should the church support #occupylsx?

Protestors on the steps of St Paul'sMC

As the protest near London's Stock Exchange enters its third day, the call for the church to back the action has been raised by a leading campaigner for tax justice. Protestors are camped in St Paul's churchyard after being prevented from entering Paternoster Square on Saturday. On Sunday, St Paul's canon the Reverend Giles Fraser said he was happy for peaceful protest to continue. But, says Richard Murphy, the church should do more.
Writing on his Tax Research UK blog Murphy, who is himself an Anglican and regular attender of Quaker services, says he thinks Fraser should have "opened the cathedral to those protesting last night to provide them with shelter and facilities, a place to eat and a secure place away from the risk of harassment in which they could stage their protest and explain it to the world.

"That's what places of sanctuary do. But the Cathedral locked its doors." Murphy says that Fraser did not indicate whether he supported the protestors and says: "I say he should have done: I say it was his duty to be out there with the protestors. I say it was and is his duty to welcome then into his church."

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Jesus's mission

Murphy refers to Luke Chapter 4.18 in which Jesus explains his mission is "to bring good news to the poor". He says that if this is the purpose of the church, "and if the faith of those attending those churches is to means anything then it has to welcome those campaigning on its steps into its churches."

It's a bit of a departure for Murphy who, as he says himself, usually prefers to "make little" of his faith on his site. He seems to be aware that bringing religion into this discussion could be seen as controversial, and also that quoting scripture can put people of varying persuasions off.

Church of England

But, he says, "You cannot be a Christian and not take a position... Faith that cannot speak its name; faith that does not deliver on the promise to the poor and faith that cowers from speaking the truth is faith not worth having... If the Church of England fails on this now it deserves to be treated as irrelevant."

His words stir memories of the late Rt Rev David Shepherd, who famously irritated then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s when he argued the church should have "a bias to the poor" as part of the Church of England's 'Faith in the City' report.

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