Church Weighs Offering 'Office Space' to Occupy Seattle

As Occupy chapters throughout the country are facing evictions from their tent communities on public property, one West Coast church is thinking about lending space.

Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral of Seattle, Wash., is considering offering their parking lot as “office space” for Occupy Seattle as its eviction date draws near.

The Right Rev. Gregory Rickel, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, sent an email out to church members asking about lending the space to the Occupy protesters.

In the email, Rickel said that he was not supportive of having the parking lot become another tent community like public parks across the nation have become, but rather wanted the space to be used more in an office capacity.

“[T]he movement needs to find ‘uncontested ground’ in which to move beyond simple survival and begin the work of solidifying their mission and vision,” wrote Rickel.

How churches should react to the Occupy movement has been a source of controversy, especially for those connected to mainline Protestant denominations.

Various tent communities in major American cities have included tents reserved for prayer and meditation, oftentimes organized by mainline Protestant clergy or laity.

When Occupy Oakland was raided by police, about a dozen of the people arrested were faith leaders.

Israel Jurich, a teaching parish student at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Walnut Creek, Calif., was one of those arrested.

“Christians, whether in agreement or opposition to the movement's aims can still work to provide spiritual, emotional, and even material care to those people involved,” said Jurich.

“Christians have a wide-ranging consensus going back to Jesus that the poor are blessed,” said Donna Schaper, senior minister for Judson Memorial Church in New York City.

As with St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, Judson Memorial is also looking to help Occupy Wall Street protesters dislodged due to their tent community in Zuccotti Park being broken up.

However others, such as Mark Tooley of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, view the Occupy movement as being fundamentally un-Christian.

“Thoughtful Christians should be wary of OWS' utopianism, call to class warfare, conspiratorial view of the world, entitlement mentality and, at least on its fringes, some anti-Semitism,” Tooley said in an earlier interview.

“Should churches promote a specific political agenda, especially one focused on resentment and covetousness? Most Christians would say no.”

It remains to be seen if St. Mark’s Cathedral will help Occupy Seattle maintain its presence in the city, as their eviction from Seattle Central Community College is set for this weekend.

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