Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Kingdom Calling

There's a new movement afoot among evangelical Christians. Anti-gay? Not really. Pro-war? Certainly not. Brimstone and hellfire? Seem to have moved beyond that...

From Revolution in Jesusland:

Right after the 2004 elections, a cynical map made the rounds of progressives’ inboxes everywhere, separating “Jesusland” from the “United States of Canada.” Several other self-righteous riffs followed.

The image was a hit because it expressed a sinking feeling in the hearts of many progressives that America had been taken over by an incomprehensible cult of ignorance, intolerance and hate—a cult they knew as “evangelical” or “born again” Christianity.

Most secular progressives are comfortable with mainline liberal Christianity. But when it comes to evangelicals, many can only think of anti-gay ballot initiatives, clinic bombers, street preachers with megaphones and corrupt televangelists. And they tend to be confused and disturbed by a movement that reads the Bible “literally” as the “inerrant word of God.”

This blog is a plea to the progressive movement, to take another look and get to know the diverse and complex world of evangelical Christianity in its own terms. Here you’ll find interviews, commentary, analysis and other dispatches from all over “Jesusland.” This tour will explore everything from the workings of the local church, to the evangelicals’ vibrant, decentralized national leadership training infrastructure to theological questions such as, “How in the world DO they read the Bible literally?” and “Do they really think I’m going to hell?”

There are two really big reasons to come along on this tour:

First, progressives will never achieve their goals as long as they are hostile toward and ignorant about the faith of 100 million of their own people who are born again Christians.

Second (and we know how difficult this is to believe) there is an incredibly large and beautiful social movement exploding among evangelicals right now that stands for nearly all of the same causes and goals that secular progressives do. Those goals include: eliminating poverty, saving the environment, promoting justice and equality along racial, gender and class lines and for immigrants—and even separation of church and state.

This brilliant new movement is multi-faceted, including the New Monastics, co-operative enthusiasts, Christian anarchists, and Creation-care evangelicals (environmentalists).

If you are feeling depressed about the state of politics today, spend a little time researching this movement... it can offer a bummed-out progressive a great deal of hope.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

DIY Advocacy

Why call a [crazed-burnt out-overworked-underpaid- overcaffeinated-underslept] social worker when you can *do it yourself* ?

For the last several years, first at Bread & Roses and then at Family Support, I've worked here and there on developing an effective, easy to follow manual for homeless advocacy. This manual has reached the point that it is worth making available to the public... so I've posted it online!

Check it out and download it for yourself at: homelessadvocacy.wikispaces.com

Friday, August 31, 2007


I haven't posted in a long time. Heck, I haven't written anything at all in a long time. It's been several months now since I left Bread & Roses.

The new job is going well. I'm a half-time homeless outreach worker now, and I enjoy having work to do that I am familiar with and good at. The administration and the other staff at FSC rock.

The new home is way too quiet. We each - Meta, Selena, and myself - strain against the stillness a bit. An old friend from Bread & Roses is homeless again, and Selena mentioned to me that she was sorely tempted to bring him home.

Sometimes, when I get home from work, having given out several sleeping bags and tarps to families with little children, I look around at the scattered books, the fruit bowl on the dining table, my boots in the corner, and the couch in my living room and wonder to myself, "What in the heavens am I doing here?" I can't shake the feeling that this house has no purpose or redeeming value.

Dorothy Day once took six months away from the Catholic Worker, to make up her mind about her vocation. She did, of course, come back to her home in the Worker. But I wonder, in that six months, if she felt anything like this? Stranded away from home, without a sense of purpose, without a center? Did she feel tired and aimless in the evenings? Did she miss some particular guest whose antics put a little grin on her lips near the end of a chaotic and turbulent day? Did she miss the chaos?

I've taken to reading a lot in our year away. I read the whole Harry Potter series in about a week, along with my normal fare of philosophers and theologians. I've also been reading quite a number of beginner's gardening books. We hope to grow a great deal of our own food at the new house when we move again next May.

Our cats do seem to like it here. We live on the edge of a great big wilderness park, a watershed that breeds multitudes of spiders and moths the size of small birds. The older cat, Benny, is always bringing us "gifts" that he caught out in the woods.

In spite of the quiet order at home, I've managed to keep pretty busy. My church is hosting the local tent city right now, and I've been involved there a bit. Meta's mayoral campaign is going gangbusters, and we're frequently off to house-party fund raisers, progressive interest's picnics, and such. I've been putting in extra hours at work for our end of year report for the funders, and also working on my mother's house occasionally.

I will try to keep up with the blog. I'm reading the Brothers Karamozov right now, and recently finished a couple books from the French Personalists, and I think I've got a few things to say about the reading. I'll catch up next time...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blog Review

(Note: I recognize that it is ridiculous to offer a blog review on this unnoticed site. Kinda like pasting up large posters advertising fancy cars in a back alley of an unknown town. But I've just run across a fantastic blog that I've absolutely got to plug. If anyone out there is reading this, please visit Betwixt and Between.)

It is a common complaint of mine that the ideas of academically minded people are both inaccessible and out of touch with reality. It often seems that these men (for some reason they are invariably men) wish to propose absurd abstractions in defense of indefensible ideas, and cover over inadequacy with a lot of very big words.

In college, I nearly gave up studying philosophy and political economy for this very reason. I watched helplessly as fellow students blathered cheap Marxian ideology, prettied up with intelligent sounding words like "teleological" -words which they no doubt couldn't define- as an excuse for not engaging in basic attempts to improve the world around them.

Likewise, it is hurtful and entirely too common to see high minded men (again, the tendency seems to follow gender lines) using complex theological words as a means to exclude and dominate others. Complex sophistry is deployed for the sake of condemning gays, people who use contraception, women called to ordained ministry, and priests who offer open Communion.

If you read some of the arguments floating around in the blogosphere, and find that you come away feeling very confused, take heart: Your confusion is not the result of your inadequacy, but rather the inadequacy of the author. I like to call the experience "getting vocabularied".

It is for this reason that I was surprised and delighted to find Christopher's blog, Betwixt and Between. Not that Christopher's writing is simple; it is just the opposite. In many posts, the language he deploys is full of tightly packed theological words that can be a little inaccessible or difficult to follow for the common lay person. But they are not without practical meaning. Christopher has a strong ability to relate complex theology to lived reality, to make ideas relevant to everyday experience. He seems to understand that sound doctrine shapes real practices, and also that real human experience must contribute to the development of doctrine. He effectively avoids theological legalism while maintaining the value and intention behind sound doctrine (see especially his post CWOB: Communion Without Baptism). He is remarkably progressive, yet avoids the serious pitfalls of progressive faith. Lay people may struggle just a little with Christopher's writing in some posts, but the struggle is well worth the effort.

And if some of Christopher's posts are intensively intellectual, though relevant, others are profoundly tender, intimate, and deeply personal. Christopher can shift quickly from a story line to driving home a world of emotions and thoughts in a single sentence, "Our nation eats 'em up and spits 'em out."

Christopher takes on the most heated, contentious issues in the Anglican Communion, issues that affect him personally as a partnered gay man, with astounding generosity and compassion. He writes, "And I think he is correct in that we tend to fumble change. We Episcopalians tend not to think about providing pastoral care for those struggling with changes we’re making and provide spaces. We ram through something without the thought of care that relationships would suggest so that all can find a place in our comprehensiveness... we don’t think about ways to maintain relationships across differences, about nurturing conversation, finding ways to pray together in brokenness."

He also seems to have, in an Anglican world where discussion on issues of sexuality have become increasingly bitter and vicious, clearly defined and powerful Christian priorities and values: If a same-sex partnered Episcopalian and a Continuing Anglican with apprehensions about such partnership can share a glass of Maker’s Mark over theological discussion and prayer, there’s hope for us all. If he's not a REAL Anglican, than neither am I. We'll sit down together while everyone else is standing up to justify their bona fides; we'll enjoy a glass together while everyone else decides whose REAL and whose an impostor, fake, counterfeit, Marxist, etc.; and we'll love one another in our shabbiness and wounds." (From this post.)

I find great hope in Christopher's writing. We live in a deeply polarized world, a world increasingly prone to ad-hominem attacks, dishonest logic, contentiousness, and bitterness. A world in which the human person is increasingly lost amidst the conflict of impersonal ideas. A world that hates the enemy and crucifies the vulnerable in the name of doctrine, or policy, or ideology. Yet in this world, there are brilliant moments and brilliant people. People like Christopher.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Response to "What is Anglicanism?"

There is a little buzz on the Anglican web about Archbishop Orombi's recent article, "What is Anglicanism?" Please read the entire article here.

(The following was cross posted as a comment at The Episcopal Cafe.)

This is an undeniably beautiful piece from the Archbishop of Uganda. His story of the growth of Christianity in Uganda is moving, the transformation of the people powerful. I think there is a great deal here to challenge us Western Anglicans to be more faithful.

However, I took note of a few particular thoughts in ++Orombi's letter. Orombi's understanding of homosexuality seems to be highlighted in this passage:

Less than a year later, on June 3, 1886, the king of Buganda ordered the killing of twenty-six of his court pages because they refused his homosexual advances and would not recant their belief in King Jesus. They cut and carried the reeds that were then wrapped around them and set on fire in an execution pit. As the flames engulfed them, these young martyrs sang songs of praise.

One is reminded here of the violent sins of Sodom & Gomorrah, of the use of rape as a tool of domination in war, and of the ugly excesses of ancient Rome. This view is entirely different, and evokes entirely different feelings, than the Western stereotypes of the "promiscuous gay". Seen through this lens, homosexuality represents Empire (colonialism?), men driven mad by worldly power, the anti-christ itself.

If this is one's understanding of homosexuality, it is not at all difficult to see how one would believe homosexuality to be absolutely at odds with Scripture.

I would argue that the issue at hand is NOT the authority of scripture (which I think we just might have some common ground on, no?), but rather the issue is the nature of homosexuality itself.

++Orombi clearly has had little exposure to the kind of gentle, committed relationships that so many gays engage in, has not had the opportunity to see them raise children, has not witnessed the persecution they experience as a result of the love they feel. I think we as a Communion could have had an entirely different kind of discussion if he had. Please pray for Archbishop Orombi, for the Ugandan Church, and for the Anglican Communion. May we all some day soon be reconciled.

In the mean time, I am awed at the Ugandan experience of God’s Word, and I continue to be proud to share a common faith with our Ugandan brothers and sisters.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Update on the Home Front

Life is dramatically different since we left Bread & Roses.

Selena, Meta, and I moved out and rented a little house together on the south end of Olympia. Our back porch borders on Watershed Park, a large tract of land set aside for wilderness. I bicycle to work and am spending the bulk of my time reading (currently Daniel Berrigan's commentary on Jeremiah) and listening to the animal sounds from the park. We're on a one year lease - and have agreed to take a break from hospitality for that year to feed our burned-out souls.

Selena is working part time for Partners in Prevention. I'm working part time as a homeless outreach worker with the Family Support Center, and am writing a book of reflections on hospitality and vocation in the Catholic Worker. And, as many of you have heard, Meta is running for Mayor of Olympia!

We promised each other that we wouldn't talk about our common vocation as a household or make any plans for the future of our household until November - enough time to give us a chance to breathe a little. Still, ideas bounce around a bit as we chat with each other, and Meta went so far as to mention her dream of a "politician's-permacultural-house-of-hospitality". I practically started drooling at the thought of hosting Olympia's politicos for dinner... side by side with members of the street community. But see, now I'm breaking our rule. I should get back to reading and let next year worry for itself. ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Leaving Bread & Roses

When I worked as a professional E.M.T., I attended a number of trainings on how to deal with something called a "mass casualty incident". A mass casualty incident is an incident which, by its definition, overwhelms the resources at hand.

If there is one thing I have learned in my time at Bread & Roses, it is that poverty is a daily mass casualty incident.

Meta and I are leaving Bread & Roses after serving for four years as full-time, live-in volunteers. Selena leaves with us after offering six years of service. We will be moved out by May 31st. Four years (or six!) is a long time to be a full time volunteer, and it is time for us to move on.

Meta will be focusing on her campaign for Mayor. I'm working on a book. We both will be looking for part-time jobs in social services to support ourselves. Selena moves on to do some very exciting work with Partners in Prevention. The three of us will be renting a pretty little house together on the south end of Olympia, and will be taking the next year to rest, recuperate, and reflect. And then we're going to try something new and exciting! (You're just gonna have to wait until then to find out the details, though... it'll be like a good birthday surprise:) We will continue to be active in the community as volunteers and activists.

As I leave Bread & Roses, there is one last thing I would like to say on behalf of the B&R community: Get involved. Get active. Volunteer. We all have the ability to make a difference in our community, and if we have the ability it is incumbent on us to use it. The homeless need you.

Additional comment:

Since most of you no doubt read the Olympian, I would like to offer some corrections to their horrendously innaccurate and destructive article published on the front page this morning.

First, we at Bread & Roses do not "live for free" AND make a "$600 stipend". We receive free room and board and a $200 stipend. After adding up our living expenses we figured our TOTAL income per person (including room and board) to be about the equivalent of $600 per month. So I promise you, no one is getting rich at Bread & Roses (though I'll tell you that if we did actually get a $600 stipend I would have gladly taken it and bought health insurance).

Secondly, no-one at the Guesthouse is "losing" their "housing". The Bread & Roses Women's Guesthouse is a transitional shelter with up to four women to a room. The average stay at the Guesthouse is about 3 months. We are doubling our efforts to help the women find housing, and we will see to it that they each have their own home within one month. Moving from a shelter bed in a shared room to having an actual home of one's own could hardly be called "losing housing".

The Olympian should be more careful with their words.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

In Gethsemane

His face, swollen and bruised, contorted as his cries echoed down the street.

“Will SOMEONE help me? What do I have to do to get someone to help me?! Do I have to beat my head against a wall to get someone to help me?”

WHAM! He slammed his face against the wall another time. Everyone jumped a little.

He had been homeless for twenty years, struggling the entire time with under-treated schizophrenia. He used to break windows when he got upset, but as he has grown older he has become more compassionate, more reluctant to harm others. Now he only hurts himself.

Everyone seems to earnestly want to help this young man; everyone wrings their hands when confronted with his struggle.

Yet his cries have a familiar ring… “Will you not watch with me this one hour?

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus went to a garden to pray. He begged his friends - Peter, James, and John - to come with him, to stay close by as he agonized over his fate. His anxiety was so intense that it was said he “sweated blood”. Christ’s companions were earnest in their love for him. Yet they fell asleep as he contemplated his doom. For, as the scriptures say, “their eyes were heavy.”

Even among all the disciples, Peter was the most sincere. “Though all become deserters, I will never desert you.” Indeed, he had given up his whole life, his career as a fisherman and his family, to follow Christ. Yet he also slept, because he did not fully comprehend the weight of the moment.

Neither do we. Today the homeless sit outside like Lazarus at the gate, waiting to be invited in. As they wait, they are afflicted with illnesses ranging from pneumonia to staff infections. They are called names and are spat upon by passing pedestrians. They are exposed to the weather, and as they attempt to shield themselves from the elements they are persecuted for illegal camping. They are turned away from overburdened services, and are told that they alone are responsible for their plight.

The government will not provide a solution. I heard as much at a recent Human Services Review Council meeting, which is made up of representatives of local governments. Fuel prices are going up, making it difficult for officials to maintain even the most basic infrastructure. And if local governments balk, the federal government does so even more. The Housing Authority recently received notice of deep budget cuts, and has had to significantly scale back its housing voucher program. The wait list for a voucher stretched out six years even before the cuts were announced.

Yet even if the government can do so little, hope is not lost for the homeless. There is another answer.

Are we not asked to “share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house”? (Isaiah 58:7) For every person experiencing homelessness in our community, there are two hundred unoccupied living room couches. If we want for shelter and housing we have our very own homes to offer. If we are frightened of being overwhelmed and want for support, we have seminaries and universities packed full of idealistic men and women who want nothing more than to make a difference.

Yet we sleep. And as we, the slumbering masses, wait for the government to act, Christ cries in Gethsemane.

Many of us want the Church to do more. Yet we forget what the Church is. We think of the church building, the clergy and staff, and we see ourselves as mere volunteers in the church programs. But we are the Church - the hands and feet, eyes, ears, and mouth of the universal living Church. And if we are the Church, then our homes are where the Church truly resides. Our only obstacle to serving Christ is the weight of our own eyes.

I went to the hospital last night with a young, pregnant homeless woman. She told me she had lived in scores of foster homes – starting at the age of five – prior to becoming homeless. When her baby is born, it will be one more among the six hundred fifty four children experiencing homelessness in our community. A few of these children live in shelters, many sleep in cars, many more live in the Capitol Forest. They are unseen; the details of their difficult lives are largely unknown to the rest of us. They are waiting for us to wake up.

Please listen now. Listen close. Lend your ear to that little voice welling up from inside you. It may be faint, but if you listen carefully you will hear it. It is saying, “Wake up, Peter. Wake up, because I am with you. Wake up, because I have chosen you. Wake up, because I will make you the rock upon which I will build a new world… a world founded on Love. Wake up.”

Wake up, because Christ is among us. He is waiting for you.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

House of Bishops on Primates' Meeting

These words brought a lump to my throat and a deep pride in the Church to my heart. -Phil

A Communication to The Episcopal Church from the March 2007 Meeting of the House of Bishops

We, the Bishops of The Episcopal Church, meeting at Camp Allen, Navasota, Texas, for our regular Spring Meeting, March 16-21, 2007, have received the Communiqué of February 19, 2007 from the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We have met together for prayer, reflection, conversation, and listening during these days and have had the Communiqué much on our minds and hearts, just as we know many in our Church and in other parts of the world have had us on their minds and hearts as we have taken counsel together. We are grateful for the prayers that have surrounded us.

We affirm once again the deep longing of our hearts for The Episcopal Church to continue as a part of the Anglican Communion. We have gone so far as to articulate our self-understanding and unceasing desire for relationships with other Anglicans by memorializing the principle in the Preamble of our Constitution. What is important to us is that The Episcopal Church is a constituent member of a family of Churches, all of whom share a common mother in the Church of England. That membership gives us the great privilege and unique opportunity of sharing in the family's work of alleviating human suffering in all parts of the world. For those of us who are members of The Episcopal Church, we are aware as never before that our Anglican Communion partners are vital to our very integrity as Christians and our wholeness. The witness of their faith, their generosity, their bravery, and their devotion teach us essential elements of gospel-based living that contribute to our conversion.

We would therefore meet any decision to exclude us from gatherings of all Anglican Churches with great sorrow, but our commitment to our membership in the Anglican Communion as a way to participate in the alleviation of suffering and restoration of God's creation would remain constant. We have no intention of choosing to withdraw from our commitments, our relationships, or our own recognition of our full communion with the See of Canterbury or any of the other constituent members of the Anglican Communion. Indeed, we will seek to live fully into, and deepen, our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Communion through companion relationships, the networks of Anglican women, the Anglican Indigenous Network, the Francophone Network, our support for the Anglican Diocese of Cuba, our existing covenant commitments with other provinces and dioceses, including Liberia, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, and the Philippines, our work as The Episcopal Church in many countries around the world, especially in the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Taiwan, and countless informal relationships for mission around the world.

Since our General Convention of 2003, we have responded in good faith to the requests we have received from our Anglican partners. We accepted the invitation of the Lambeth Commission to send individuals characteristic of the theological breadth of our Church to meet with it. We happily did so. Our Executive Council voluntarily acceded to the request of the Primates for our delegates not to attend the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham. We took our place as listeners rather than participants as an expression of our love and respect for the sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in the Communion even when we believed we had been misunderstood. We accepted the invitation of the Primates to explain ourselves in a presentation to the same meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. We did so with joy.

At the meeting of our House of Bishops at Camp Allen, Texas in March, 2004 we adopted a proposal called Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight as a means for meeting the pastoral needs of those within our Church who disagreed with actions of the General Convention. Our plan received a favorable response in the Windsor Report. It was not accepted by the Primates. At our meeting in March 2005, we adopted a Covenant Statement as an interim response to the Windsor Report in an attempt to assure the rest of the Communion that we were taking them seriously and, at some significant cost, refused to consecrate any additional bishops whatsoever as a way that we could be true to our own convictions without running the risk of consecrating some that would offend our brothers and sisters. Our response was not accepted by the Primates. Our General Convention in 2006 struggled mightily and at great cost to many, not the least of whom are our gay and lesbian members, to respond favorably to the requests made of us in the Windsor Report and the Primates' Dromantine Communiqué of 2005. We received a favorable response from the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates, which found that our effort had substantially met the concerns of the Windsor Report with the need to clarify our position on the blessing of same sex relationships. Still, our efforts were not accepted by the Primates in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué.

Other Anglican bishops, indeed including some Primates, have violated our provincial boundaries and caused great suffering and contributed immeasurably to our difficulties in solving our problems and in attempting to communicate for ourselves with our Anglican brothers and sisters. We have been repeatedly assured that boundary violations are inappropriate under the most ancient authorities and should cease. The Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998 did so. The Windsor Report did so. The Dromantine Communiqué did so. None of these assurances has been heeded. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué affirms the principle that boundary violations are impermissible, but then sets conditions for ending those violations, conditions that are simply impossible for us to meet without calling a special meeting of our General Convention.

It is incumbent upon us as disciples to do our best to follow Jesus in the increasing experience of the leading of the Holy Spirit. We fully understand that others in the Communion believe the same, but we do not believe that Jesus leads us to break our relationships. We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.

With great hope that we will continue to be welcome in the councils of the family of Churches we know as the Anglican Communion, we believe that to participate in the Primates' Pastoral scheme would be injurious to The Episcopal Church for many reasons.

First, it violates our church law in that it would call for a delegation of primatial authority not permissible under our Canons and a compromise of our autonomy as a Church not permissible under our Constitution.

Second, it fundamentally changes the character of the Windsor process and the covenant design process in which we thought all the Anglican Churches were participating together.

Third, it violates our founding principles as The Episcopal Church following our own liberation from colonialism and the beginning of a life independent of the Church of England.

Fourth, it is a very serious departure from our English Reformation heritage. It abandons the generous orthodoxy of our Prayer Book tradition. It sacrifices the emancipation of the laity for the exclusive leadership of high-ranking Bishops. And, for the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.

Most important of all it is spiritually unsound. The pastoral scheme encourages one of the worst tendencies of our Western culture, which is to break relationships when we find them difficult instead of doing the hard work necessary to repair them and be instruments of reconciliation. The real cultural phenomenon that threatens the spiritual life of our people, including marriage and family life, is the ease with which we choose to break our relationships and the vows that established them rather than seek the transformative power of the Gospel in them. We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division.

At the same time, we understand that the present situation requires intentional care for those within our Church who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the actions of our General Convention. We pledge ourselves to continue to work with them toward a workable arrangement. In truth, the number of those who seek to divide our Church is small, and our Church is marked by encouraging signs of life and hope. The fact that we have among ourselves, and indeed encourage, a diversity of opinion on issues of sexuality should in no way be misunderstood to mean that we are divided, except among a very few, in our love for The Episcopal Church, the integrity of its identity, and the continuance of its life and ministry.

In anticipation of the traditional renewal of ordination vows in Holy Week we solemnly declare that "we do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and we do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church." (Book of Common Prayer, page 513)

With this affirmation both of our identity as a Church and our affection and commitment to the Anglican Communion, we find new hope that we can turn our attention to the essence of Christ's own mission in the world, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (Luke 4:18-19). It is to that mission that we now determinedly turn.

Adopted March 20, 2007
The House of Bishops
The Episcopal Church
Spring Meeting 2007
Camp Allen Conference Center
Navasota, Texas

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Remembering Rachel Corrie

Initially published as "A Few Words from the Editor" in the Canaanite's Call, Vol 1 Issue 5. This issue was specially published for the anniversary of Rachel's death, and contains writing by both Rachel Corrie as well as Will Hewitt.

March 16, 2007

The prophetic voice never comes from an expected source.

I first met Rachel Corrie on Red Square, in front of the Community Activities Building at The Evergreen State College. She was handing out bold printed flyers decrying cuts to the Labor Center’s budget.

A red corduroy jacket hung from her slight frame, and a lock of blonde hair fell to the side of her face from under a wool cap, cocked slightly to the side.

Ugh… more political literature, I thought to myself. Evergreen is a hot-spot for student activism, and one can barely make it from class to lunch without being propagandized. Rachel took a couple minutes to educate me about the issue, and asked if I wanted to help. “Sure”, I said, “Put me on your email list.”

A few months later Rachel came to my home to meet with Will Hewitt and a couple other friends. They sat in the basement watching BBC videos on Palestine, studying Arabic, and making plans for a trip to the Gaza Strip.

I knew little about Palestine, but after watching a couple videos with them I began to realize the risk they were taking. I made them promise to stay safe, and when I started doubting I made them reiterate their promise. Rachel smiled gently at me and tried to comfort me with the information that hundreds of international activists had made the trip and that none had been killed.

Since Rachel’s death, she has been alternately accused of naivety and stupidity, as well as of being a malicious supporter of terrorists. Yet the reader will find in both Will Hewitt’s account of their work as well as in Rachel’s own writing, each found in this issue of the paper, that Rachel was someone much greater than her detractors wish to portray and even greater than her supporters can articulate.

On March 16th, 2003, while working to protect the home of a local pharmacist she had befriended, Rachel entered the ranks of martyrs for justice. To the Palestinians, she was a hero from a foreign land and a bringer of hope for a nation occupied, oppressed, and cut off from the world. For those in our society who can recognize the Divine yearning for justice here on Earth, Rachel was a prophet whose voice traveled to us from the wilderness of a violent world.

This issue of the Canaanite’s Call is dedicated to Rachel Corrie, the mental health worker, Evergreen student, union activist, prophet and martyr whose death and whose writing have made me cry far too many times. Rachel awoke in me the awareness of concrete suffering - real human suffering that is so much more pressing than an abstract political issue. And Rachel’s example lit the path to salvation for us all; redemption for the privileged comes by joining in solidarity with those who lack privilege… sometimes at a great cost.

This issue of the paper is also dedicated to Will, a good friend of seven years whose eccentric life, commitment to social justice, profound wisdom, deep compassion, and strange sense of humor have transformed my life. I owe my worldview and my life at Bread & Roses to Will.

May God bless and keep them both.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Path to the Promised Land: Tent City Seeks Justice

A young man squints against the camera flash. His long dark hair falls on shoulders hunched beneath an orange jail suit. He looks uneasy…. His uneasiness is not that of an embarrassing moment or an uncomfortable situation; it is the deep uncertainty that comes when the world falls out from under you. He flinches against the mug shot.

The next day his face appears on the front page of the local newspaper under the headline: “Rape suspect lived in Watershed. Man appears to have stayed in underground hole.” In the following days, the newspaper prints sensational photos of his underground “bunker”, photos of his belongings strewn about by the police, and short clips – taken out of context – from his private journal.

The article directly above his reads, “Olympia Council tells Tent City to disperse.”


A young woman pulls a trash bag, heavy with the weight of two days’ garbage, out of a can and ties the ends. She moves quickly, collecting heaping ashtrays and wiping surfaces in a single motion.

Kandace, 19 years old, is a resident of Camp Quixote, Olympia’s new tent city founded by the Poor People’s Union (PPU). Kandace joined the Union two weeks before Camp Quixote was founded.

“It’s about brainstorming solutions together for poor people to survive in today’s economically challenged world,” she says of the Union, “…about helping people who don’t have other options to have an option. Including myself.”


David Lukas Lynch, age 23, was accused of raping an 11 year old girl.

The rape occurred on February 5th. The attacker entered the girl’s home and raped her at knife point while her family slept.

Police found David the next day, huddled in a church parking lot. They asked him if he hurt anyone the night before, and he said, “Yes, I think so.” They arrested him and searched his camp, finding a hunting knife and a journal in which David mentioned his desire to quit “child hunting”.

The Olympian reported later that David was behaving “irrationally” and was so “out of control” that he had to be placed in four point restraints and put on suicide watch. The judge presiding over his case ordered a mental health evaluation to determine if he was capable of standing trial.


Kandace grew up in foster care and was left to survive on her own at 18, when she aged out of the program. After bouncing between shelters, camps, and friends’ couches, Kandace discovered the PPU and the plans for a new tent city, which she described as “a doorway to something new, a way to be productive.”

Camp Quixote was erected by the PPU on February 1st. The encampment served as a means for the homeless to establish their right to exist. Having already been squeezed out of the parks, the homeless were frustrated when the City passed an ordinance banning panhandling and sidewalk sitting last November. Camp Quixote was built the day the new ordinance went into effect.

Asked about her opinion of the ordinance, Kandace commented that “the safest place for [homeless women] to be is on the sidewalks where there is light and people around.”

The encampment was initially sited on a vacant City-owned lot at the corner of State and Columbia streets, in the heart of downtown Olympia. Its location made it highly visible. Cars driving by frequently honked their horns in a show of support for the camp residents. Local businesses donated food, and Evergreen students thronged to the site in a show of mass solidarity.

Camp residents checked in regularly with neighboring businesses to make sure they had no complaints. They set up security patrols, and organized volunteers to pick up trash in the neighborhood.

When an elderly, senile woman who had been thrown out of the Salvation Army showed up at the camp, residents took her under wing and made sure she had a good tent and food to eat.


David Lynch’s underground camp was impressive. About the size of a fifth-wheel trailer and built with plywood, it even sported a window, and was well hidden from public view.

Sensing a hot story, the Olympian published lavish photos of the camp, calling it an “underground lair” in one “breaking news” update on their website. Readers commented on the Olympian’s website:

“Put him back in the bunker and cover up the hole. Its a good place for someone who rapes an 11 year old.”

“This guy is transient because he is lazy. He is a predator because he is wired wrong.”

“I hope [he] gets repeatedly raped in prison until he has to wear diapers for the rest of his miserable life.”

“Put him in with the rest of the houseless in prison.”

When contacted for a sensational tidbit by the daily Olympian, David’s ex-girlfriend replied, “I want people to understand that he is a brilliant man and a complex thinker and a poet… [David] doesn't have a bad heart."


The City of Olympia was unimpressed with the accomplishments of Camp Quixote. Angry about City property being taken over by the homeless, City Manager Steve Hall told the Olympian that “It seems like a terrible way to start a conversation… it seems like a poke in the eye.”

Neither the City Manager nor the Olympian noted the fact that 120 people, mostly members of the PPU, showed up at a November public hearing to express their opposition to the proposed sidewalk ordinance.

After one week at the downtown location, Camp Quixote residents were served with eviction notices from the City.

On Thursday, February 8th, the Board of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, sensing the urgency of Camp Quixote’s situation, voted to offer the camp sanctuary on church grounds. Camp Quixote accepted the offer, and the Rev. Art Vaeni contacted the Olympia City Manager to inform him that the camp would be moving to church property the following day.

But the City of Olympia apparently wasn’t satisfied to see the camp move of its own accord. Several dozen armed police officers surrounded and barricaded Camp Quixote in the pre-dawn hours of Friday, February 9th. They threatened that, if the camp was not moved immediately, the residents would be arrested and their belongings seized.

Camp Quixote residents rushed about in the rain to gather their belongings and load them into vehicles supplied by local volunteers, including a truck belonging to T.J. Johnson. T.J. is the only City Council member who has spoken in favor of the encampment.

The tent city is alive and well today, standing on property belonging to the Unitarian Universalist church. The church has offered to let Camp Quixote stay for 90 days. It is likely that another church will step up and offer to host when this 90 day period expires.

But the City of Olympia remains opposed to the existence of the tent city, setting itself at odds with local faith communities, and the Unitarian church faces fines if it fails to comply with the expensive and complicated process of applying for a special use permit.


On the morning of February 21st, the following headline appeared in the Olympian: “DNA tests clear rape suspect.”

David Lynch is innocent. He did not commit the crime. Yet he was declared guilty in the court of public opinion. He was sentenced to several weeks locked in the Olympian stocks and pillory, with his life and home splayed out for the world to see and scorn.

Christ once said, “What you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” If David’s story has one lesson to share, it is that we as a society have failed to end the practice of crucifying our Lord.

The problem isn’t that the cops made a mistake, nor is it that the media was out of line. They made the same assumptions that any reasonable person would make. They found a young, disheveled, confused, mentally ill man who lived in a hole very near to the victim’s home. He possessed hunting knives. He mentioned “child hunting” in his journal. He was homeless. Almost anyone would have found him to be suspicious.

The problem that must be faced, however, is that there was no concrete evidence of David’s guilt. In fact, the little girl who was attacked described her attacker as brown skinned, with short dark hair, a pointed goatee and mustache, and wearing glasses. David is pale, with long shoulder length hair and a clean shaven face. He did not fit the victim’s description of the attacker. David was merely mentally ill and in the wrong neighborhood.

So the problem was not that anyone was out of line… The problem is that sometimes being reasonable can have dramatic and harmful consequences. It was normal, reasonable people whose assumptions led them to burn young women to death for the practice of “witchcraft”. It was normal, reasonable people who endorsed and participated in the Jim Crow system. It was normal, reasonable people who crucified Jesus. And today it is normal, reasonable people who believe that the mentally ill and the homeless are a danger to society.

The truth is that reasonable people are a far greater threat to the homeless than the homeless are to society. And because of this, the homeless are vulnerable when they camp alone. They are not safe from us.

This is why Olympia needs a tent city. So that the homeless can be safe. But there is also a greater need that can be met by Camp Quixoteour very desperate need to find the way to a better life.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor.” The homeless do not have many of the worldly comforts that the rest of us enjoy. But God’s Kingdom isn’t about worldly comforts. It is about what we do and who we are. The residents at Camp Quixote take care of one another. The same cannot be said of the rest of our society. All too often we are driven to complacency by our comforts… while our neighbors suffer. All too often we step over the needs of others as we strive to achieve the “American Dream”. All too often we allow our thirst for power and for security to send us into war.

Maybe if we start paying attention to the poor, if we start noticing the way they share their most basic resources like food and blankets, maybe we just might discover what it means to be “blessed”, or holy. And maybe we’ll think twice before we persecute the next David Lynch.

Living in God's House

Submitted by Andrew McLeod and published in Vol 1 No 4 of the Canaanite's Call

The Church of the Sojourners is more a community than it is anything that fits most people’s idea of a church. They are 35 people sharing four large houses in the Mission District of San Francisco. It is certainly a congregation, but the level of commitment to each other and to God is far beyond that found among any group of people who each go to church together on the Sundays when it is convenient.

The Sojourners don’t go to church. They live at church.

This is not to say that they don’t do the things that are ordinarily brought to mind with the word “church.” They do have a “gathered worship” service on Sunday evenings, crammed into their largest living room. But even here, they take the extraordinary step of incorporating a shared dinner into the service, and take time to affirm how they see the Holy Spirit moving in each others’ lives.

This is only one of many weekly rituals which occur on almost every day of the week. Other beats in their weekly rhythm include a Bible study and a three-hour “Sabbath silence” on Sunday mornings; Saturday is the only day without a regular event. Church members coordinate vacations, and expect each other to generally show up for meals. Each household functions as a family within their larger family, often starting and finishing each day in prayer together.

This monastic devotion might seem like an atmosphere that would attract puritan fanatics, but the Sojourners listen to U2 while washing dishes and sprinkle their sermons with phrases like “pain in the ass.” Their book collection includes Harry Potter and their dinner conversation includes casual reference to an expected visit from the Tooth Fairy (albeit one in which it was clear to all that this was not a real fairy, but perhaps a housemate dressed up in a tutu). These are clearly just a bunch of regular folks who all are really enthusiastic about Jesus Christ.

They seek to live according to the example in the book of Acts, which describes how the first Christians lived together. “There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land and houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.” (Acts 4:34-35)

The Sojourners are committed to each other, sharing resources with each other, and providing hospitality to others. While they are not a full-blown commune—each member has his or her own possessions and spending money—they do share cars, and any income earned above a certain level.

Within this group is an inner circle of “covenanted members,” who are those most committed to the community, and who collectively provide its leadership. The depths of this commitment seem to rival that of marriage, and their single members sometimes claim domestic partner status for each other under the liberal laws of San Francisco. Members are free to go, and are encouraged to have personal savings that could be used in the event of a departure. But most stick around. One member wanted to attend the seminary, and submitted this major life decision to the group’s consensus through a process that took months.

The church recently co-hosted a “School for Conversion” with the New Monasticism Project. This movement is a decentralized effort to live by the example of Jesus, and its identity is formed around a dozen “marks.” These are not rigid rules which all must obey—rather, they are some general principles that are generally agreed to be indicative of their collective efforts.

One of the high points of the weekend was the testimony of one of the church’s newer members, who had arrived by way of a long and torturous path. It was a familiar, almost routine story of coming to Christ, complete with years of addiction and failed relationships. However, it lacked a key ingredient of the stereotypical tale of salvation: There was no happily-ever-after moment in which he just gave in to God and got everything miraculously fixed. There was certainly no altar call.

What made the story so compelling to me was that it centered around the humble admission that he had repeatedly failed to turn his life around, and would have probably continued to fail had he not encountered a community of people who were willing to love him even when he betrayed their trust, who invited him to join them after he had lied and stolen. In all likelihood, his story is not over. The struggle still continues, as decades of habit cannot easily be set aside. But hopefully by finding community that shows him love in spite of his flaws, he can loosen the grips of those flaws.

Given the normal evangelical style of working up to a climactic sales-pitch built around a “salvation moment,” (and the loaded name of the event) one might expect that this weekend was geared toward that favorite Christian pastime of saving souls. However, both the preparatory materials and the event itself made clear that the conversion is an ongoing process for all involved. The atmosphere was one of general exploration, and openness to others’ states of faith.

This openness was reflected in the diversity among the Sojourners and the new monastic movement in general (as well as the school attendees): In addition to a large number of evangelicals and Mennonites, there were Catholics and Anglicans and mainline Protestants.
Here were people that supposedly can’t make it through a Sunday morning together, living together in intense round-the-clock fellowship, in a community that has lasted for more than two decades. Doctrinal disagreements do come up, but the focus is kept on the practices. Of course, this leaves certain questions unanswered—for example, who will do the dishes if part of the community gets raptured? But there are more pressing issues to address, like how can they best provide hospitality and love to neighbors in need.

The weekend underlined my uncertainty about what I believe, but also reaffirmed my sense that these people are onto something. If nothing else, Jesus had some really great ideas that—if carried out on a large scale—would make for a much more peaceful and pleasant world. I left with more questions than I had when I arrived, but I do know that the Church of the Sojourners and New Monasticism Project are doing essential work in the ongoing effort to reinvent the Church for the 21st Century.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Love, Love, Love (into Action, Action, Action)

Submitted by Rachel Winter of the Lane County Catholic Worker: Eugene, OR

Halfway through January, Jesse, Caitie and I rented a car and drove up to Olympia, Washington for “Christianity and Anarchism: Intersecting Perspectives”, convened by the Jesus Radicals and Olympia’s Bread & Roses Catholic Worker. Attendance numbered at fifty or so; we met with teachers, students, peace workers, farmers and people from several Catholic Worker communities.

We spent the day talking – talking homelessness and hospitality; hunger, sustainability and the food industry; immigrants’ and workers’ rights; grassroots organization; consumerism; the history of anarchism in the Christian tradition; the oppression of the Hebrews and Egyptians in the book of Exodus. The topics were broad, yet vital, focusing on the choices that everyday people have made to bring justice, health, and stability to others.

You might well ask what makes these Christian issues, or anarchist issues, and why it’s important for us to explore the ground that’s common to these two sets of commitments. What I observed during our conversations in Olympia was this: first, that Christians and anarchists alike believe in a new world coming, and try to hasten the emergence of that world by living according to its principles; second, that both schools use the grassroots model of transformation. The anarchist organizes from the ground up; Christian transformation happens from the inside out, from the heart that bursts into the world.

Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, envisioned “a world where it is easier for people to be good”; for a Christian, that world begins to arrive when the love of Jesus is awakened in everyday people. Jesus subverted the powers of his day; the social mores that isolated the weak, by keeping company with them; the ambitions of a rich young ruler, by calling him to abandon his wealth; the hypocrisy of the religious teachers, by harvesting grain to feed hungry people on the Sabbath day; the violent act of crucifixion, by submitting to it in love and humility. In the Gospel story we see this pattern: Jesus acts in love, and love disquiets the domination (both material and spiritual) imposed by the powers of the day.

As Catholic Workers we believe in building an alternative order, one which – in love and humility – subverts the aggression and human isolation of the standing powers, be they social mores that separate the rich from the poor; or the cultural acquisitiveness that keeps us shopping for security, identity, diversion; or professional boundaries that keep us from caring about each other; or a government that over-funds the military and under-funds schools and social services; or our fascination with rights and privileges and status that blinds us to ourselves and to each other. But the new order begins with us; each of us has the seed of transformation within us, and we all need to be more loving.

As a community volunteering a safe, stable, vibrant home for women and children in need, we all are living out the call of Jesus: to love each other, to let go of our wealth, to be humbled and healed and made more loving in the process.

Our time in Olympia helped me to see it; the kingdom of God is already here. We’ve given birth to it, in our labors together.

Broken Fences

Submitted by David Bellefuille-Rice and published in Vol 1 No 3 of the Canaanite's Call.

My wife, two young children, and I live in a poorer neighborhood of a small, prosperous city. Our often pleasant neighborhood shelters and interesting mix. Many neighbors, apparently stable economically and socially, live so quietly (too quietly) that we rarely see them. Others, recent immigrants or students or young workers, seem on the way to such stability. Still others, for whatever reason, must struggle to keep from sliding “lower”, into jail, mental institutions, or sleeping in their cars.

Perhaps feelings run hotter in neighborhoods like ours. Maybe the socializing forces grow weak here, too weak to keep occasional junk cars out of front yards or to completely hide abuse, drunkenness, and blaring music that stayed hidden in the wealthier neighborhood where I grew up. I know people are as good here as they were on my childhood street, but knowing this doesn’t calm me much when trouble hits. When neighbors spill their trash into my front yard and their obscenities into my open window, I hate it. Any love I bear for them then is strictly deliberate, done with teeth clenched.

Specifics: Our landlords/partners bought our lot, long vacant and overgrown, two years ago. It was a flood of grace. Together, we had moved to the lot our brave old house, given away by its owners to make way for a parking lot. Our immediate neighbor, an old woman still shaky from her husband’s death years before, received us kindly as we labored for months to make our new home habitable.

Living with our neighbor were the costars of this tale – her grandson John, John’s wife Mary, and their two small children. John and Mary based their firewood cutting business in the yard and slept in a small trailer parked on our mutual property line. They later started sleeping in a different, unheated trailer on their land outside town, but our neighbor’s house and yard remained their workyard and daytime home.

Long before our coming, John and Mary had spread woodcutting equipment and old car parts across what would become our lot. Our arrival forced them to move it all, but they did so cheerfully enough. John later offered to haul lumber for me in his truck when he saw me trying to carry some on by bicycle.

John and Mary did continue their habits of yelling streams of obscenities at each other and their children, keeping barking dogs, and racing old truck motors and chainsaws at early hours. We cringed through days of this but worked to admire their industriousness. We sometimes prayed in fear even as we said hello over the hedge. My wife marveled at how one four-letter word beginning with an “F” could be used so often, expressing both anger and joy.

War began 18 months ago when one of John and Mary’s unconfined dogs, unprovoked, bit my six-year-old daughter. Another neighbor happened to see this and immediately called the pound, which took the dog. The dog catcher said the dog had bitten several other children and would be killed. Seeing this as necessary but still feeling awkward about it, we went later that day to Mary, saying we were sorry she had to lose her dog.

Mary shocked us. Bitterly, she blamed our daughter for getting bitten. We contradicted her. She complained that the neighbors should settle grievances personally instead of calling the cops. John and Mary began ignoring all but our most determined greetings when we happened to see them.

John and Mary saved that dog. They struck a deal with the pound and the court, agreeing to keep the dog confined on their property outside town. Reflecting, I decided Mary had a good point about neighbors settling grievances face to face and resolved to do that in the future. In this spirit, I challenged John one day when I found the dog back in town and running loose. We saw little of the dog for months after that. Our relations improved slightly.

Then relations nosedived. John and Mary had left some firewood trailers on our side of the mutual property line. John said that he’d move them when we need him to, and we gave him six months. During that six months, we learned from our neighbor, John’s grandmother, that our mutual boundary line was several feet closer to her house than we all had thought. John would have to move his trailers even farther into his already crowded work area. We fretted.

Well, after the six month deadline, John and Mary had moved nothing and demanded we survey the property line. John’s grandmother couldn’t cope. We began to work with her grown children, reasonable people, including John’s father. We got along fine with them, agreeing on the exact boundary location and getting their permission to move the trailers ourselves four feet to their side of the line. We picked them up and moved them.

John and Mary, discovering this, appeared at our door shouting and making veiled threats. I shouted back, my heart pounding. Afterwards, I called John’s aunt, who said she would calm them down. Weeks passed.

Yesterday, the latest chapter opened when I spotted that same biting dog roaming unattended near our unfenced yard. My wife had said she had seen the dog a few times before, but fleeing confrontation and fearing John, I had ignored her. Having seen the dog with my own eyes, though, I felt I had to act.

This past evening, knowing that John and Mary sat inside our neighbor’s house, I stood alone in my dark yard for half an hour, rehearsing over and over what to go and say to them. I coached myself to speak plainly but without arguments or threats. Fear and contempt burrowed into me. I prayed, just a bit, and tried to steel myself to go knock on that door.

Abruptly, I realized that John and Mary had left the house and were getting into their car to leave for the night. Another day’s wait would prolong this agony. I made myself approach. I said I needed them to live by their agreement and keep the dog away.

Instantly shouting, they said they were tired of my butting into their lives. If I spoke up again, John said he would beat me up. If John didn’t beat me up, Mary said she would. Remembering something I’d heard about nonviolence, I said they could go ahead and do that but I still needed them to live up to their agreement.

John stormed out of their car, stomped over to me, and spit words in my face. “I told you to get that property line surveyed, boy!” I made no move to fight, defend against a blow, or run. After a long moment, he returned to the car.

Then I drew my line in the sand. A mistake? I still don’t know. If I saw the dog again, I said I would call the pound. Mary said the pound supervisor doesn’t like me and would ignore me. They drove off. I went home shaking, but I also felt a strange euphoria, and I stayed that way well into this night.

Mary and John must have returned later for some reason. About midnight, I heard Mary yelling from a departing car, “You treat me like a piece of crap!” At first I thought she was yelling at me, but soon I realized she had more than one person to rage at in this world.

I have prayed, with some calm resulting but no answers. I have resolved to pray blessings for John and Mary regularly. In the morning, I will call our county’s dispute resolution center for advice. I hop to avoid getting a broken jaw.

Since the confrontation, I’ve felt intensely alive, which reminds me of what some have said about men’s feeling most alive while at war. I thought I had handled things very well until I began questioning my threat to call the pound. My hate for John and Mary had eased, as if what I had really hated was my own sense of helplessness. Fear had boiled over and drained away, mostly, leaving a small stock of courage.

I feel prepared to act again if needed. Will that readiness, freedom from hate, and courage remain, though, when this battle blows over and, without warning, a new threat looms? Probably not. Faced with conflict, I aspire to act without violence; I also aspire to win. Most of all, I want to be left alone.

People in Palestine, parts of some inner cities, abusive families, and too many other battle zones live with brutal histories stretching back generations. Our small experience, that has hit us so hard, pales before it. What violence those histories must do to their hearts! Closed minds and bitter revenge in such places seem tragically logical. Standing there for universal compassion and justice, without violence, must take huge courage and incomprehensible grace.

As for the future of my neighborly conflict, there is no telling.

David Bellefuille-Rice is a member of St. Michael's Parish and is now a trained mediator for the Dispute Resolution Center. This article was written about twenty years ago.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dignity Costs No Money

(Posted on Olyblog on Feb 7th)

The City continued its justifications for turning its back on the poor at the Council meeting last night. Mayor Foutch talked at length about the growth in services in the last twenty years. Laura Ware talked about the City's offer to allocate $200,000 to services this year. The City Manager talked about his notion that homelessness is a regional and national issue, and that the tent city had picked the wrong target.

Let's get a few things straight:

1. Tent city residents are not asking for money for new services. In fact, the City is clearly not connecting the dots between the $200,000 it has offered for services and the fact that Tent City residents ARE asking for a service review committee to ensure that service agencies treat their clients with basic dignity and respect.

2. Tent city residents are not asking the city to fund new housing projects. They ARE asking for the opportunity to be self-reliant as a community... an opportunity that will not be found in government funded housing projects.

3. Tent city residents are not asking the city to lobby the Federal or State governments for relief. They ARE demanding to be included in our community, to be visible, and to have the right to exist.

Laura Ware particularly failed to understand the nature of the conflict in our city. She claimed that the opposition to the new sidewalk law and the request for a permanent location are two separate issues.

Yet they truly are one and the same. Tent city residents are demanding the opportunity to exist in peace, to have at least a few spare moments in the day when their lives are not subject to the whims and prejudices of the social service system and the police. Until recently, the sidewalks served as THE ONLY place where that was possible. Now that this opportunity has been taken away, the tent city residents are taking direct action to uphold their basic right to dignity.

Residents of the tent city will likely be arrested today for refusing to disperse. Please come downtown to offer them your support and your witness.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Open Letter to Olympia City Council and Staff

Dear Mayor, Council, and City Staff:

I do not often write to the City on issues of concern to me. I know that you all are very busy people, and besides that I’ve got enough opinions to fill a library. I must, however, take a moment to share my concern and disappointment regarding your reactions to the new tent city, “Camp Quixote”.

Several months ago the homeless people of Olympia began gathering together for community discussions. They talked about their concerns and fears regarding the decreasing availability of public space for their use and the increasing hostility they were experiencing from the daily Olympian, the police, the City, and the general public. They were particularly concerned about the proposed sidewalk ordinance and the impact it would have on their community.

In the course of their discussions, the homeless community resolved to undertake a campaign of nonviolent direct action in the tradition of the various civil rights movements of the last 50 years. This was a very serious decision and was not entered into lightly. Please allow me to explain.

Classism is as real, as pervasive, and as hurtful as racism and homophobia. For ages, the homeless have endured such pejoratives as “bum”, “transient”, and “vagrant”. They have been beset from all directions with the opinions that they are lazy, criminal, violent, dangerous, irresponsible, and incapable.

The homeless have been outlawed in almost every city in the nation, by means of “quality of life” laws banning sleeping, sitting, loitering, urinating, panhandling, and carrying blankets. The supporters of the homeless have been attacked with laws criminalizing the public feeding of the homeless. The homeless have been exploited by payday loan companies and day labor outfits that charge for transportation, safety equipment, and check cashing so that the pay often falls below minimum wage.

Our social service system also contributes to this persecution. The homeless often find that when they do as they are encouraged and go in for services, they are maltreated by hostile, belligerent, and condescending social workers. Service administrators encourage the maltreatment of the homeless through stereotype driven policies that create barriers to services. The disabled must work full time at proving that they are incapable of doing so. Working families are forced to attend humiliating classes for “job preparation” in which they are instructed on how to dress for job interviews. Access to higher education, which is the most effective ticket out of poverty, is barred to the poor by the same welfare program (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) that claims to move people from dependence to independence. The mental health system often punishes or refuses to serve people due to behavioral problems related to their untreated or under-treated mental illnesses.

Hate crimes against the homeless are not uncommon. The National Coalition for the Homeless documented 84 violent hate crimes against the homeless in 2005 alone. The homeless have been stabbed, beaten, set on fire, raped, poisoned, and run over with automobiles. Several years ago, while working as an EMT, I responded to a call for a homeless man who was viciously and repeatedly stabbed by a pack of teenagers, right here in Olympia.

It is not difficult to observe the mentality that drives the persecution of the homeless. Commentators on the Olympian’s website, encouraged by the newspaper’s slanderous editorials, have made such statements as the following:

These people are a disease.

These bums do not fit any characteristic of "civilized”.

More than half the time, these people sit in front of you & have their pity party hoping you'll believe their performance worthy of an Academy Award. They lie, they cheat & they steal and want you to feel sorry for them while they're doing it.

Poor People's Union... AKA: PPU... PPEEEEEE UUUUUUU sums it up pretty well I'm sure!

Start arresting the turd balls!!!

Drug addicts, alcoholics and general scum of the earth breaking more laws to suit themselves regardless of what the majoirty of society votes for. Hey loosers.....get a job, be responsible for your actions, have some self respect, pay for your own way in life and then maybe you won't have so much to complain about.

I passed at least half a dozen of these "waste of human life" begging me for my hard earned money… These worthless souls have chosen to be lazy and a drain on society. I could care less if they freeze to death.


The solution is simple. The City Council should buy them all bus tickets to Hanford where they can all become radioactive. When they try to come back to Olympia they can all be denied entry because the city is, as everyone knows, a nuclear free zone!

Just give downtown to the sodomites and bums. Oh, wait a minute. They've had it for years.

I wouldn't allow those dirty pigs near my dogs.

There is only one way to deal with these people, run them out of town, period!

If you wonder why the homeless community has resorted to such a drastic measure as direct action, please observe that the passage of the sidewalk ordinance is understood by the street community in the context of everything I have written here. It was the proverbial straw on the camel’s back.

The City Manager was quoted in the Olympian as saying, "It seems like a terrible way to start a conversation with the city about more help with the homeless… It seems like a poke in the eye."

You must understand, however, that this is not the beginning of the conversation. The homeless poured their hearts out to you at the public hearing last fall. But you did not hear them.

You might point to the new Drexel House, and to your offer of $200,000 towards services, and say that you have done so much for the homeless already. Yet you must understand that they are not asking for money, but rather for dignity. And it is likely that they will not find it in the services that this money will fund.

The Poor People’s Union has indeed followed all of the appropriate steps for a non-violent campaign. They attempted dialogue. They discerned, contemplated, planned and prepared. And now, as they have been squeezed out of the parks and libraries, and even off the sidewalks, they are taking direct action to meet their needs.

The pages of history are filled with such stories of the struggles for liberation. We find in the death of Socrates, the Exodus from Egypt, the persecution of Christ and His followers, the labor movement, Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement, the women’s liberation movement, the black civil rights movement, and the gay rights movement the same narrative repeated over and over again. It is the narrative of a people, robbed of their dignity and treated as sub-human, who show the courage to take a stand in service of a vision of a world built on fellowship and love.

People in positions of power play an important role in this narrative. We have, on the one hand, Pharaoh, Herod, and Bull Connor. On the other hand are Jethro, Joseph of Arimathea, and Lyndon Johnson.

It is my understanding that you have resolved not to negotiate with the Poor People’s Union. Please reconsider. Please ask yourself: “Which role will I choose to play in the story of liberation?”

I know you can do the right thing.

The Poor People’s Union has three very basic requests:

1. A safe and permanent site to live while in transition following the model set by Dignity Village in Portland.

2. A “service review board” comprised of service recipients to ensure that people are receiving services that respect their dignity and humanity.

3. Representation at the city level regarding matters that affect poor and houseless members of the community. (Please note that this is different from your willingness to listen to advocates. The street community wants you to be willing to enter into dialogue directly with them.)

Please honor their requests.

Currently Reading:

  • Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America - Todd Depastino

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