“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” (John 2:15)
I’m kind of all riled up today. I just heard that my good friend Alain in Montreal who for many years has been running a drop-in for folks on the streets out of a downtown church, is looking for a new location in order to run his program. It turns out there is new leadership at this church, (St. James Montreal, formerly known as St. James-the-Apostle Anglican Church) and they want drastic changes made to the drop-in program in order be willing to continue the relationship.
They are not being evicted, but have chosen to leave over the proposed changes to the lease. This is a segment of the story in the Montreal Gazette that explains the situation better than I can.
“Some of the specific lease provisions, which were non-negotiable, would end up excluding our homeless members from church property. Currently, our homeless members can hang out in the front or back of the church and use the garden and use the green space. … It really contributes to their quality of life. So all those extra uses would be barred for our homeless members.” He (spokesperson James Falconer) said day-centre staff and clients were also going to be asked to enter the annex via a back alley, instead of the usual Ste-Catherine St. entrance. But the real tipping point was an effort to ban homeless people from the drop-in centre for inappropriate behaviour in the eyes of the church, Falconer said, such as imbibing alcohol or loitering on church property after 9-to-5 day-centre hours. “More than that,” Falconer said. ”We didn’t sense it but it was explicitly codified in the new lease agreement: They didn’t want homeless members visible to churchgoers as they go through a process of re-branding and revitalization for the church. They’re attempting to attract a new congregation. Codified in the lease proposal was a provision that site discipline would be enforced by the church. That involved taking photographs of our homeless members in compromising and vulnerable situations and providing those photographs to us in order for us to enforce discipline on those members.” (Taken from a story by John Meagher, Montreal Gazette, May 11, 2016)
I have so many different emotions about this.
Sadness. Embarrassment (as a Christian). Disappointment. Resentment. Sorrow. Helplessness. Grief.
The list goes on. But I must confess, my dominant reaction to this news is anger. I’m really mad. I’m pissed off. I just can’t believe this is happening.
Shame on that church and shame on the Anglican Diocese of Montreal for allowing this. Why are they promoting or at least allowing this injustice? It doesn’t add up. Let’s apply pressure on them to pay attention to the 2000 or so scripture passages that have to do with poverty and justice. Let’s protest this place. Let’s boycott this church plant. Let’s do something to right this wrong.
Is awakening a dying church at the cost of sacrificing the poor worth it? Will that church in fact be awakened or will it just officially die on the inside while on the surface looking healthy by filling up with trendy Christians who can tithe out of their good paying professional jobs?
I’m angry. This is not right. It’s not fair. It’s not biblical. It’s not Christian. It’s not the Jesus way.
I’m very far from perfect I know. I am definitely not Jesus. But I’m thankful today for the image in the Bible of Him being very angry at the church for its injustices, and going in and turning everything upside down.
I just want to go in there and turn everything upside down.
I hope and pray for something good to happen here. I hope wiser minds prevail. I hope that the 150 men and women that use the St. James drop-in will feel embraced and included for a change as opposed to judged and excluded.
I hope. I pray.