At 1:00 a.m. on August 13th, Amos House members Brett Flener and Jeannie Alexander, along with two other individuals involved in urban ministry, were arrested for claiming sanctuary on the steps of Downtown Presbyterian Church. Seven individuals in all had stopped at DPC to rest, read scripture and pray. At approximately 1:00 a.m. metro police officers pulled up in front of the church to inform the Amos House group that they would have to leave because they were trespassing. Amos House members responded that they were seeking rest and sanctuary at the house of God where all are welcome. At that point the four members named above refused to leave the steps of the church and were arrested and held overnight at the Criminal Justice Center.
This action commences Amos House’s Sanctuary campaign wherein we call upon downtown churches to revoke their trespass waivers. These waivers allow the police to arrest our homeless brothers and sisters who seek the peace, security, and sanctuary of sleeping on downtown church steps at night. One question only must be answered by downtown churches who have filed these trespass waivers: Is your church a house of God or a house of man? If your church is a house of God then it is a place of sanctuary as churches have been for almost 2,000 years, and at the very least you are called to offer the smallest mercy in allowing the poor to sleep on your steps. You simply cannot invite a poor man into your church at noon, feed and clothe him, and then have him arrested because he comes back to what should be a holy place of sanctuary to seek the safety of sleeping on your steps at night. Even the rich man let Lazarus lie at the gate.
Our Sanctuary Campaign will continue until downtown churches with trespass waivers have revoked those waivers and the poor may once again find peace and sanctuary on the steps of the house of God. We are eager to work with downtown churches and seek relationship and partnership not confrontation. But if such churches refuse to see Christ in our brothers and sisters on the street and continue to inflict the violence of arrest upon the poorest and most vulnerable of our society, then we will use our own bodies as a living sacrifice by continuing to sleep on church steps and being arrested. If you too believe that churches are sanctuary and houses of mercy then we welcome you to join us in this campaign. For more information contact Amos House at firstname.lastname@example.org Jeannie Alexander at email@example.com or Brett Flener at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates will be posted.
For months Amos House members have been calling upon downtown churches to revoke their trespass waivers. Below is an excerpt from the article “Enter the Gates and Weep: the Foolishness of Mercy” coauthored by Jeannie Alexander and Lindsey Krinks, published in the April 2010 edition of The Contributor. This article speaks directly to the theological implications of churches filing trespass waivers:
[We] weep for the churches of Nashville and their lost opportunity to embrace the living Christ. If we are the body of Christ why then do we not feed the stranger, and bind his feet, and love him as the precious child of God that he is? How often have we scorned an encounter with the living Christ, an encounter where we could have found in the body and eyes of the beaten, the broken, and the damned, the God whom we claim to serve? “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Mt 23:37) You stone those who are sent to you, and you are not willing!
We speak… to all churches in Nashville; for the love of your God, transform, repent, turn around, all of you churches who have signed or are considering signing such bans, repent! That church property does not belong to you, do not be fooled by the lies of the Deceiver; that church property belongs to the living God, and there is not one material thing contained in that church or on its grounds that your God values more than a single human life. Do not be as the Sanhedrin, turning to empire to do your dirty work for you. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.” (Mk 7:6, 7)
We Seek Sanctuary