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Giles Fraser Resigns: Occupy The Church Of England Takes Over Lehman Brothers’ Offices

by | 28th, October 2011

THE Reverend Giles Fraser has left his post as canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral for showing what some may see as Christian understanding in backing the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp massed .4 of a mile from its target at St Paul’s Cathedral. Indeed, the occupiers may care to change their message to Occupy The Church of England and demand transparency and fairness in the mega-rich institution’s dealings, both financial and moral. They could occupy Lehman Brothers’ old offices in  Canary Wharf.

Fraser issues a statement:

The Revd Canon Dr Giles Fraser, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, issued the following statement today (Saturday 22 October 2011)
“I remain firmly supportive of the right of people peacefully to protest. But given the strong advice that we have received that the camp is making the cathedral and its occupants unsafe then this right has to be balanced against other rights and responsibilities too. The Christian gospel is profoundly committed to the needs of the poor and the dispossessed. Financial justice is a gospel imperative. Those who are claiming the decision to close the cathedral has been made for commercial reasons are talking complete nonsense.”

St Paul’s bill him thus:

The Reverend Dr Giles Fraser is Chancellor of St Paul’s and heads up the teaching office of the cathedral. He is the director of the St Paul’s Institute responsible for the cathedral’s engagement with the City of London as a financial centre.

Before coming to St Paul’s he was the Vicar of Putney, and prior to that Chaplain of Wadham College, Oxford, where he was also a lecturer in Philosophy. He has a PhD in philosophical theology and has published and lectured widely in philosophy of religion and ethics. He also lectures for the army on moral leadership in war at the Defence Academy, Shrivenham. He is a regular contributor to national newspapers, as well as having a weekly column in the Church Times. He is also a familiar voice on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

The views and news:

Fraser tells the Guardian:

“I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land. t is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated. But our legal advice was that this would have implied consent.”

“The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence… I cannot countenance the idea that this would be about [the eviction of] Dale Farm on the steps of St Paul’s. I would want to have negotiated down the size of the camp and appeal to those there to help us keep the cathedral going, and if that mean that I was thereby granting them some legal right to stay then that is the position I would have had to wear.”
….

“Nobody was a villain in this, it has been a matter of conscience for everyone. Ironically the church is a church of the incarnation. That means it has to address things to do with everyday life, including money. Christopher Wren’s forte was not ‘Jesus born in a stable’. What the camp does is challenge the church with the problem of the incarnation – that you have God who is grand and almighty, who gets born in a stable. St Paul was a tent maker. If you tried to recreate where Jesus would have been born, for me I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp.”

Gavin Drake, the bishop of Lichfield’s press officer, wrote on his blog:

“Goodbye Giles Fraser, you won’t be missed. Giles Fraser is a liberal when it comes to what he believes, but a complete bigot when it comes to the beliefs and views of others … His appointment was wrong.”

Toby Young:

“Sod your colleagues, eh, Dr Fraser? The important thing is that you hold on to your reputation as a man of principle.”

The Guardian has an interview:

The recently resigned canon chancellor of St Paul’s arrives in a black T–shirt, jeans and stubble. He had slipped out of his 17th-century grace and favour house in the shadow of Wren’s cathedral before the media arrived without thought to shaving or dress code. He’s now regretting this: “I want to look like a priest, not a protester.”

Always sully forth like you are about to meet your worst enemy.

Alan Rusbridger opines:

The Rev Giles Fraser – matey, warm, a ready, raucous laugh – could easily pass for a protester. It’s easier in some ways to imagine him arguing over a beer with the campaigners sleeping outside his cathedral than engaged in debate with the scarlet, purple and black-frocked colleagues of the bishop, dean and chapter.

Fraser is being presented as a rebel. But this is man who took the cloth of a massively rich rigid organisation basted in tradition. The Church is the 1%.

Fraser then get political:

So what does he make of the protest on his doorstep? “The camp is a complex and interesting mixture of such a divergent range of views – united largely by what it’s against, which is a very legitimate anger about the way in which wealth has been distributed and the way in which capitalism is currently seen to benefit just a very few people. I think that is very legitimate anxiety. I think there’s an irony that we are having this conversation today, on the 25th anniversary of Big Bang, the deregulation of the Stock Exchange, liberalisation of the rules and regulations regulating the City and so forth … I mean, it seems to me quite clear that markets were made for man and not man for market. I am not against capitalism. I am not one of these people who thinks that capitalism is inherently wicked.”

Though that’s what he used to think? He nods.

“I used to be a socialist and for a long time I did have the view that there was something intrinsically immoral about capitalism. I changed my mind quite fundamentally about that quite a few years ago. I had a conversion sitting in Notting Hill market, reading the chief rabbi on the subject – an essay called ‘the moral case for market economy’. I think there is a very clear question here to be addressed,” he continues, “and the reason that the protesters have captured some of the public imagination is because a great many people think that something has gone wrong in the City of London and that the wealth generated by the City does not exist for the benefit of us all. So, yes, I am sympathetic to that extent. I am not sympathetic to the extent of self-righteous ‘bash the banker’ rhetoric, I am not sympathetic to ‘let’s bring down capitalism’. I really think there is a moral self-righteousness about saying what you are against but not saying what you are for.”

Adding:

“I mean, Jesus is very clear that the love of money is the root of all evil … Jesus wants to point us to a bigger picture of the world than simply shopping.”

The piece ends:

He reluctantly agrees to be photographed. He borrows an electric razor and a white shirt, roaring with laughter as he strips to the waist in the editor’s office. He pulls on his jacket. And, for the first time today, the Rev Dr Giles Fraser begins to look a little less like a protester and a touch more like the canon of England’s most majestic cathedral. Albeit an unemployed one.

Cranmer:

His Grace has sympathy with the protestors: they are concerned about poverty and rail against greed. Good. So did Jesus. Their heart is in the right place, even if their protest isn’t. They are sheep without a shepherd. The Stock Exchange is not the cause of the global economic crisis: it would make far more sense for them to occupy the Bank of England or Parliament Square, for there the decisions are taken to tax, spend, loan, print money and set interest rates. It is politicians and bankers who have sunk us into this morass: those who trade in stocks and shares are not the cause.

It is not every day that His Grace can praise Alan Rusbridger and The Guardian, but on this matter they are spot on. Aside from the quite unnecessary swipe at the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, the article is lucid and accurate. Mr Rusbridger writes: ‘This rather messy and absurd situation has handed the dean and chapter of St Paul’s a truly historic opportunity to discredit Christianity in this country. They seem determined to take it.’ It is a sad and sorry day when Christ’s mission is expounded more accurately in the pages of The Guardian than in London’s foremost Cathedral Church

George Carey in the Daily Telegraph:

The inevitable resignation of the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, Giles Fraser, via the predictable medium of Twitter, is a sad day for one of our great national churches. But the departure of this able man, and now the planned reopening of the cathedral, should at least bring to an end the hand-wringing and posturing of the past two weeks. My paramount concern throughout has been that the reputation of Christianity is being damaged by the episode, and, more widely, that the possibility of fruitful and peaceful protest has been brought into disrepute.

The Blitz only closed St Paul’s for four days. By contrast, the Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters, camped outside Wren’s masterpiece, managed to put it out of business for a week. It has been a debacle that should prompt urgent public debate both within the Church of England, and throughout society at large…

I’m not convinced that the Occupy protesters were aware of the history of St Paul’s when they chose the churchyard for their encampment. Denied room at nearby Paternoster Square, they were pushed back to St Paul’s, where Giles Fraser offered them a warm welcome and preached a sermon that they saw as favourable to their anti-capitalist agenda. For many people, Fraser’s intervention struck a dissonant note. Rather than entreating the protesters to move on, he asked the police to leave the steps of St Paul’s and declared to the cameras that the protest was peaceful.

I their agenda soley anti-capitalist? No.

For countless others, though, not least in the churches, this was a hopeful sign that peaceful protests could indeed take place at a time when so many civil liberties have been eroded. Furthermore, it demonstrated that the Church is willing to play a sympathetic role in the lives of young people who are drawn to a movement calling for economic justice.

Like many others in the Church, I have a great deal of sympathy for the raw idealism of the protesters. Their contention that the banks have not paid an equitable price for the damage caused, in part, by their reckless lending and profiteering strikes a powerful chord.

However, after their initial welcome to Occupy, the cathedral authorities then seemed to lose their nerve. In daily-changing news reports, the story see-sawed between a public debate about the merits or otherwise of the protest, the drama of internal disputes at St Paul’s over lost income from tourists, and the ill-defined health, safety and fire concerns that caused it to close its doors to worshippers.

One moment the church was reclaiming a valuable role in hosting public protest and scrutiny, the next it was looking in turns like the temple which Jesus cleansed, or the officious risk-averse ’elf ’n safety bureaucracy of urban legend. How could the dean and chapter at St Paul’s have let themselves get into such a position?…

It would be a tragedy now if, by the mismanagement of the St Paul’s authorities and the self-indulgence of the protesters, the right of peaceful protest and the urgency of widespread public debate became the subject of even greater cynicism and apathy. This opportunity to rebuild our ailing public life around gospel values of public service, self-restraint, equality, hard work and charitable concern for the poor, must not be squandered.

Anna White, Telegraph:

Just hours after the Corporation of London sought to have them removed, Giles resigned. Luckily he can tap up his brother for a job. Rupert Fraser is head of sales at brokerage Evolution. He probably does believe in bonuses. God moves in mysterious ways.

Alternatively, there’s a role going at the Central Bank of Ireland. The financial institution is advertising for a chief economist. This is an ideal job for a highly motivated self-starter and I believe comes with a company car, full BUPA membership and a poisoned chalice.

London Mayor, Boris Johnson:

“With the greatest respect to their point of view, they have made it. You have got a situation in which London businesses, tourism, the cathedral, the ability of people to worship, I’m told, is being disrupted. That being so, if the cathedral authorities and the City of London Corporation can come to a common legal position I think that would be a good thing.”

As yet, no bankers have gone on the record.



Posted: 28th, October 2011 | In: Key Posts, Reviews Comments (2) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink