The Guardian profiles the Rev. Canon Giles Fraser, who resigned as canon chancellor at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London rather than be part of the team that assented to a once-planned, but since-dealyed police action against Occupy London.
Fraser’s response to the situation at St. Paul’s makes for an interesting compare and contrast with the events of the past weekend involving Trinity, Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street.
“This year has been a bit like cricket,” he says. “Nothing happens for a very long time and then it is all excitement – it’s a bit much. Things changed for me overnight. I had no idea it was coming.” He whips out a psychedelic iPhone and shows 60 police cars converging on St Paul’s one October night. It was 7.30pm – the evening service was at 8pm. He asked the police to let him persuade protesters to stand down peacefully. “That is when I got fitted up by the press as Wat Tyler,” he laughs. “I was just trying to facilitate access to the cathedral.”
He resigned because “I couldn’t survive at this place if we went along with an injunction to kick the protesters out”. What he said at the time was that he did not want to see “Dale Farm on the steps of St Paul’s”. His Scandinavian wife, Sally, and three children were – and are – supportive, but he is concerned for his eldest daughter, who is in her GCSE year. And he does refer to the “emotional fallout” – the “What have you done?” moments. He waves at the room we are in (the house goes with the job): “I have a lovely house… and I love St Paul’s…”
Might he have jumped the gun? “No, I had to go.” Besides, his robust action may have encouraged people to rethink the seriousness of the situation. He remains unswervingly positive about Occupy as a “new form of protest”. He characterises it as “frustratingly democratic” because when he has said to protesters “take me to your leader”, there has turned out to be no leader. And yet, as he remarks, the advantage of this is obvious: “You have to engage with the issues.”
Then there is this line: “Economic justice is the number one moral issue in the Bible.”
I am wondering how often the church acts as though it believes this.