You are browsing the archive for Giles Fraser.

by Peterr

Ann Romney Rejects Her Own Very Sensible Idea

8:54 am in 2012 election, Religion, Wall Street by Peterr

Robin Roberts of ABC News has a new interview of Ann Romney that begins (around the 1:00 mark of the video) with the topic of Mitt’s refusal to release more of his tax returns, in keeping with the practices of many presidential candidates of both parties. Ann’s response included a very interesting suggestion. “You know, you should really look at where Mitt has led his life, where he’s been financially. He’s a very generous person . . .” said Ann (with emphasis in the original).

You know, Ann, that’s a good idea.

A really good idea.

I’d really, really love to look at where Mitt has led his life, and where he’s been financially.

But where to start? Oh, I could read biographies of Mitt or listen to his speeches, or listen to his friends or family talk about him, but those are words. Instead of just words, let’s try a little applied moral theology, as I explained it last October:

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by Peterr

Occupy London and Resignation of the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral

8:12 am in Economy, Religion by Peterr

It was only a matter of time.

The Church of England is facing an escalating crisis after a third senior cleric resigned over the Occupy movement’s protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, the dean of St Paul’s, announced he was resigning with immediate effect, saying that the row over the Occupy London site had made his position “untenable”.

Said Knowles in a statement on the St. Paul’s Cathedral website announcing the resignation:

The past fortnight has been a testing time for the Chapter and for me personally. It has become increasingly clear to me that, as criticism of the cathedral has mounted in the press, media and in public opinion, my position as Dean of St Paul’s was becoming untenable. In order to give the opportunity for a fresh approach to the complex and vital questions facing St Paul’s, I have thought it best to stand down as dean, to allow new leadership to be exercised. I do this with great sadness, but I now believe that I am no longer the right person to lead the Chapter of this great cathedral.

He’s right about the “untenable” part, but his use of the passive voice is disingenuous at best. The decision on the part of the Chapter, led by Knowles, not to support the OLSX protesters in their stand against the financial Powers That be, or even to engage in meaningful conversation with them, was a choice.

Clergy involved in urban ministry will tell you that engagement with the community is not optional. Former Chancellor Giles Fraser’s welcome was engaging, but the silence from Knowles with regard to the voices calling for economic justice that have been camped on his doorstep for two weeks was not.

I am saddened by this whole mess, as I have a deep love for the cathedral and for the church at large. But Knowles and the Chapter had an opportunity to make a strong witness to the world about compassion for those on the margins, and they let it slip away. They had an opportunity to demonstrate the church’s concern for justice, and they let it slip away. They have had the attention of not only their city but the whole nation (and others beyond it, like me), and did not use that opportunity to say anything more substantive than “get off the lawn.”

Now it is the Bishop of London’s turn, and — ironically — the turn of 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. You see, the position of Dean at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is a “crown appointment,” which means that Knowles’ replacement comes through the Prime Minister and the Queen. Candidates are identified within the church, and they are forwarded to the PM and eventually to the Queen.

Think about it: a senior member of the Church of England resigns over his mishandling of a political protest on the steps of his cathedral, and now the political powers will have a strong voice in selecting his replacement.

This, though, brought joy to my heart, from the very end of a story last Friday in Church Times, an independent Anglican newspaper in England:

A “Flash Evensong” took place outside the cathedral on Wednesday. Alerted by a website, worshippers brought copies of the Book of Common Prayer and The English Hymnal. Worshippers avoided the steps in order “not to be confrontational”. Canon Fraser attended.

If Knowles had been smart, he would have attended too.


photo of the view from atop St. Paul’s Cathedral h/t to Steve Cadman

by Peterr

Chancellor Giles Fraser Resigns from St. Paul’s Cathedral Staff

4:39 am in Religion, Wall Street by Peterr

St. Paul atop St. Paul's Cathedral

From high atop the western front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the stone figure of St. Paul looks down on the plaza below. St. Paul — a tentmaker by trade — has a clear view of the sprawling tents that have blossomed around the cathedral as part of the Occupy London Stock Exchange movement. The towers to the left and right of St. Paul are topped by pineapples — “a symbol of peace, prosperity and hospitality,” according to the St. Paul’s website.

If Canon Giles Fraser is correct, that peace and hospitality is on the verge of collapse.

Fraser is the Chancellor of St. Paul’s, whose job is described on the cathedral’s website like this:

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.

Yesterday Canon Fraser resigned as Chancellor of St. Paul’s.

His reason was that he believes that the cathedral and the Corporation of London are about to attempt to remove the protesters in a manner that will result in violence. From his interview with The Guardian:

“I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land,” Fraser told the Guardian. “It 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.”

Fraser said he decided to resign on Wednesday when he realised he could not reconcile his conscience with the possibility of the church and the Corporation of London combining to evict the protesters from the land outside the cathedral, some of which is jointly owned with the City.

“The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence,” said Fraser, adding that it was apparent that the Corporation of London was clearer than the cathedral authorities about its desire to see the protesters moved on.

The Dean of the Cathedral issued a press release today on the Chapter (think “executive committee”) and their relationship to the protesters:

The Chapter has previously asked the encampment to leave the cathedral precinct in peace. This has not yet happened and so, following the advice of our lawyers, legal action has regrettably become necessary.

The Chapter only takes this step with the greatest reluctance and remains committed to a peaceful solution. At each step of the legal process the Chapter will continue to entreat the protesters to agree to a peaceful solution and, if an injunction is granted, will then be able to discuss with the protesters how to reach this solution.

Theirs is a message that the Chapter has both heard and shares and looks forward to engaging with the protesters to identify how the message may continue to be debated at St Paul’s and acted upon.

So much for welcome and hospitality. Contrast this with Fraser’s words eleven days ago, welcoming the protesters and declining the “protection” of the police.

The encampment at St. Paul’s forced the closing of the cathedral for safety and health reasons. The crowd of tents made access by firefighters quite difficult, as well as threatened potential evacuation routes should there be a problem inside the cathedral. Cooking fires near the cathedral walls were also a problem. After the closing was announced, Fraser noted the tension between the right to protest and the responsibility to keep the cathedral and its occupants safe, and called the claims that the closure was financially-driven “nonsense.” But as Stephen Bates noted in yesterday’s Guardian, “The decision [to close the Cathedral] was compounded by legal advice that the clergy should not speak to the demonstrators, which undermined the chances of a negotiated settlement.”

I can see where that kind of advice — and the willingness of the Dean and Chapter to accept it — would make it tough for Fraser to carry out the duties of his position.

It’s kind of hard to be the Cathedral’s person “responsible for the cathedral’s engagement with the City of London as a financial centre” when the lawyers and the Chapter are saying “but for God’s sake, don’t actually engage with people wanting to talk about these matters.”

I share Fraser’s opinion that the apparent decision by the Cathedral to move against the OLSX protesters is one the Church will regret. In a dramatic move eleven days ago, Fraser provided a bold witness to the Church’s concern for the poor and the Church’s stand against the endless pursuit of wealth.

This isn’t new for Fraser — it’s partly why he was given this position in the first place. Said Fraser, shortly before taking up his post at St. Paul’s:

The Bible says a lot more about money and wealth than it does about sex. Despite the churches’ pathetic obsession with what people do with their willies, we ought to be a lot more concerned with what people do with their wallets. Indeed, many are perfectly happy to accept unquestioningly the apparently plain meaning of anti-gay scripture, yet, when they are faced with Jesus telling the rich man that the only way for him to get to heaven is to give all his money away, they duck and dive and allegorise. But despite this slipperiness, it remains true that the best way to assess what someone believes is to look through their bank statement. Forget fancy words and sermons, money is the way we mean it – or we don’t. Money is the sacrament of moral seriousness.

Despite its antiquity, the well-known Old Testament story of the people of Israel living off manna in the desert remains God’s object lesson in alternative economics. In contrast to the Egyptian economy, where many had become slaves to the acquisition of wealth stored up in large barns, in the desert God offers food that cannot be stored. Those who gather more manna than they need will find that it has turned to worms by the morning. There is no possibility of storing and hoarding. In other words, there is such a thing as having enough. This is what Jesus had in mind when he advised his followers to live like lilies and birds, who are singularly uninterested in piling up their wealth in barns – or offshore bank accounts.

Let those with ears — both at the London Stock Exchange and inside St. Paul’s — hear.

God’s blessings to you, Canon Fraser, wherever your faith takes you next. I think the Tentmaker atop the cathedral would be proud of your witness to those in the tents at his feet, as well as to those in the Stock Exchange and Cathedral offices.


photo h/t to Adam Stoner