Today, amid fears that the church would work alongside the Corporation of London to forcibly remove protestors from the Occupy London Stock Exchange site (OLSX), Reverend Giles Fraser resigned from his position as Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Speaking in The Guardian, the ex-Canon said, “I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land. 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.”
Despite backing his peers in asking for protestors to leave the site, Fraser’s belief in the right to protest coupled with his refreshing talk of conscience seems almost alien in this political climate. Here is a man acting according to his own code, absent of the trappings of careerism or financial gain. In fact, it speaks volumes that in contrast to Fraser’s actions, a main concern of St Paul’s bigwigs during the protest has been the loss of up to £20,000 a day since the occupation began last week.
To counter any cynics less enamoured by Fraser, he can hardly be labelled an opportunistic headline grabber. The reverend has based his career on decency. Ordained in 1993, Fraser was a founder of Inclusive Church, a group campaigning for the full recognition of gay lifestyles. As well as this, as the rest of the church fretted over the gay issue, in 2008 Fraser welcomed the world’s first openly gay Anglican Bishop, the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, to preach in his church. Unfortunately, void of Fraser’s decency, the church banned the reverend from attending a special church conference on the issue.
Putting his credentials to one side, there is a poignant irony about the resignation of Giles Fraser. With the clear PR crisis facing the modern day church in Britain, people like Giles Fraser offer the church a real opportunity to break itself from the negative perceptions so commonly spouted from the mouths of non-believers. In many ways, the true tragedy of this situation is that Giles Fraser has been forced to stand down as a result of a conflict between his personal beliefs and his role in the church. As a result of a protest against the moral bankruptcy of the banks, an honest man has somewhat inevitably become a victim.
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Ex-Canon Giles Fraser speaking on BBC News.