Giles Fraser’s last sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral

It was Evensong. The reading was Luke’s version of the Beatitudes: “Blessed be you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. His reflections from the Church Times are here.

His conclusion:

For too long the Church has been obsessed with its own internal work­ings and with silly arguments about sex. Now is the time for a new debate and a new emphasis. For if we are not fully involved with complex dis­cussions about the relationship be­tween financial justice and the way our financial institutions work, then we might as well give up on being a proper Church and admit that we are the spiritual arm of the heritage industry.

The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks

In an article published in the Financial Times. The ABC broke his silence over the St. Paul’s situation yesterday, to express his dismay about the resignations of Giles Fraser and Graeme Knowles. Today he addresses some of the larger issues, including the Church’s role in the debate over the economy.

we should keep two things in mind. One is what I began with. The Church of England is a place where the unfinished business and unspoken anxieties of society can often find a voice, for good and ill. And if the Church cannot find ways through, that is not an index of the unique incompetence of the Church so much as of the extreme sensitivity of the matters in hand and of the fact that they touch us deeply, in ways that can’t be solved – even by the ablest and wisest – in short order. The second is that we are at risk, in all the excitement of personal crises and dramas, of forgetting the substantive questions that prompted the protest in the first place.

He also draws on the Vatican document on the economy published last week, supporting its general conclusions and suggestions. He highlights three of those suggestions: 1) to decouple ordinary banking transactions from the more speculative ones; 2) recapitalizing banks with public money to jumpstart the global economy; 3) a tax on financial transactions to fund investment and development in the ‘real’ economy.

Williams concludes:

The Church of England and the Church Universal have a proper interest in the ethics of the financial world and in the question of whether our financial practices serve those who need to be served – or have simply become idols that themselves demand uncritical service.The best outcome from the unhappy controversies in the City of London’s Cathedral will be if the sort of issues raised by the Pontifical Council can focus a concerted effort to move the debate on and effect credible and hopeful change in the financial world.


Yes, it could get worse–Developments at St. Paul’s

The Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev. Graeme Knowles has resigned. The full coverage at Thinking Anglicans.

The article from the New York Times.

A background story from The Telegraph on the internal debates at the Cathedral over the last two weeks. Apparently the real power is a retired Major General, who served in Northern Ireland in the 90s. The mind boggles.

Andrew Brown’s commentary from The Guardian’s blog. He has strong words for Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, who is now the Church’s (and Cathedral’s) face in this mess. He’s trying to have it both ways, like bishops so often do, with the usual result of digging himself and the church into a deeper hole.

There’s a lot in the situation that is outside of our experience in the US. First of all, the Church of England is established, a state church, and second, it has a unique relationship with the corporation that runs the City, the square mile that is the heart of London’s financial district and a separate entity from London, with roots going back into the Middle Ages.

Still, it’s hard to see how the Cathedral or the Church of England can emerge from this scandal without greater damage than they’ve already brought on themselves. Given the marginal role of the Church in English society, and other controversies plaguing it, will this be a mortal blow?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has finally spoken out, at least on the departures of Giles Fraser and the Dean. His silence speaks loudly, given his recent courageous stance in Zimbabwe, as well as his extensive comments over the years on the ethics of the economy.

How could it get any worse? The latest on St. Paul’s Cathedral

1) Fifteen minutes before the scheduled begin of the re-opening service, the Cathedral announces it will participate in efforts to evict the protestors.

2) Former Archbishop of Canterbury sounds note of reason in op-ed (He’s actually in Wisconsin today for the installation of the new Dean and President of Nashotah House):

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?

3) A cartoon from The Guardian

A guide to the staff of a cathedral (for those non-Anglicans out there:

Dean: someone called Dean. Or failing that, Graham. Anyway, it’s a mans name, which explains why there are so few female Deans. The last known sightings were in the 1980s, (Hazell Dean, Brenda Dean)

Sub Dean: Someone else called Dean whose job it is to go out to the sandwich shop to get lunch for everyone else.

Chancellor: Runs the economy, sets the levels of taxation for visitors to the Cathedral, appears regularly on TV.

There’s more.

A canon fires a volley–the resignation of Giles Fraser and the St. Paul’s fiasco

Giles Fraser, until yesterday, was Canon Chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Learned, eloquent, and occasionally a little bit shocking, he resigned when it became clear that the Occupy London protestors would be removed from Cathedral grounds.

A profile of Fraser.

Andrew Brown’s take on the story.

Another piece from The Guardian on the ham-fisted actions of Dean and Chapter.

I’ve been following the story in part because of the parallels with our own experiences at Grace over the last eight months. As I repeatedly said in the early days of the Madison protests, because of our location, anything we did or didn’t do could be construed as a political act. Keeping our doors closed during the protests on those cold winter days would have sent as a powerful a message as did our decision to open the doors and invite people in to rest their feet and warm up.

Still, I also have some sympathy with those on the Cathedral staff who would like the protestors to leave. A day or two, even three, is somewhat tolerable; but the longer the stay, the greater the toll on the life of the congregation, staff, and other ministries. Just to give one example from Grace’s experience. The number of visits to our food pantry decreased by about fifty percent last February.

The question becomes, how do you make the best of such a situation? How does it become an opportunity for ministry and mission, for reaching out to people. One entrepreneurial cleric got the idea of having Flash Evensong at St. Paul’s. That’s marvelous!

Even more important, how can the Cathedral, the Church, voice the gospel in and through the protests? That’s where the Cathedral Chapter should be focusing its energy and attention. It should also be ensuring both that access to the cathedral is kept open, to visitors and to protestors alike.

Last week there was a piece going around the web from George Pitcher on how the church should approach the media. It boggles the mind to contemplate how badly St. Paul’s has handled this situation.

St. Paul’s Cathedral to close because of Occupy London

Here’s the report from CNN.

Thinking Anglicans’ coverage. The Guardian’s coverage. A video shows the size of the encampment.

Seeing the images in that video make the issues clear to me. There’s a great deal of comment in various places about churches needing to participate in the movement, welcome it, etc. I would agree with that position, and early on, the Cathedral was encouraging and welcoming. But churches, a place like St. Paul’s Cathedral has several missions and many constituencies. The presence of so many people camped just outside the building creates enormous issues, and not just health and safety issues. It’s an enormous stress on staff and clergy; it does make worship difficult; and it can prevent, or seriously limit other forms of pastoral ministry. I wonder whether it would be possible to devise a compromise that would permit a small group of protestors to remain, in order to lessen the overall impact. Neither outsiders nor protestors can judge the toll this sort of presence can take on those who live, work, and minister in the middle of it.

There’s been a lot of “theological” reflection on the movement. Tom Beaudoin asked whether it would be possible to occupy the Catholic Church. He also is documenting the use of sacred imagery here and here. There are clergy and seminarians involved as “Protest Chaplains.”

Brian McLaren reflects on the symbolism of the term “occupy”:

The term “occupy” is winning me over because it puts an ironic spin on one of our most questionable national habits—occupying other nations: occupying Iraq, occupying Afghanistan, supporting Israel in occupying Palestine. Like kingdom of God, it turns that familiar language on its head.

The term “occupy” is also winning me over because it’s about presence, making our presence known and felt in public spaces. These public spaces—from economic markets to political processes—have been colonized by powerful corporate elites (the 1 percent, or maybe the 10 percent), elites driven not by an ethical vision but by the relentless demand to maximize shareholder return. The 99 percent are realizing how destructive this colonization of public spaces has become, and by simply coming back—by re-inhabiting public spaces—we are demonstrating that we see what’s happening and we are not going to tacitly comply with its continuing.