Thursday, 27 October 2011

Not Resigned: Giles Fraser and Establishment

I want to offer a very brief comment on Giles Fraser's resignation this morning.

I do not know Giles personally, but I know a goodly number of people who do. It is evident from both conversations with them over the years and from his public body of journalistic work that he is a very intelligent, gifted and committed priest. One friend of mine once commented on his Church Times work, 'I often disagree with him but I am always challenged by what he says.' When his appointment at St Paul's was announced I was one of many who was a little surprised - it was not clear to me how this turbulent priest would fit into one of the great Cathedrals (or is it Sepulchres??) of Establishment.

Nonetheless I took this bold appointment as an encouraging sign from a church that too readily makes cautious appointments. The events of the past couple of weeks have saddened many on the Left of the Church, including myself, for demonstrating that the magnificent and sometimes beautifully eccentric institution we love can be a little too comfortable with the powers and principalities.

Fraser's resignation comes as little surprise to many but it remains - for this old radical at least - deeply troubling. Giles - one suspects - will come out of this debacle with enormous credit and the Church with serious egg on its face. But there is another element to this which should trouble those who are - for their sins - passionate about what the Church of England can offer to the Polis and a world hungry for change and wisdom: what space for the eccentrics and the turbulent at the heart of Church?

The church sadly so often strikes me as being very good at rewarding those who play the game and toe the party line and the church does need people who are committed and passionate about the mechanics and internal dynamics of being church. But I rejoice in the fact that the National Church can still attract people as interesting, turbulent and critical as Fraser at a time when so often we seem to be in retreat. That Fraser has now left St Paul's will - I hope - be both personally liberating for him and enable him to continue to bring challenge and vision to the church; but it is also something about which I weep.


  1. As you say. This whole thing has rapidly descended into a massive lose/lose for the 'established church'; and sadly yet another example of church politik that makes it ever harder for people like me to convince themselves and others that it might be worth sticking with the same...

  2. I do know Giles and your comments above are spot on. Well done.

  3. Such a sad and frustrating set of events. Only serves to make it harder for those on the groung, working in communities to convince people that Christianity is relevant.

    I'm glad people like him exist, it gives hope.

  4. Thanks for this. I fear that the 'Church as establishment' has only been able to thrive due to a miserable adoption by too many in the Church of the idea of personal spirituality. This turns people inward - onto 'personal journeys', away from public engagement.

    Religions that allow the idea that religions and politics can ever be seperate are not even worthy of being called a religion. (And I am an atheist...)

  5. I've never been a great fan of the term Institutional Church, and now I can see why.

    I don't know Giles Fraser, but have read some of his work, and I admire his forthrightness and ability to communicate.

    His stand for the principles that he strongly proclaims and believes in, is admirable.

    I wonder if the Dean will now fall on his sword, he should do, as the message coming from the Dean and Chapter is un-Christian and unkind.

    The closure of the Cathedral on spurious grounds, was political, not one of leadership and Christian support for social justice.

    Mammon wins in this case, money over people, just what the protesters are there about.

  6. I am sad that Giles has resigned - sad for the disruption to life it will bring for him and his family. I admire his strength of character and courage. If the Church doesn't have space for prophetic voices such as his, then heaven help us!

  7. I don't often, to my shame, get emotionally involved in such things, but I too wept this morning for Giles Fraser, his family and the church ... have we forgotten the turbulent leader we claim to follow?

  8. It is a huge shame that Giles has resigned... but given what is reported as happening at St Paul's his resignation at least gives some prophetic voice to Christianity against the commercial backdrop....

  9. I am so sad for what this loving man has been forced to do. I am deeply troubled however by the attitude of the Bishop of London as recorded in the press. Let's be honest tho. These big church institutions are not however run by priests but by Chapter House "Brigadiers". Many of whom are NOT Christians!!! Money is the name of the game. Like it or not. It would seem by what some of the big guns in the Church of England are saying, their support is not with ordinary people but big business, bankers - the establishment!!! That is even more worrying. And Jesus? He would be loving and caring to those outside and feeding them. He probably wouldn't even be let in St. Paul's anyway!

  10. Daniel Berry, NYC29 October 2011 at 15:38

    I don't refer to it as "the Institutional Church." I call it "The Church Bureaucratic Here in Hell."

    Here's a link to a less publicised aspect of the Occupy movement.