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.