I watch this from a distance. St Paul’s is the location of the Occupy London protesters and they are there because it was not possible to occupy the financial district. But the leaders of St Paul’s have mismanaged the whole affair and, instead of offering insight into a Christian/kingdom understanding of wealth and greed, which ought in some dimensions have led them to support some of the protest … well, instead of this they have managed both to hide a report about financial greed and sought legal means to remove the protesters by force. Here are some reports:
LONDON—The head of St. Paul’s Cathedral stepped down over the church’s handling of anticapitalist protesters camped out on its doorstep, as the Occupy London demonstrations brought the second high-profile resignation in as many weeks to London’s main church for the Anglican faith.
Graeme Knowles, dean of St. Paul’s, announced his resignation “with great sadness” on Monday. Last week, St. Paul’s said it planned to begin legal action to obtain a court order that would force the campers to leave, a decision that drew fire from many critics. [The irony of a link to WSJ.com that requires subscription to read any further… doesn’t escape me.]
Andrew Brown’s got this right, so it seems to me:
The resignation of the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Graeme Knowles, has landed responsibility for the crisis with the bishop of London, Richard Chartres. If the dean’s sacrifice is not to be in vain, the bishop must reverse his policy within the next 24 hours, and preferably by tomorrow morning. The alternatives are very much worse.
The bishop has a simple choice. Either he plans to throw all the protesters out, or he acquiesces in the presence of some sort of camp right outside his front door for the indefinite future. The lawyers, and perhaps the health-and-safety people, believe he must expel the protesters. The rest of the church sees clearly that this would be wrong in principle, and hugely damaging to the reputation of Christianity.
There’s no tidy way out of this, but there is a wrong one, which is to continue digging the grave Knowles had with such effort prepared for the Church of England’s reputation. The bishop will have to defy his own lawyers and negotiate a peaceful settlement with the protesters. Since he must do this, he had best do it at once. To wait for a week and then change his mind would be nearly as disastrous as settling for expulsion….
The criticism of St Paul’s in the last week has been almost unanimous, and has ranged across the whole spectrum of opinion within the Church of England. Some has come from people who could never be described as left wing, like the last archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.
The most remarkable critic was Ken Costa, the hugely rich banker who bankrolled the evangelical Alpha Course. Writing in Saturday’s Financial Times he said: “I have been in the City since before the Big Bang whose 25th anniversary came this week. I have been through several recessions but I cannot recall the underlying sustained anger across all social levels – from dinner parties to demonstrations – aimed at bankers and the market economy as a whole.
“When such a wide range of people are singing a tune perhaps discordant to a City worker’s ears but seemingly in tune with the global view that the market economy has failed to deliver growth, jobs and hope, we need to listen. The cure is not more legislation, or increased regulation. It is the pressing need to reconnect the financial with the ethical.”
So Andrew Brown’s concluding words:
This need to reconnect the financial with the ethical is precisely the cause on which the protesters and the chapter of St Paul’s are united, even when they disagree. It would be an act of insane folly if the Church of England were to disconnect them once again, and to take the side of money against ethics. But that is what the bishop of London will be seen to do if his policy doesn’t change right now.