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Canon of St Paul's: church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence
London, England - The canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, the Reverend Giles Fraser, spoke on Thursday about his reasons for resigning over the cathedral's stance towards the protest camp which has been established over the past two weeks.
"I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land," Fraser told the Guardian. "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."
Fraser said he decided to resign on Wednesday when he realised he could not reconcile his conscience with the possibility of the church and the Corporation of London combining to evict the protesters from the land outside the cathedral, some of which is jointly owned with the City.
"The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence," said Fraser, adding that it was apparent that the Corporation of London was clearer than the cathedral authorities about its desire to see the protesters moved on.
"I cannot countenance the idea that this would be about [the eviction of] Dale Farm on the steps of St Paul's.
"I would want to have negotiated down the size of the camp and appeal to those there to help us keep the cathedral going, and if that mean that I was thereby granting them some legal right to stay then that is the position I would have had to wear."
Fraser said he agreed with his colleagues that they had to get the life of the cathedral back and that the right to worship was fundamental.
He said that none of the discussions with the dean and chapter had been acrimonious. He said they had been some of the most constructive conversations he had ever had in the church and he praised the dean, the Right Rev Graeme Knowles, for giving everyone the space to have their say. He added: "Nobody was a villain in this, it has been a matter of conscience for everyone."
"Ironically the church is a church of the incarnation. That means it has to address things to do with everyday life, including money. Christopher Wren's forte was not 'Jesus born in a stable'.
"What the camp does is challlenge the church with the problem of the incarnation – that you have God who is grand and almighty, who gets born in a stable. St Paul was a tent maker. If you tried to recreate where Jesus would have been born, for me I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp."
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