Last Sunday night my friend Giles Fraser put me up at his house in the midst of a media storm surrounding the closure of England’s national cathedral, St. Paul’s. The Occupy London protesters have encamped in front of the Cathedral in order to be close to the London Stock Exchange and raise consciousness about economic corruption. The Dean of the Cathedral claims the encampment has created a health and safety hazard and has shut down the cathedral (something that Hitler was unable to do). The shutdown, according to the church leadership, is costing the cathedral nearly 20,000 pounds a day.
As Chancellor of the cathedral and head of St. Paul’s Institute for Financial Ethics, Giles has been working to protect the rights of the protesters and keep them safe from violence, at the same time he has tried to negotiate with protesters to protect the rights of those who worship at the cathedral. It’s a very complex situation and the closure of the cathedral has drawn lots of media attention.
At the time of my visit Giles was serving as Chancellor of the cathedral and was head of St. Paul’s Institute for Financial Ethics. Yesterday Giles resigned from his position in protest of the Cathedral’s decision to support the city of London in taking action against the Occupy London group, “I resigned because I believe that the chapter has set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church.” It was a brave and principled decision that will cost Giles and his family personally (he’ll be without work, he’ll lose his home, his children will have to be pulled from school).
I was sorry to hear this decision, particularly because I know this will cost him and his family. At the same time, I have much admiration for Giles (and his family) for his willingness to do what many in the public see as the obvious, Christian, action: work for economic justice, prevent violence.
The church needs more people willing to do the right thing, with compassion and humility. During my overnight at the Frasers’, we talked about the qualities of a good pastor. At one point Giles said, “Passion for the gospel. That’s the most important requirement. You must have passion for the gospel.” I will be praying for Giles and his family. And I will be praying that more of us will become passionate for the gospel.