The perceived dithering and divisions of church officials over the protest camp outside St Paul’s in London have claimed a second major scalp with the resignation of the cathedral’s dean, the Right Rev Graham Knowles.
The dean – whose job is sufficiently senior that a replacement must be approved by the Queen – announced that mounting criticism over the cathedral’s handling of the situation made his position “untenable”.
In a statement read on his behalf to the media at the Chapter House, opposite St Paul’s, Knowles said: “In recent days, since the arrival of the protesters’ camp outside the cathedral, we have all been put under a great deal of strain and have faced what would appear to be some insurmountable issues.
"I hope and pray that under new leadership these issues might continue to be addressed and that there might be a swift and peaceful resolution."
Last week the St Paul’s canon chancellor, Giles Fraser, stepped down after the cathedral’s governing chapter voted to begin possible legal action against the Occupy the London Stock Exchange camp, in place now for 16 days. A part-time cleric also resigned.
Cathedral elders have faced criticism not just over the possibility that force and violence will be used to evict the camp, but for the decision to close the cathedral for a week over health and safety concerns that remain unclear. The church has also experienced wider condemnation for failing to properly and publicly agitate on the excesses of finance and global banking until prompted to by the camp, part of a burgeoning global movement.
The canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral [in London] resigned because he could not face the prospect of “Dale Farm [a massive recent police eviction of peaceful squatters in a camp near London] on the steps of St Paul’s”, as police prepared to take action against the anti-capitalist protesters within days.
Giles Fraser, who announced his decision on Twitter, said he could not sanction the use of violence to rid the cathedral grounds of Occupy the London Stock Exchange campaigners.
The protest, comprising hundreds of tents, is entering its 13th day and organisers say they have no intention of leaving in the foreseeable future despite repeated requests from the cathedral, the City of London Corporation, the bishop of London, the mayor of London and the lord mayor of London…
"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. The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence."
It was apparent that the [City of London] was clearer than the cathedral about its desire to see the protesters moved on, Fraser said.