St Paul's dean quits over protest

 

The Church of England descended deeper into crisis tonight with the resignation of the most senior clergyman at St Paul’s Cathedral following weeks of internal rancour over the anti-corporate greed protests that have sprung up on the church’s doorstep.

The Dean of St Paul’s, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, made the shock announcement this afternoon after consulting with Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London. In a statement he said that his position as head of St Paul’s had become “untenable” as criticism of the cathedral “mounted in the press, media and in public opinion” in the wake of the furore surrounding the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest.

Bishop Knowles was regarded as the architect of St Paul’s tough stance against the tented protest village, directing the cathedral to temporarily close its doors for the first time since the Blitz and instructing lawyers to looks at ways of evicting the demonstrators.

Those decisions sparked widespread criticism within the cathedral itself and wider Anglican Church as well as prompting the resignation of two clerics who said they feared the forced removal of protesters would inevitably lead to violence on the cathedral’s steps.

The departure of the Dean prompted the Archbishop of Canterbury to break his silence over the debacle engulfing what is one of Britain’s most iconic cathedrals.

After receiving two telephone calls from the Bishop of London – who is often tipped to be a potential future leader of the Anglican Church – Rowan Williams released a statement calling Knowles’ departure “very sad news”. Significantly, he also added words that were partially supportive of the protesters’ aims.

Describing events outside St Paul’s as a reminder that “decisions made in good faith by good people under unusual pressure can have utterly unforeseen and unwelcome consequences” Archbishop Williams called on his church to confront the issues posed by the global Occupy protest movements.

“The urgent larger issues raised by the protesters at St Paul's remain very much on the table and we need – as a Church and as society as a whole – to work to make sure that they are properly addressed,” he said.

Bishop Knowles and his wife Susan will now have to leave his grace and favour house near to Christopher Wren’s architectural masterpiece. His departure comes just days after Canon Giles Fraser stepped down from St Paul’s in protest at the stance its leaders – known as the Chapter – were taking towards the protesters.

Senior sources inside St Paul’s have told The Independent that – unlike Canon Fraser – Bishop Knowles felt compelled to quit over what he saw as his cathedral’s poor handling of the protest controversy, not because he ideologically disagreed with the direction the Chapter were taking.

What happens next will largely depend on the Bishop of London and Bishop Michael Colcough who, as resident Canon within the Chapter, will become an interim head of St Paul’s until a replacement is found.

At the press conference this afternoon the Bishop of London struck a defiant tone, insisting that it was only right for St Paul’s to explore what legal measures it might want to apply to remove the protesters. But he insisted that members of the Chapter were unanimously against the use of force.

“What the Chapter is absolutely clear about is that the last thing they would condone is the use of violence in securing the enforcement of any orders,” he said. “Any prudent organisation has to map and explore the legal territory because we don’t know what’s going to happen as this protest evolves.”

The Bishop was speaking less than an hour after the City of London Corporation fired the starter gun for a lengthy legal battle by serving protesters with a notice to clear any tents and equipment from the public highway within 48 hours. The City of London owns some of the pavements surrounding the cathedral whilst St Paul’s has indicated its intention seek legal eviction from the land it owns.

William Densham, a partner at international law firm Eversheds, which is not involved in the eviction, commented: “The protesters could make life difficult by playing the system in various ways but, ultimately, it will be a matter of time as to when they are eventually evicted.”

Occupy London Stock Exchange responded to Bishop Knowles’ resignation with a reminder that although they had disagreed with him, they had never called for his resignation.

“The management of St Paul’s Cathedral is obviously deeply divided over the position they have taken in response to our cause – but our cause has never been directed at the staff of the Cathedral,” the statement read.

Joel Benjamin, a 29-year-old protester from Vauxhall, said: "I am saddened that we've got a situation where members of the church are resigning. It's not their responsibility - it's about the financial system, it's not about the Church of England.”

Holy trinity: The St Paul's resignations

Giles Fraser: The first clergyman to resign: Canon Giles Fraser's decision to step down last Thursday sent shockwaves through St Paul's and revealed how deep the divide was within the cathedral. Mr Fraser, a regular on Thought for the Day and a church liberal, said at the time: "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."

Fraser Dyer: Although not as senior as Giles Fraser, the resignation on Friday of Fraser Dyer revealed the feelings of discontent among some of the lower ranking clergy at St Paul's. Dyer, a curate at St Peter De Beauvoir Town Church who did part time chaplaincy work at St Paul's said he was disappointed the cathedral was pursuing an eviction. "I wanted to join... with other clergy colleagues and church members who are expressing disquiet with the stance being taken by St Paul's," he said.

Graeme Knowles: The Dean of St Paul's stepped down yesterday partly in recognition that his leadership of St Paul's over the past two weeks has seriously damaged the reputation of the Church of England. "It has become increasingly clear to me that, as criticism of the cathedral mounted in the press, media and in public opinion, my positions... was becoming untenable," he said.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?