The Rev Dr Giles Fraser, who resigned as canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral last year over plans to forcibly remove Occupy protesters from its steps, has been appointed parish priest of an inner-city church in south London.

Fraser will begin his new job at St Mary's Newington, in Elephant & Castle, later this month. He will chronicle his experiences in the parish in a regular column for the Guardian, which begins on Sunday.

Fraser said he was looking forward to starting work after a difficult few months. "After I resigned there was no plan B whatsoever. It was just a total principled decision. It has been a very dark period thinking about what I'm supposed to be doing with my life."

Despite being shortlisted for jobs as a bishop and a dean...

I make no secret of the fact that I am jealous of the Giles Frasers of this world. I said when he resigned from St. Pauls that he would be looked after and that he would probably get a bishop's job out of it. Kudos to him for taking the lesser path although, as a bishop, he might not have had so much time for all his other stuff. You know, when I was a lorry driver nobody gave a toss which school I went to. All they cared about was whether or not I got the job done. I really wished somebody had warned me about how much "who you know" mattered in the Church of England instead of lying to me about how much they needed working people in the priesthood.



  1. They did/do need you-so that they can say “We’re not ALL from expensive schools and Oxbridge; look, here’s one vicar who used to be a lorry driver of all things! Who says we’re not reaching out to the working classes? Who can say now we’re not The Church of the English People?”
    In the USA, this is called “tokenism”. You’ll see it a lot in the bulletins and reports of Mainline Protestant Churches which have pictures of “people of color” all over their publications and websites but whose actual memberships have somehow mysteriously remained between 93-98% White and middle/upper middle class (think “The Guardian” at prayer).
    Unless the token is extremely valuable, or just lucky, the token stays at lower (though sometimes visible) levels. The real money and power stay with the people who had them before.

  2. I don’t know about Mainline Protestantism, but the Orthodox and Catholics refer to this principle, very active in their societies, as “relying on the intercession of the faithful”.

  3. MP, I agree with you. Seems who you know, and how close you are to being “normal” is what matters to those in the institution. And Jesus wept.

  4. Does Canon Fraser have the humility of a Lorry Driver? Because, he’ll need it in his new parish.

    Mixed area. Many yuppie converted warehouses, mixed with a high ethnic mix of the poor and deprived in social housing. It will be challenging and really hard work.

    God be with him, because he will need him there.

  5. My guess, UKV, is that he will do well. He certainly looks the part. His main problem will be accepting that the worries of his poorer parishioners are real, if somewhat bluntly voiced. How he responds to views, casually stated, that he will find repugnant as a member of the liberal elite, and, more so, how he relates to the people holding such beliefs, will decide whether he succeeds or not.

  6. As St. Mary’s is the next parish over from me, and I am the Lay Chair of the Southwark and Newington Deanery in which St. Mary’s is situated, I’m really delighted that he’ll be here working in this area.

    The parish has a very large number of people of colour from Africa, as well as a goodly number of white people. When I first moved to the area 18 years ago it was a fiercely Anglo-Catholic parish which (I think) passed resolutions A and B. Over the last two Rectors it has moved to acceptance of women’s ministry and the stipendiary curate is a wonderful woman who will, I’m sure, be overjoyed that her training incumbent will be Giles Fraser.

    The previous incumbent was my Area Dean and had two very young children, so his attention sometimes was taken (rightly so) by other things. I’m certain that Giles will be a great incumbent there and will be in line for greater things in due course.

  7. Of course, he will be in line for greater things. That was written in stone from before the world began. St. Mary’s will look so good on his CV.

    Forgive my cynicism but, as you know, Chris, I went for loads of jobs like this in Southwark and did not get an interview for any of them. Me and Giles believe pretty much the same things but I don’t have the refined manners of the Church’s liberal elite. What parishes like St. Mary’s need are priests who understand them not priests who love them, patronisingly, from a privileged position of intellectual and cultural superiority.

  8. I would say that being in a position of intellectual superiority does not necessarily mean that one’s heart is made of stone or that one cannot empathise with people who have difficulty in figuring out where their next meal comes from.

    I cannot say why you did not even get an interview for any of the jobs in Southwark Diocese for which you applied. I am sorry about that, as I think you would have done well. But think of this: you are an excellent priest, in a position where you have worldwide influence and people all over who respect and love you and think of you as a friend and pastor. Does that make up for the fact that the position is (mostly) unpaid? Of course not. But I think that you too are in line for greater things to come. And not driving a lorry, either.

  9. I am not attacking Giles’ motivation and pastoral ability. I am complaining about how much easier it is for those who are in with the in crowd to get on than it is for those who don’t come from the right side of the tracks, so to speak.

    My time has been and gone. We won, which is nice. But my attempts to create a new ministry have been singularly unsuccessful. My liturgical project has proved about as popular as an occupy camp in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

  10. MP, it was ever thus, in any human institution. In my own academic field, I routinely see people who have the right friends get ahead with awards, grants, and publications, even when they are far less accomplished than others who actually have to work for everything. However, in many cases there’s really no difference in ability, just in the ….shall we say, visibility.

    There’s an old joke that the designation FRS (Fellow ofthe Royal Society) really means “Friends of the Right Sort.”

    One can only hope that those who DO get ahead manage to do a good job of it, regardless of how they got there.

  11. Yes, I am an avid reader of science and the history of science and the amount of good science we have most likely lost because of the constant battle between the connected and the inspired is tragic. The early history of Scottish geological research is a perfect example of the abuse of old school tie power.

    I love the FRS thing. I shall use it.

  12. I am sorry to hear your new liturgical project has not taken off. Two thoughts arise, neither of which you want to hear:
    1) give it some time. This sort of enterprise takes a while.
    2) are you bucking the rubrics? I know that in our Prayerbook, the priest is limited in many ways as to what she may say. As the contentiousness over the ACNA issue inter alia has risen, I see a lot more clergy being careful to stick to the letter of the book as a defense. It sucks but there it is.


  13. I think we are freer in the Church of England to substitute the set propers with “suitable alternatives,” than my colleagues in the Americas are. We also have a long history of doing what we like liturgically (the Anglo-Catholics started it, or was it the Puritans?).

    I started this project because there is no one resource available as far as I know and most CofE clergy, who want to be more creative with the liturgy, turn up for church with a pile of books (I certainly did). This isn’t a new thing, it’s simply a tidying up operation.