Monday: Dean of St Paul's resigns

by
31 October 2011

by Ed Thornton

THE Dean of St Paul’s, the Rt Revd Graeme Knowles, resigned today.

Dean Knowles, aged 60, said in a statement that criticism of the Cathedral’s handling of the protest camp had made his position “untenable”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement issued this afternoon: “The events of the last couple of weeks have shown very clearly how decisions made in good faith by good people under unusual pressure can have utterly unforeseen and unwelcome consequences, and the clergy of St Paul's deserve our understanding in these circumstances. . .

“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.”

Dean Knowles, who informed the Cathedral Chapter of his decision to resign last night, “has removed himself from Cathedral operations with immediate effect”, a statement from the Cathedral said. He intends to submit his resignation to the Queen today.

A statement from Dean Knowles read out at a press briefing this afternoon by the Registrar of St Paul’s, Major-General Nicholas Cottam, said: “The past fortnight has been a testing time for the Chapter and for me personally. It has become increasingly clear to me that, as criticism of the cathedral has mounted in the press, media and in public opinion, my position as Dean of St Paul’s was becoming untenable.

“In order to give the opportunity for a fresh approach to the complex and vital questions facing St Paul’s, I have thought it best to stand down as dean, to allow new leadership to be exercised. I do this with great sadness, but I now believe that I am no longer the right person to lead the Chapter of this great cathedral.”

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A statement from the Cathedral said that the Chapter had “unanimously voted to request the Bishop of London [the Rt Revd Richard Chartres] to assist them in providing an independent voice on the ongoing situation at St Paul’s. The Bishop has had no part to date in the discussions and decisions made by Chapter and it is felt his input is now required.”

Bishop Chartres said: “I was very sad to hear the Dean’s decision and believe he has acted honourably in a very difficult situation. During his time at St Paul’s, Graeme has accomplished a great deal that should not be overshadowed by recent events.”

Bishop Chartres continued: “The Chapter has now requested me to help them find a way forward. I have repeated over the past few weeks my own desire to shift the attention to the economic and moral challenges which our country, in common with so much of the rest of the world, is having to face. There are many diverse voices in the camp outside St Paul’s but among them, serious issues are being articulated which the Cathedral has always sought to address.
 
“While St Paul’s is not on any particular political side – that is not its role – it does have an important part to play in providing a place for reasoned debate within a moral and spiritual context.”

Bishop Chartres said that the appointment of the next Dean, which is a Crown appointment, would follow the “very clearly stated process” that had been agreed by General Synod. “I have been in touch already with the person who is responsible for appointments on behalf of the Crown – this is a Crown appointment, though there is wide consultation. . . I don’t think parachuting anybody in would really help us just at the moment. But I think that there will be time for reflection and for the process to be followed.”

Bishop Chartres said that, after hearing last night of the Dean’s intention to resign, he spoke to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been kept “fully apprised” of the situation.

Dr Williams said that Dean Knowles had been a “very distinguished Dean of St Paul’s who has done a great deal to strengthen the pastoral and intellectual life of the Cathedral and its involvement in the life of London”.

Responding to the Dean's resignation, the Occupy London group issued a statement saying the "management of St Paul’s Cathedral is obviously deeply divided over the position they have taken in response to our cause", but stressing their cause was not to call for "scalps".
 
It continued: "We ask that St Paul’s Institute publish its report into renumeration in the financial sector and call on those of all faiths and none to be part of a call for change. Together, we are the 99 per cent.
 
"We reiterate the need for open and transparent dialogue involving all parties, including the Cathedral, the Corporation of London and others, through our relevant liaison groups. This is a historic opportunity to make a real difference and a real change for all in our society, in the UK and beyond."

 

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