A schism in the Church of England

THE CHURCH of England is part of the British state machinery — its bishops have an automatic place in the House of Lords and it is headed by the monarch. It is a vital part of the coalition of bourgeois business interests and aristocratic landowners that has ruled this country since 1688. The church owns land and businesses and collects rents and dividends and it plays a role for the ruling class in mind control of the masses.

But in order to exercise that control it must sustain belief in the myths of Christianity and its Bible. One of the most constant themes in that Bible is the teaching that greed is bad; that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Bourgeois capitalism on the other hand is based on the opposite idea that greed is good and that avarice is the motor that makes the world go round.

How does the C of E pull off the trick of preaching one set of values while living by the other?

Until now the church has more or less managed it, using some of the best spin doctors in the world and keeping a low profile about their business interests. They did not fool all of the people all of the time but they fooled enough of the people enough of the time.

But the Occupy the London Stock Exchange encampment that landed in the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral has shattered the mask and exposed the hypocrisy. And it has also revealed that some on the lower ranking clergy are not so hypocritical.

For example, Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s immediate response to the occupation when it began on 15th October was to welcome it and to tell the police to go.

Behind closed doors this did not go down too well with some of his superiors and it certainly upset the Corporation of the City of London to think the occupation might be safe to stay as long as it liked, protected by the church.

That put the church authorities in a spot; having extended the hand of friendship at first it would take an embarrassing about-face to withdraw it and order the campers off straight away. So they tried other ways to put pressure and closed the cathedral on very spurious health and safety grounds. Their message to the protesters was: “We welcomed you but your presence is doing us untold damage; now go.”

It didn’t work. The encampment is one of the best organised and most considerate and safety-conscious there has ever been. They knew the C of E was closing the cathedral doors to spite its own face and they ignored it and camped on.

Meanwhile behind the scenes the City of London Corporation, the Home Office and the highest C of E authorities prepared for a forced eviction of the encampment — provoking the resignation of Giles Fraser and part-time chaplain Fraser Dyer.

And, as the news that Britain’s top bosses (the one per cent) had raised their own pay and perks by 50 per cent last year while the remaining 99 per cent of the population suffered serious cuts in living standards — Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, remained strangely silent about the situation at St Paul’s and the neighbouring temples of Mammon.

Then the Right Reverend Graham Knowles, the Dean of the cathedral, who had closed the doors and then opened them, resigned, saying his position was untenable — meaning he had made a fool of himself.

Home Secretary Theresa May is now putting pressure on the Corporation of London and the police to serve an injunction on the protesters giving them 48 hours to pack up and go. The protesters have said as soon as they get an injunction they will challenge it through the courts.

But the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, does not want an injunction. He wants the protesters to agree to go peacefully. That is unlikely to happen. But the Lord Mayor’s Show is looming and the ruling class want the embarrassing encampment gone before it.

The Occupy London Stock Exchange camp may well soon be forced out but it will nevertheless already have shattered a part of the gilded edifice of Britain’s state machinery and the C of E will never again be able to pretend it is not a part of the rule of Mammon.