Giles Fraser may be England’s most media savvy vicar. He has a column in the Guardian, he’s regularly featured on the Beeb and he’s a diligent tweeter.
Dr. Fraser is the parish priest at St. Mary’s, Newington in the rough and tumble south London neighbourhood known as Elephant and Castle. He looks like he might once have been a mean rugby player.
He’s also the former Canon Chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral who resigned over the decision to forcibly remove Occupy protesters from within its precincts.
This Easter weekend Dr. Fraser has been giving an erstwhile Archbishop of Canterbury a bit of salutary welly. He derides the former prelate’s obsession with homosexuality and characterises Lord Carey’s claim that he feels like a “persecuted Christian” as an insult to Christians around the world who really are hounded and terrorised; coming as it does from one who sits swaddled in ermine in the House of Lords.
Not content with preaching to a largely lefty audience of Guardianistas, he managed to get himself into the Daily Mail, simultaneously the bastion of right wing righteous indignation and up-skirt photography.
The thing about this redoubtable rev is that he does Christianity as opposed to bang on about it. He seems to subscribe to the increasingly rare idea that being a good Christian means carrying on where supposedly, more than two thousand years ago, that non-violent activist who took on a military dictatorship with his message of social justice and equality left off.
He makes the (sadly) remarkable assertion that the natural nexus of the church with politics is advocating for the poor and needy rather than worrying about who has sex with whom and whether gay people marrying will bring on the end times.
What’s really terrific about Giles Fraser is that the church he represents is not some esoteric and exclusionary club engaged in a competition to see who will and who won’t make the cut come the rapture, but an organisation that is dedicated, alongside charities, unions, NGOs and political parties, to the fight for social justice. Which one might have thought would be the default setting for a church.
Does Giles Fraser make me any less of an atheist (well agnostic really)? Not a bit of it. But he certainly makes me think of the church as a relevant and vital organisation in 2013.