The standoff between Occupy London Stock Exchange protestors, the Corporation of London and St. Paul's Cathedral took another dramatic turn Monday afternoon as the Dean of St. Paul's, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, resigned over his handling of the protests.
The OccupyLSX protests have already led to the departure of the Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser from his position at the world-famous church.
Earlier on Monday lawyers acting for the cathedral and Corporation of London — the executive arm of the City of London — went to the High Court to begin proceedings against the anti-capitalist demonstrators who have been camped on the side of the cathedral for the last two weeks, amid growing fears police could use force to evict them.
The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, will now lead the cathedral's negotiations with the protestors.
In a statement posted on its website, St. Paul’s stated the Dean had informed his colleagues of his intention to resign on Sunday night. As the appointment of the Dean of St. Paul’s is a royal appointment, staff asked the Bishop of London, who delivered the sermon at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April, to assist them by providing an “independent voice on the ongoing situation at St. Paul's."
On Sunday, the Bishop visited the campsite and spoke to protestors holding a question-and-answer session with them in which he appeared to back the basic principles behind their protest. However, he failed to condemn the legal action being taken by the Corporation of London and the cathedral.
Instead the Bishop said: “I can see very clearly that getting the legal situation clear is a sensible precautionary measure. I do not subscribe to the idea that it will instantly lead to violence.”
The Bishop has had “no part to date in discussions with protestors or decisions made by the Cathedral,” according to the statement issued by the cathedrdal, and it is felt his input is now required.
The decision to take legal action against the protestors followed a meeting of the Corporation of London’s, planning and transport committee, held on Friday morning, which was closed to the public after around 60 protestors arrived at the meeting to make representations.
Several protestors told CNBC.com that they were appalled at not being able to make representations to the committee and claimed that repeated efforts to engage in dialogue with the Corporation and the cathedral had been rebuffed.
Knowles 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. "
"In recent days, since the arrival of the protesters’ camp outside the cathedral, we have all been put under a great deal of strain and have faced what would appear to be some insurmountable issues," he added. " I hope and pray that under new leadership these issues might continue to be addressed and that there might be a swift and peaceful resolution.”
The Bishop of London, expressed sadness over the Dean's resignation and said he hoped the Dean’s accomplishments would not be overshadowed by recent events at the cathedral.
“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,” he said.
"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.”
The Dean is the most senior member of the cathedral to resign and his resignation marks the third in the last week. On Thursday, Reverend Giles Fraser announced his resignation as Canon Chancellor in protest at the proposed legal action to evict the protestors and spoke of his fears such legal action could lead to violence. The following day, Reverend Fraser Dyer, curate of St. Peter De Beauvoir Town, London and a chaplain at the cathedral, resigned stating similar concerns.