I admire David Ison, who was appointed Dean of St Paul's Cathedral earlier this week, for speaking up for same-sex marriage in his first national media interview after being appointed. I'm sorry that he ruined it within days by defending the forced eviction of Occupy London Stock Exchange in language that manages to be both evasive and insulting.
He has yet to take up his post at St Paul's and was not, of course, appointed when the Cathedral colluded in the violent removal of people who were peacefully sitting or praying on the cathedral steps. At least he has had the courage to express an opinion on the issue. The current authorities at St Paul's have failed to do despite nearly two weeks in which large numbers of people have urged them to make a clear statement on the issue.
Asked about the eviction by the Church Times, Ison said, "It's difficult what you do when people refuse to acknowledge reality and to obey court orders. But, if people choose to make a demonstration by not obeying the order of the court, that's up to them. The Church's role is to help people recognise reality in all sorts of ways, and that includes helping Occupy recognise when it's time to move on."
The new Dean is running the risk of appearing deliberately evasive. He must surely be aware of the reality that the cathedral steps were not covered by the court order, which authorised an eviction of land belonging to the City of London Corporation, not to St Paul's Cathedral.
I also find it rather arrogant to be told that views that do not fit with David Ison's are not "reality". In theological terms, sin and selfishness can be seen as resulting from our alienation from the reality that is found in God. We are all more detached from that reality than we should be. In contrast, David Ison appears to be equating "reality" with the perceptions and priorities of those who hold power in the world. This may not be his intention, but that is how it comes across.
I hope the new Dean will also challenge the City of London and its institutions to recognise the reality of an economic crash built on fantasies of endless money. There is no reality in the false gods of money and markets, which are merely human constructions.
(c) Symon Hill is associate director of Ekklesia and a founding member of Christianity Uncut. For links to more of his writing, please visit http://www.symonhill.wordpress.com .