Church Leader Given Honorary Award

From the story Graduations: Summer 2013

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A leading commentator within the Church of England Dr Giles Fraser was today awarded an honorary doctorate from Edge Hill University.

Former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and columnist for The Guardian received his honorary doctorate conferred in a ceremony on the Ormskirk campus on 17th July. Listen to his interview here.

Dr Fraser is most widely known for his role at St Paul’s Cathedral, from which he resigned in October 2011 following the decision of the Church to evict Occupy London protestors from their camp outside the Cathedral.  Making no secret of his support for their right to peaceful protest and his own sympathies for their cause, he commented, “the idea that the only way you can engage with what’s going on out there is through eviction is actually a failure of imagination.”

As one of the country’s leading Anglicans, Dr Fraser has sought to encourage debate and develop understanding around some of the Church’s most difficult issues including same-sex marriage and homosexuality within the priesthood.  Giles founded the Inclusive Church in 2003 following events surrounding the resignation of the Rev’d Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading brought about because of his sexual orientation.  Whilst supporting Lesbian and Gay members, the Inclusive Church champions all aspects of inequality.

He has been involved in social and political advocacy and has lectured on moral leadership for the British Army at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham for many years. His honorary, which was given for his work in this area and for his campaigning around social inclusion, resonates closely with the ethos of the University.

Speaking after his ceremony, he said: “Thank you for this degree, it’s wonderful to be here and this is a fantastic honour.

Giles has come a long way since his childhood days when his school report described him like ‘a monkey at a zoo, who displays himself from his least flattering angle’. He saw himself as a ‘rebel’ but confesses that the most rebellious thing he did in his life was to become a priest. He said: “To do this was seen to be strange and weird. It was an act of rebellion against the dominant consciousness.”

Giving advice to students graduating, he said: “I have one piece of wisdom to give – write your own obituary, it is such an extraordinary thing to see on paper. Even write down the date of death, it helps to focus the mind. You have a limited portion of life so you have to ask yourself, what is it you want to do with your time? What kind of life would you like to lead? What kind of person do you want to be? And the killer question is, ‘am I leading my life in such a way that this obituary is actually a real possibility and something that I can be proud of?’”