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Monday, May 15, 2006

Odd Synod - Highlights from Last Year's Meetings

There was at least one strange discussion going on at the Anglican Church's General Synod last year, as reported here, as the Archdeacon of Coventry (Ven. Mark Bryant) asked the Secretary General:

"Times Online of 14 September quotes the Church of England as dismissing as ‘silly’ a paper from
Dr Brick of Paisley University’s School of Social Sciences regarding the iconic status of David Beckham. Does the Secretary General consider this comment to show the Church of England as willing to engage with contemporary culture?

The Secretary General: I am happy for Synod members to make up their own minds as to whether ‘silly’ was a reasonable response when a member of the Communications Unit was asked by The Times for a comment on this story. For those who missed it, it featured an international conference of 120 academics discussing Dr Carlton Brick’s claim that ‘Beckham the brand is all about salvation, redemption, even resurrection’ and the suggestion that the footballer ‘may be the nearest thing we have to a new Messiah’. Having said that, there are of course innumerable examples of the Church around the country engaging effectively with contemporary culture for the sake of the Gospel. Church House Publishing’s books Evangelism in a Spiritual Age and Mission-shaped Church both provide valuable resource material [click links to buy - GB].

The Archdeacon of Coventry (Ven. Mark Bryant): What advice did the member of the Communications Unit concerned seek before dismissing a reputable body of sociological research as silly?

The Secretary General: I hope that Synod will not get into a mindset of expecting staff to have to clear every action with a particular committee or with this body. We employ professional staff and I think in this case the member of the Communications Unit who was asked for a response by The Times reached a judgment and one that I am perfectly happy to back. I have to say that Dr Brick himself did subsequently give a rather a helpful quote. He said ‘He is just a footballer. This guy can’t bring peace and harmony to the world and there is something fundamentally wrong in using pseudo-Christian iconography which implies that he can’. So I think that the Communications Unit was on the right lines!

The Bishop of Coventry (Rt Revd Colin Bennetts): Without entering into the pros and cons of the substance both of the answer and the Question, I think there is still an issue - and I would value a response to this - about what it means when the press, and the media generally, say ‘The Church of England says …’ when some of us, who have to field that kind of comment at a local level, do not necessarily associate ourselves very willingly with what is being said here.

The Secretary General: It is a very real question and one that the communications team and a number of others grapple with a lot of the time. We do our best to put up spokesmen in response to national enquiries, very often drawing on lead bishops and chairs of councils, but on an issue like this some you get right and some you do not. The point, however, is well taken: nobody can speak for the Church of England, as I think the Archbishop of Canterbury himself has reminded us on a previous occasion.

Meanwhile the current MeCCSA bulletin reports that my fellow MeCCSA members were able to pinpoint the exact place of Cop Rock in the UK TV schedules in 1990. (Pre-order '>the demented DVD here, but don't say I didn't warn you...). Now comrades, let us continue to convince the public that better paid university lecturers are good value for money. Forward ever!


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