Comments: Church of England “bewildered” by cinema ban on Lord’s Prayer

Speaking only as an Ignorant Yank, if I saw this advertisement (rather lovely as a short video) in a movie theater, I would *cringe*.

Perhaps a PSA (public service announcement) to "Just Take a Moment and Reflect" might be a message of value (to which not even savage capital could object!). But "Just Pray (the Lord's Prayer)" is an admittedly *particular* prayer that is going to be objectionable to many [see re You Tube comments].

It amazes me that, in 2015, churches propose evangelism campaigns that act like there's still a Christian hegemony in Western culture---as if you could just sort of naggingly remind people to "come back to church/to praying the Lord's Prayer". Rightly or wrongly (I think the former), that Christian hegemony is LONG gone. Personally, I think "sharing the Good News" needs to start w/ what *secular people believe to be good news*, and then build on that to show why Jesus exemplifies/empowers that. Nagging---even w/ all sorts of lovingly depicted diverse people doing the nagging---is counter-productive (IMO).

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 10:29am GMT

Well, this Hoo-Ha will certainly draw more attention to the Lord's Prayer, which can only be a good thing. I recall that when the then Bishop of Wakefield condemned Hardy's "Jude the Obscure" sales rocketed. A cinema ban can hopefully arouse and stir up greater interest in the greatest prayer of them all. But why not stick to either traditional or contemporary language rather than mix up the twain? Justin starts off - "Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be YOUR name", then the next speaker comes in with "THY Kingdom come" one or the other per-lease !

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 12:51pm GMT

Good try, in my opinion "Our creator"... would be an even better start.

Posted by victoria at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 1:45pm GMT

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done" and "give us this day our daily bread" have always "offended" the powers and principalities—as well they should.

Posted by Jesse Zink at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 1:57pm GMT

This is becoming more mysterious by the hour. So, back in September, it was already clear that the 'proposed' ad would not be shown? But they went ahead and made it anyway and then decided to make a fuss now? Does anyone know whether this was funded from a special donation to Allchurches?

Posted by Cassandra at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 2:25pm GMT

And while we're at it, can anyone explain why below the justpray logo on there's the address of, who run such things as

Posted by Cassandra at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 2:41pm GMT

Why did nobody check DCM would be happy with an advert like this before it was commissioned?

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 3:28pm GMT

I too would cringe.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican 2 at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 3:52pm GMT

I'm astonished that the church should be "bewildered" about not being allowed to advertise to a captive audience of all faith and none.

It has nothing to do with free speech - no-one is banning the advert, it is freely available on YouTube and the Church is free to offer it to anyone who might want to see it, maybe in churches all over the land.

It might have been different if they had got together with all the other major faith and humanists to make an advert about the power of peaceful belief and prayer/meditation.

Today's Songs of Praise is a good example of how it can be done.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 4:44pm GMT

There is an old expression, freedom of the press belongs to anyone who owns one. Movie theaters don't want to alienate their customers.

The movie chains are probably inadvertently doing evangelical types a favor on this one. The promoters of evangelism may actually get the opposite result they desire by aggravating folks who came for the escapism of the show.

You want to promote this kind of thing? Go get a soap box and stand on it in a public space, like the guy with the mega phone and the evangelical bluster out on the street in front of Primark on Sundays.

Now, access to public airways on a broadcast network is something of a different conversation. Here in Canada, during the recent federal election, the CBC ran disclaimers in front of politcal ads, reminding the audience that they were required by law to carry them. Preciousness and the de rigueur are not unknown at the CBC. One suspects the same to varying degrees from most corporate platforms and venues. Freedom of expression is likely a dead end strategy on this one.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 5:06pm GMT

Why are Arora and our Abp bewildered? We've just received a little booklet from the CofE, the EA and Hope called 'Talking Jesus, Perceptions of Jesus, Christians and Evangelism in England.' In it, I read that over 71pc of our contemporaries are left feeling awkward or 'glad not to be a Christian' by evangelism. I expect the movie people have read it too. The CofE spin on its own booklet? "Let's prioritise... talking about Jesus... one in five is open to him." 29 percent, to be exact.

Posted by Lorenzo at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 6:02pm GMT

Many of us are genuinely 'bewildered' that marriage is banned for lesbian and gay Anglicans by the Church of England.

Could this be poetic justice ?

However, the following quotation demonstrates both lack ironic sensibility and very thin ice :

'He warned it could ‘give rise to the possibility of legal proceedings’ under the Equality Act, which outlaws commercial organisations from refusing services on the grounds of religion.'

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 6:15pm GMT

It isn't exactly a "ban" if they aren't showing any religious or political ads. If they had some form of bias (running them for Jehovah's Witnesses but not for the CoE) then you'd have a problem. But in this case it just sounds like a policy to avoid religion, beliefs, politics, etc. This is hardly the end of the world and no reason to stir up animosity among the public.

Posted by Dennis at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 7:30pm GMT

I am in total agreement..allow this and you will get the Mormons and all others promoting their creeds.

Posted by robert ian williams at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 7:39pm GMT

Total joke.

Cinema chains are private, for-profit businesses, so free speech arguments don't apply; no *person* is being discriminated against because of their beliefs; and religious freedom isn't close to being absolute.

This, is short, the kind of entitled, bully-boy posturing that's toxic to evangelism. Bravo, slow clap, drop curtain.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 9:15pm GMT

I agree with JCF that the ad is most likely to make people cringe. I'm all for freedom of speech, but there's a time and place for prayer, and the cinema isn't it. I would no more wish to hear the Lord's Prayer before Star Wars than the proclamation Allahu Akbar. How crass.

Posted by FrDavidH at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 10:04pm GMT

I too would cringe for reasons given by others. The crassness of our leadership - also seen in today's news about the ABC doubting God esp because Paris was such a nice place to live - beggars belief. "They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves."

Posted by Fr William at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 11:48pm GMT

Many of us are "bewildered" by the overt discrimination against good priests like Jeremy Pemberton and Jeffrey John. It's a bit rich of Lambeth Palace to shout "discrimination" now. Welcome to the club!

Posted by Chris A at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 12:00am GMT

"The 60 second advert features Christians from all walks of life praying one line of the Lord’s prayer and includes weight lifters, a police officer, a commuter . . . and the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Why am I not surprised. Of course the ad had to feature the CEO.

And of course, per the Daily Mail, the CEO "reacted with fury" at a ban on the ad featuring himself.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 2:08am GMT

And the video is pure rubbish. Has the C of E lost its bearings?

Posted by Spirit of Vatican 2 at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 2:10am GMT

Thank goodness the Lord's Prayer video includes weight lifters rather than shirt lifters as that would provoke yet another tsunami of comment on the TA Blog about - that sort of thing!

Posted by Father David at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 8:10am GMT

The church sees this as discrimination. I wonder if this might change their attitude to people who feel that the church is the discriminator when it comes to sexual orientation?

Posted by Kate at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 8:52am GMT

What really worries me is how this links in with the plans to deal with the "demographic time bomb" described in the post above this one on TA. The Observer article includes the paragraph (I assume attributed to John Spence but I can't be sure) that: Among the changes is a redistribution of funding, largely away from struggling rural parishes to churches in deprived urban areas and those seen as innovative and ***energetic in adapting to social change***.

It troubles me that a church wanting to adapt to social change appears not to understand that change. This goes way beyond the lgbt question and contorted provisions for those who cannot accept women bishops (which are in themselves virtually impossible to explain to someone not steeped in theology and church politics).

How could they not have known that in a multicultural society it would be inappropriate to advertise Christian prayer to a captive audience that has not come to watch religious instruction?

The idea that in a country in which Muslims are increasingly being marginalised (attacks on Muslims increased dramatically since the Paris attacks, but this is not new, this is a well-known trend) it would be a good idea to emphasise the Them and Us feeling by asking everyone to pray a Christian prayer.... that this would not be offensive to many people and divisive... how come this did not enter anyone's mind?

How can it be possible that the church understands the concept of free speech so little that it thinks in terms of a “cold chill” because a public commercial venue decides not to screen religious advertising? When churches are free to preach what they like every Sunday, advertise what they like on their notice boards and in their newspapers and online, when this prayer is freely available on YouTube?

If this genuinely reflects the church’s understanding of the society it finds itself in, we are in deeper trouble than I had feared.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 11:20am GMT

It would be nice if the CofE would actually learn the meaning of the phrase "chilling effect", too. It isn't just a phrase to throw around when a private company declines to accept your paid advertising. Chilling effect is normally used to refer to the self-censoring that ensues from fear of legal action, even if the self-censored speech is lawful and the legal action likely to fail. Nothing like this at all.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 12:11pm GMT

'He warned it could ‘give rise to the possibility of legal proceedings’ under the Equality Act,'

But surely the Church of England is exempt from the Equality Act? Oh no, that's only when it wants to discriminate against LGBT people.

The video should certainly be banned on aesthetic grounds if nothing else. Is this really what our congregations are wasting their money on?

Posted by Fr Andrew at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 12:25pm GMT

Isn't the bewilderment ('fury' is the media word for this) that it had all actually been agreed? It might still be the case that all of us here would have done it so much better (or not at all) but that is not the issue.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 2:08pm GMT

I am astonished that church officials are bewildered at the response of the cinema chains! More surprised that Giles Fraser should call the refusal to show the video "nonsense on stilts." He says, basically, that no one has a right not to be offended, which is true but irrelevant. It's true that Bentham used the expression "nonsense on stilts" to pour scorn on the idea of human rights. Bentham lost that particular battle, but using rights language where it does not apply only reinforces Bentham's reasons for calling human rights "nonsense on stilts." Which is particularly clear in Giles Fraser’s case. For there is surely nothing in the idea of the right to free speech which can support the rights claim to force privately owned businesses to screen films that they consider likely to offend some of their customers.

What seems to me genuinely appalling is the use of the Lord's Prayer to advertise Christianity. And, by the way, placing the ABC at the point where "Our Father" is said is a bit elevated for Welby, isn't it, if not bordering on blasphemy!? Who on earth thought this would be a good idea? Whoever it was should have made sure, before wasting money, that cinema chains would show it! At least they lived up to a commandment of the Lord (according to Luke 12):

"22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.

23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.

24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?"

Clearly, someone at Church House was not dwelling on the morrow!

Posted by Eric MacDonald at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 3:14pm GMT

"Thank goodness the Lord's Prayer video includes weight lifters rather than shirt lifters"

Agh, Father David, you just made me cackle very loudly in my office!

Posted by Alastair Newman at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 3:28pm GMT

Giles Fraser writes great columns. This is not one of his better ones. Cinemas are not public spaces. They are private property housing a business. Theaters are no more required to screen the ad than Starbucks is required to put the baby Jesus on their coffee cups.

However, part of the fun in these kinds of controversies is to be found in nuance and detail. Here is a much more interesting ad controversy. A judge in New York has ruled that the Metropolitan Transit Authority has discriminated by refusing to carry "Muslims are Coming" satirical ads, which are sponsored by Muslim comedians apparently. Perhaps the church needs to fire its PR people and replace them with someone more competent, like Muslim comedians. Maybe the church should have gone for more humor and a different venue?

Read about it here:

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 5:52pm GMT

But, Rod, Starbucks uses the image of the Queen of Heaven, do they not?

Posted by Fr William at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 6:26pm GMT

The cinemas are exercising their freedom of speech -- by deciding not to run the ads.
Generally speaking, "freedom of speech" refers to freedom of speaking -- without THE GOVERNMENT censoring it.
I don't know which "one line" is being repeated over and over again by weightlifters and archbishops, along with weighty bishops and arch lifters, but if this ad runs for one minute while I'm eagerly waiting for that Star Wars' signature opening chord, I'd be driven batty, and less inclined to think highly of the CofE, Christianity, and the idiot who produced the ad.
I detest TV or movie theater commercials where the same phrase is said over and over again, by an ad creator who thinks pounding it into our skulls shows creativity.
Didn't Jesus of Nazareth encourage people to pray privately?

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 7:51pm GMT

'What seems to me genuinely appalling is the use of the Lord's Prayer to advertise Christianity'. It is not. Not sure how many here realise this is part of a much bigger, creative initiative to encourage people to pray - whoever and wherever they are. Quite a Christian thing to do I think.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 23 November 2015 at 9:13pm GMT

Surely it's a Jewish prayer?

Posted by Fr William at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 6:25am GMT

As usual, and from the usual suspects, there is only attempt to deflect, to play martyr, to decry liberal straw men, rather than to ask the only question that should concern us as Christians . . .

How far has the Church sunk, how much has the Church failed humanity, if a simple ad about prayer has become offensive, and what must change so that we no longer make Christ vile in the mouths and minds of humanity?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 8:19am GMT

David Runcorn,
I presume that in the new spirit of business clarity the CoE has conducted proper research to establish whether a prayer advert to a captive audience of people of all faith and none is more likely to attract people than it is to turn them off.

After all, the "Talking Jesus" report has just shown that far more people think their way of evangelising is received positively than is actually the case. And quite a few recipients of that talk reported that, on the contrary, they were put off by the conversation.

Bearing in mind that:
- many people don't like being preached to
- many are prejudiced against religion
- many object to the increasing Islamophobia in society (while others encourage it), and a specifically Christian advert could be seen to reinforce that
- many only barely tolerate adverts in cinemas but know they have no choice.
- many Christians have confidently reply to the suggestion that the advert may be offensive that the Lord's Prayer is meant to be offensive

the Church would want to be 100% sure that the money spent would be a useful expense. That the prayer advert will have a largely positive and spiritual effect. And that it will not result in a huge amount of negative PR about an arrogant church that can’t get its own house in order with regard to women and gay people, yet wants to lecture Muslims, Jews, Atheists and others about the Truth of the Christian God.

It is entirely possible that the advert would have a positive effect and that it is regretful that it won’t be shown.
It is also entirely possible that it could have a negative effect.

Do we know who researched the likely responses? And what the result of that research was?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 11:16am GMT

Well, David, you and I are fated to disagree. I find it in poor taste. Nor do I find the proposed video in the slightest lovely. 'Kitschy'comes to mind. And the response to the 'ban' (it wasn't actually a ban, it was a corporate decision - or corproate decisons - not to show the film) by the ABC and others borders on the absurd, making them look ridiculous.

Posted by Eric MacDonald at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 1:20pm GMT

'Do we know who researched the likely responses? And what the result of that research was?'

Erika, I'm sure you don't actually think someone in Church House actually bothered to do some proper research? Any institution that could propose to squander millions of pounds chasing current evangelical fashion on the back of 'Anecdote to Evidence '[sic] is not going to bother to investigate possible responses to a few thousand blown on a cinema ad is it?

Posted by Fr Andrew at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 3:10pm GMT

@ Mark Brunson re the making of a vile Christ, interesting point, but somewhat flattened out. Vile is a strong word, though it likely describes how many people feel about organized religion of all types.

It's not just prayer that is greeted negatively. For example, if I pay good money for a movie ticket I'm not interested in watching a commercial sponsored by atheist cranks. I particularly don't want to line up to see Spectre only to have to endure some rhetorical rant from someone like Richard Dawkins. Popcorn is indigestion enough, thank you. But, then I resent all ads that are thrown at a captive paying audience.

However, I'm quite prepared to live with all sorts and conditions of ads, vile or otherwise, when riding public transit, or driving by a billboard, and the like. Likewise with broadcast outlets, during which ads I can change the channel or go get another cup of tea, or check Thinking Anglicans for updated comments.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 3:24pm GMT

I struggle with the idea that a cinema audience is ‘captive’ in relation to any adverts. Everyone knows film starts with them. And how do we know this ad will make people feel preached to? It’s a prayer not a sermon. Don’t you think people can tell the difference? And the evidence is that spirituality is one of the most natural connecting points with people beyond formal church.
The Talking Jesus findings have rightly been questioned. ‘If we assume its validity it shows that Committed Christians who speak openly about their faith with friends and colleagues are three times more likely to put them off God than attract them, and this seemingly perverse interpretation can be confirmed by the tiny number of actual converts among the "Committed Christians" surveyed — only 7% of respondents in the past 11 years. The overwhelmingly most significant factor in becoming that kind of Christian appears (from this research) to be to have been born into an evangelical Christian family’. (Alan Wilson)
Arguably the ad might model a more gracious way of expressing faith in midst of present tensions (though not for TA readers, I agree).
‘It is entirely possible that the advert would have a positive effect and that it is regretful that it won’t be shown. It is also entirely possible that it could have a negative effect.’ Or they might just miss it chatting over the pop corn. So which is more important? To try - or not to try at all? Meanwhile an estimated 600,000 people have watched it in the last few days on social media sites. Should they be warned?

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 3:37pm GMT

And now we are to witness the farce of a question in the House of Lords.

Posted by John Roch at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 4:37pm GMT

"So which is more important? To try - or not to try at all?"

Crucial thing is *how* you try, David. If direct evangelism alienates people -- and it's hard to see how it wouldn't: how d'you respond to the knock from Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses? -- then other methods should be tried, such as evangelizing indirectly via social action and justice campaigns.

Show, not tell.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 5:21pm GMT

David Runcorn,
"And how do we know this ad will make people feel preached to?"
That's exactly my question.
Did we research how it might make them feel?
After all, this advert will have cost a lot of money. And it will have been made with the genuine desire to encourage people to pray.
It would have been nothing but common sense to commission proper research to find out whether it would further mission or cause ill feelings.

"So which is more important? To try - or not to try at all?"
To research first.
Otherwise it comes too close to "Something must be done - this is something - therefore we must do it".

Wouldn't it be awful if we did this and ended up turning even more people off?

" Meanwhile an estimated 600,000 people have watched it in the last few days on social media sites. Should they be warned?"
No, because they knew what they were watching and chose to watch it.

On the other hand... we have abslutely no idea how they respondd to it.
Did it encourage previous non-prayers to give it a go?
I hope it may have.

But, really, religion is often so derided in the public sphere - it would be only common sense not to stab in the dark but to make sure in advance that our initiatives are likely to be well received.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 5:44pm GMT

Erika - yes like you I presume this was researched beforehand.
James - 'direct evangelism alienates people'. Evidence please? It has been part of the way faith has been passed on since the beginning. I am grateful to those who were direct with me. But by 'direct' I assume you mean methods no one here is seriously advocating - or me? Sensitive and thoughtful but actually audible - inviting the conversation. Yes. I for one want the CofE to discover an unembarrassed evangelistic backbone - and that of course means the risk of getting it wrong.
And now, looking back over this thread, I think I'm going to duck.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 7:08pm GMT

Surely it's a Jewish prayer? -- Posted by: Fr William on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 6:25am GMT

Very much so.
First, Jesus of Nazareth was Jewish, the Gospels say so several time, not least because he was born to a Jewish mother. He didn't worship himself.

But, looking at the prayer itself:

"Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed is your name." The traditional response line to the Jewish Sh'ma prayer praises God's holy name.

"Your kingdom come, your will be done." The same response line to the Sh'ma invokes invokes God's kingdom.

"Give us this day our daily bread." A paraphrase of the blessing over bread said before every meal by devout Jews.

"For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory ..." Half of all Jewish prayers are simply praises of God.

The text was my own free translation. Jesus did not speak in Elizabethan Aramaic or Hbrew.

But I loathe the modern versions that state "Spare us from the time of trial". That sounds more like an accused criminal making a last-minute request of a judge while in the docket.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 8:10pm GMT

What would be the response if this were a Muslim prayer? A Hindu one? Or an anti-theist's screed?

Do unto others.....

Posted by IT at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 12:10am GMT

The church might take some advice from rocker Neil Young,

"Ain't singin' for Pepsi
Ain't singin' for Coke
I don't sing for nobody
Makes me look like a joke
This note's for you.

Ain't singin' for Miller
Don't sing for Bud
I won't sing for politicians
Ain't singin' for Spuds"

Hallowed be thy name indeed. Nothing like hawking your God's name at the local schlock fest to encourage converts.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 1:26am GMT

@Rod Gillis -

That wasn't really my point.

Of course, we're willing to "put up with" vileness. That's part of being a Christian. It's required. Kind of basic.

My point, however, was that something as innocuous as prayer is likely to offend. While it may be convenient to bemoan secularization or commercialization, or try to share out the blame with other religions, the simple fact is that we fell down - in fact, the Christian faith, in its organizational form, has been falling down a flight of stairs for close on 1500 years.

Why is it that it's become almost impossible for goodwill to be recognized in religion? We can't answer for the others, but we must answer for Christianity. We've failed. Consistently. The gestures towards relief organizations, editorials on political decisions, etc. aren't enough - non-believers and government organizations do that, and often, far more effectively and coherently.

Time and again in the last decade and a half, we've had confrontations that have challenged what the Church (to clarify, I use that term to mean all denominations and sects; for one specific denomination/sect, I use "church")has presented to the world. Every time, we've had token hand-wringing, a few questions about what we can do to "get the young people back," and - every time - have concluded the problem is everybody else, not us. I say "we" and "us" because we are all part of the Church and all bear responsibility for what it does, at least within our own spiritual homes within that potentially glorious mansion, now reduced to a "unique fixer-upper opportunity."

We are not in such a solid position of trust that we can afford to worry about what other religions or the (admittedly obnoxious) "secular humanists" are doing. We've got to worry about the Church. We are supposed to be the Body of Christ, to radiate compassion, wise authority - we simply don't, and that's *our* fault.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 4:45am GMT

As I read the comments, I laughed out loud more than once. To have my opinion of the idea to use the poorly executed video as an ad in the cinema and the brouhaha that followed the ban so humorously confirmed was great fun. At first, I was puzzled and wondered if the video and the story might be a spoof, but I soon realized it was all too true, alas.

Posted by June Butler at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 6:09am GMT

'if this were a Muslim prayer? A Hindu one? Or an anti-theist's creed?' ... if it is as sensitive and gracious as this offering, why not?

Posted by David Runcorn at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 9:43am GMT

"if it is as sensitive and gracious as this offering, why not?"

I think this is where my deep uncertainty lies.
I have long since recognised that there are many things I find offensive that others don't find remotely offensive.
And that there are many things I see absolutely no problem with, or that I even see as entirely positive, and then I'm surprised by the strength of public feeling against them.

I watch in horror what others will tolerate.
And I watch in amazement what they cry out about.

I have learnt that my own understanding of things is absolutely no reasonable guide to how they will be received by the majority of people.

And I have followed the Christian response to this story on a number of fora. And I am bewildered by how few even ask the question of why a cinema chain might not want to show such an advert. And how many think they know and blame greed and ignorance and a hatred of religion and cowardice…. All from the lofty position of being very clear that there can only be one genuine way of looking at this.

And it troubles me. Because we can come across as too sure, too certain. Not anticipating or listening to equals “out there”, but as knowing what’s best for “them”. We live in our own bubble, shaped by our own discourse and language and thought patterns.

And I have yet to hear the church say that they did research this and that their certainty in offering this arose not from their own conviction but based on a realistic appreciation of the response it would get.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 10:55am GMT

David, you snipped a crucial conjuction: I asked *if* direct evangelism alienates. (To clarify, I'm not referring to childhood instruction, but buttonholing adults and trying persuade them of your religion's truth-claims.) I'm sure the occasional person gets converted by the Chick tracts approach, but other methods appear to be a heckuva lot more effective.

Where evangelism's most effective, as with Alpha courses and campus Christianity, it's soft-sell, often people at a vulnerable time looking for answers.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 12:17pm GMT

Nick Baines joins a number of conservatives making silly attacks on what they think a liberal culture might be. I am proud of my liberal culture.

I attended one of the first sixth form colleges in the country. It offered a classical liberal education. That meant that if your A levels were basically arts based, you were asked to also study the sciences as Foundation Studies. I studied philosophy as well as physics. Creative writing as well as maths. We had lectures from the leader of the LSO and the chief Rabbi. I tended an allotment for 2 years. I learned skills as well as words. That’s the liberal culture of our generation. It equipped me for a career in the BBC, and has (almost) sustained time within the C of E, despite it being, at times, a much less Christian organisation than my former employer. I hope I’m far from illiterate. But it’s not the first time I’ve heard conservatives make this ridiculous judgement.

This issue is not about a liberal culture. It's about a crisis of religious credibility. When I asked one couple who had come to church for the first time (prior to a baptism of their baby) what they prayed for they replied, with painful honesty, 'God get me out of here as quickly as possible.' They were still clear that they wanted the baptism. What they didn't want was cultural baggage that went with it.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 12:44pm GMT

Firstly I share with others concerns about the quality of this ad.
Having said that I am wondering who is responsible for making this spat public and just what was their motive?
If anything I would see this publicity as further marginalising the Church and making it look petty and petulant.
As to DCM providing the policy AFTER the fact, well, that looks very much like what the CofE did after blackballing Dean Jeffrey John. Perhaps DCM modelled their response on this Church method of justifying its discrimination?

Posted by Fr Alan at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 1:50pm GMT

@ Mark Brunson, " ...We are supposed to radiate compassion, wise authority - we simply don't...."

Mark your point runs aground on three pillars (1) you are leaping to conclusions (2) it doesn't connect the phenomenal dots and (3) it tends toward a kind of institutional neurotic Christian guilt.

One can just as easily argue that there are abundant examples of where Christians have evidenced, do evidence, compassion and wisdom. Historically the institutional church has had its share of shortcoming and scandals; but it has had and continues to have its share of successes.

Besides, the notion, asserted by Dawkins as well I gather, that prayer ought not be considered offensive, is naive. The Lord's prayer, depending on one's perspective could be considered quite offensive in the sense that it longs for a social order that overturns the cherished values of a materialistic and self referential culture. The Prayer is a scandal in the sense that the cross is a scandal. The Lord's Prayer properly understood has enough of an edge to offend the comfortable and that is a good thing. The ad is grating for the opposite reason in that it presents the Lord's Prayer as gimmick.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 1:57pm GMT

I agree with Andrew's comment: "It's about a crisis of religious credibility."

A gap has opened up between the dogma of the church and the moral and scientific values of the wider community.

Added to this, there also seems to be a social incongruence in the way 'Church' is practised and presented. It too often seems to operate - to use a word Erica used - in a 'bubble'. It is, demographically, an aging culture that society generally finds a bit bemusing at best, and offensive at worst.

Genuine truth-seekers outside the Church are mystified and turned off by the discrimination the Church exercises between heterosexual people and those with other orientations. Equally, a 'sola scriptura' approach, elevating the bible to inerrant status, brings some churches into conflict with science and intelligence.

Arguments - in this day and age - about male headship, or the events of Genesis, or the slaughter of the Canaanites at God's 'command'... things like this just make rational truth-seekers shake their heads. Too often we alienate people who might otherwise feel well-disposed towards us, and might actually listen to the radical Jesus.

The fact that Church figures are surprised that a cinema chain doesn't want to get involved in peddling religion (or politics) sort of demonstrates an insularity of mindset.

We are living in a multi-cultural society. Why would commercial organisations - who seek the custom of people of all parts of society - want to impose a religious slot on faithful Muslims, Hindus, Atheists etc.

It's pretty obvious, isn't it?

Credibility has to be grown through lives shared with the community we are trying to reach. This Lord's Prayer initiative seems superficial, too easy, and rather poorly thought out.

Getting in people's faces about religion is a whole lot simpler than getting in people's hearts, but may have the opposite effect to the one intended.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 4:27pm GMT

Attacks on liberal culture don't sound too convincing when it's liberal secular culture you're trying to address.

There just absolutely has to be respect and a sense of intellectual and moral equality.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 5:09pm GMT

'The fact that Church figures are surprised that a cinema chain doesn't want to get involved in peddling religion (or politics) sort of demonstrates an insularity of mindset.'
Peddling? You mean this brief, gentle, carefully multi-cultural recitation of the Lord's Prayer?
And wasn't the surprise that having happily agreed to carry it - and even offered the church a discount - the cinema's suddenly changed their mind? Surprise seems quite reasonable at that point. What is insular about being surprised by a cancelled contract?

Erica thank you for your comments. I find myself concerned by extreme responses on both sides. I am increasingly struck by the graciousness of St Paul, in prison and with people out there doing 'church' in ways he wouldn't but saying 'Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. [some] out of love, others out of selfish ambition. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. (Phil 1)

Posted by David Runcorn at Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 5:27pm GMT

@ Rod Gillis -

I really do think you're trying to rationalize, here.

The reality is that we don't fulfill what you are trying to say, anecdotally, we do.

We don't.

This isn't phenomenology, this isn't a class on philosophy, it isn't a pleasant walk through the fields of ratiocination, it is reality. Your argument, which is full of really lovely philosophical and rhetorical device, is exactly the insularity the rest of us are talking about. You're simply not looking at the reality of the world around you, but insulating yourself with a very bright mind. That is, of course, your right, but it isn't real. The dots are connected, because it's happening right there, in front of you, every day. The dots are written right across Western history since Constantine, and - I think - you are wilfully ignoring them in favor of keep that rationalized insulation around you.

As to guilt, we *should* feel guilty. That's part of Christianity, too. Not to run away from guilt, but to repent and return. That's the historical purpose of confession. The real work of the psychiatric field to expose the dangers of guilt complexes have - and this is another example of her failure - been translated into a sort of '70's pop psychology feel-good individualism, polarizing a reactionary clinging to guilt and "old time religion."

Finally, you are fighting a losing battle in trying to engage me with Dawkins - I find the man a charlatan and equate him with the tent-revival healers of my childhood. I'm not talking about another academic talking head, but the reality of the society around you right now.

I am all for an education, and am the farthest thing from an anti-intellectual 'Murkan, but, at some point, the books, the libraries, and the lecture halls of the mind have to be left behind to engage with and be tempered by the real, street-level ugliness of the world, or all that erudition was acquired to no purpose, whatsoever.

I do respect and understand what you're saying, I simply believe it is a way of shielding yourself.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 5:52am GMT

I'm frequently appalled by extreme comments on every topic. I'm comforted by the fact that my real-life conversation with people are always for more nuanced and thoughtful than what we read online and that people listen to each other much more carefully.
That's not to say that online commentators may not be right. But it takes the sting out of what appears to be extremely polarised "debates".

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 9:21am GMT

I agree that our motives of proclaiming Christ do not necessarily matter.

My concern is with the effect of that proclamation, and therefore with the most appropriate method.
We have had a decade of Evangelism during which our method, however well meant, did not do much to spread the knowledge of Christ among people in our country.

My criticism, if such it is, is that we focus too much on what we want to say and not enough on understanding and respecting those we are trying to speak to.
And we're then surprised (or depending on temperament, disgusted) when those we addressed do not want to hear, or even worse, when we turn them further away.

We need to be more aware that our approaches can be counterproductive. And a mission focused church would not want its efforts to be counterproductive.

We’ve heard about bewilderment from the CoE (and I agree with you, it’s entirely understandable that they should be bewildered if they had been offered a deal that was unexpectedly withdrawn at the last minute), we’ve had blustering talk about legal action, about insisting on our rights, about the Equality Act (an unfortunate association for people who have the opt-out from the same Act used against them and their families and friends).

We haven’t heard what made the church be so sure that an advert before a film was a good idea.
We haven’t heard a thoughtful engagement with the reasons the cinemas may have had for withdrawing their offer (if it really happened just a few days before the advert was due to be out, it is possibly connected with the attacks in Paris and a fear of religious polarisation).
We haven’t heard the church gently trying to dispel those fears.
We haven’t had a press release that explains the facts of the matter and expresses understanding of the suddenly arisen concerns of the cinema but tries to defuse them and deeply regrets that an opportunity to share peaceful and peace-focused prayer was lost.

The tone is wrong…. And that worries me.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 10:18am GMT

"It’s a prayer not a sermon. Don’t you think people can tell the difference?" DavidR

If it's the Lord's Prayer in a nation that either 1) has an Established Church (UK) and/or 2) historic Christian hegemony (USA), no, I don't think they can. Nor should they. "Just Pray (the Lord's Prayer)" IS a sermon (when someone has chosen to go to the movies, not church).

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 10:43am GMT

@ Mark Brunson, Mark, Other than the rather passive aggressive ad hominem packaging in your previous rejoinder to me, I have no idea what you are talking about; but more to the point, I don't think you do either.

Your's and several other comments here are examples of "over think". This whole issue is very simple. Movie theaters declined advertising of a sort they believe would aggravate their customers. They are probably correct. Correct or not, I think they have every right to do so.

I'm quite happy, however, to address the "overthink" tangents that posts like yours' instance. It's great sport. But you should not be surprised when sweeping and rather convoluted posts offered without any real evidence are the subject of analytical critique.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 2:02pm GMT

@ Mark Brunson, "As to guilt, we *should* feel guilty. That's part of Christianity, too. Not to run away from guilt, but to repent and return. That's the historical purpose of confession.'

There is a distinction between appropriate guilt and neurotic guilt. If I steal my neighbor's lawn chairs and then feel guilty about it. That is appropriate. Lying awake at night taking responsibility as a Christian for every sparrow that falls is neurotic. The latter is a wide spread phenomena both within and without the church.

And what better example could there be than the confessional as a vehicle of both inculcating and then manipulating neurotic guilt?

The whole Constantine allusion has become such an easy cliché. Christianity, like all world religions, has a long varied complex
religio-politcal history. It's so easy to fall into the trap of striving, as your opinion seems to suggest, for a kind Kierkegaardian utopia.

Totally a side bar to movie ads, but a good example of obscured the view can become from inside churchland.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 3:15pm GMT

Thank you, Erika and Suzannah. I am as committed as you both to sensitivity and appropriateness in sharing faith. But I do think this sounds very anxious. Which is worse to get it wrong or not to attempt it at all? I don’t think we can ever be certain how we will be received. And when the NT calls this gospel a stumbling block and warns its messengers to expect persecution that suggests that at least some negative reaction may be the fruit of our message not its failure. Meanwhile the CofE is really hardly known for its tendency to lurch into insensitive in-your-face evangelism is it? Historically this is a tradition that has had such a deep unease with religious ‘enthusiasm’ of any kind that its most gifted evangelists and renewal movements have been routinely forced out. FWIW I happen to think that that partially explains why the Decade of Evangelism felt such hard work. But I don’t think it failed. That rather depends on your measure of ‘success’. I think we have been learning and building from it.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 4:20pm GMT

*You mean this brief, gentle, carefully multi-cultural recitation of the Lord's Prayer?*

There's nothing multi-cultural about organisations which have discrimination on the basis of sexuality as established policy.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 5:07pm GMT

David Runcorn said, 'Meanwhile the CofE is really hardly known for its tendency to lurch into insensitive in-your-face evangelism is it?'

That's absolutely right, David. I think it's actually rather ironic that most of us try our hardest to avoid sins and errors we're not really in any danger of committing. In my work as an evangelism trainer I often hear Anglicans quietly and tentatively expressing fears that they might be too pushy. I tell them that most of them would have to get a hundred times more pushy before they were in any danger of being too pushy!

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 11:36pm GMT

For those out there today who will gather their courage, fumble after the right words, overcome their fears - and share their faith with someone. Friend or stranger, welcomed or rejected, respected or mocked. With gratitude and respect - and even the prayer that I may be found among them.

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 27 November 2015 at 7:31am GMT

"Which is worse to get it wrong or not to attempt it at all?"

This conversation is becoming more confrontational than I want it to be, because I’m now arguing as if I knew that no prior research had been done – but I don’t know that.
As a matter of principle, though, your question seems to me too black and white.
Rather than saying “getting it wrong is not as bad as not attempting it at all”, would it not be better to try to find out first what might work?

I wouldn't be so over anxious, as you call it, if we had a fantastic track record of getting it right and as if we could say that, on average, we attract more people than we put off.
But I don't see that.

For me, it has nothing to do with anxiety.
It's to do with pragmatism. If you really want to get a message out there that touches people’s heart, you research first what method is most likely to be successful.
And if you can't be sure about success, then at least you will try to minimise the risk of annoying people.

Is the focus on me: “I must be brave and gather my courage, fumble after the right words, overcome my fears - and share my faith with someone”?
Or is the focus on them: “I really want to find a way of speaking to them that attracts them, that makes them curious. I must understand their thinking and their language, and then I must think of a way that speaks to them, however strange it may be for me. But the important thing is that I take them seriously enough to make every effort I can to find the right strategy – before I speak.”?

If the focus is on them, you do your research first and then you gather your courage.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 27 November 2015 at 9:07am GMT

The latest Church Times report is here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 27 November 2015 at 12:15pm GMT

The Church Times has today, 27 November, printed a letter from me, behind the paywall, but which reads thus:

Sir, — So, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Director of Communications, and the Chief Legal Adviser are each variously “shocked”, “astonished”, and “bewildered” by the actions of a commercial agency with whom they had been negotiating to place an advertisement in cinemas.

The agency has ended up banning the advertisement by retrospectively documenting a policy that certainly was not mentioned at the time the negotiations started. No doubt church officials feel that they have been double-crossed, and have even threatened legal action under the Equality Act 2010.

But didn’t exactly the same thing happen recently in the matter of advice produced retrospectively for the Crown Nominations Commission? Members were issued a figleaf of cover for their rejection, many months earlier, of candidates for episcopal appointments who “have publicly questioned the Church of England’s teaching on human sexuality” in a manner that was somehow considered to prevent the candidate’s becoming “a focus of unity”.

Perhaps those officials, and indeed others who are upset by this rejection, would care to ponder whether they now have a better understanding of how their own behaviour appears to other people?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 27 November 2015 at 12:22pm GMT

"The Church Times has today, 27 November, printed a letter from me, behind the paywall, but which reads thus:" -- Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 November 2015 at 12:22pm GMT

Thank you, Simon! Bravo!

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Friday, 27 November 2015 at 7:13pm GMT

Well done, Simon.

I'll say it a bit more bluntly: the hypocrisy is stunning.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 28 November 2015 at 12:53pm GMT

The problem is, Rod, you want to argue from a purely secular position, devoid of the realities of human experience.

Doesn't work when you speak of religious faith. Referencing some numinous "neurotic guilt" doesn't change the fact that we are called to be a community, and communities are responsible to one another. Countries may feel guilt and apologize for past misdeeds - centuries ago, in some cases - and that is not "neurosis" but a recognition of the communal guilt. Christianity must recognize its past misdeeds.

Shedding all guilt over actual missteps in personal action is merely a way of deflecting. Not useful, and hardly healing. Hate to tell you, but, if you are a human, you sin, and you should feel guilty for those sins you do and know you're doing them. For instance, I have been feeling quite bad about my tendency to be nasty, manipulative, and dismissive in my internet posting - I imposed a period of silence on myself after confessing and apologizing publicly, and have found a space to try to be more measured and not respond to clear insult with insult.

As to missteps that are unintentional, acknowledging that they were missteps is not a process of guilt, but of rectification and personal growth.

Guilt does have its place. While progressive Christianity is the best of Christianity when done with care and reflection is the best Christianity, "liberal" Christians have been far too quick to try to throw any sense of personal responsibility to community as far from them as possible, resulting in a cold charity, an uninvolved activism that remains safe at home, and, yes, an incredibly lukewarm faith that does not help connect the transcendental to the material. It, in fact, ceases to be religion, as it doesn't bind anything. It's another thing to do and be seen doing.

As for Utopia, what is the Kingdom that we are supposed to be working toward? If you don't believe in that, then why be Christian at all?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 6:29am GMT

My first reaction to this news was "what were they (CoE leadership) thinking?" The advert makes me cringe and I'm an extremely extroverted American.

Somewhere else, I read a commentary by Rowan Williams. He caught my attention when he noted how absurd it seemed to him to be put off by the Lord's Prayer at a cinema that typically shows loads of violence and sex.

I'm not saying that I buy into his view, and I'm not eager to see it at cinemas here in the US, but it certainly is perspective.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 13 December 2015 at 7:07am GMT
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