Thinking Anglicans

Lambeth Conference: Paul Handley on the press

This week’s Church Times press column is available on day of publication and is written by the Editor himself.

Read Press: Saying no to the media by Paul Handley which includes this:

…THE RELATIONSHIP between the press and the conference organisers — mediated through the media team — is deteriorating nicely. Having been told earlier that journalists could not attend the cell groups, the indaba groups, or the “self-select” seminars, and some of the plenaries, it was found that the fringe meetings were also out of bounds, unless the meeting organiser agreed otherwise. A journalist had been ejected from a meeting (on the subject of mediation) the previous evening.

The latest news was that members of the press were also barred from the 7.15 a.m. eucharist, because “it is important for bishops and their wives to be able to worship freely”. The image conjured up was of obtrusive television interviews being conducted at the communion rail. Journalists do actually know how to behave themselves during services. It felt like dragging our Lord into the organisational pettiness. The least the organisers could do is to lay on a public eucharist before the bishops’ service.

THE OTHER ROW on Tuesday was about a list of those attending. This has not yet been forthcoming — and might never come forth — because of “security reasons” (10.30 a.m. press conference) or “privacy laws” (1.30 p.m. press conference).

We did wonder, briefly, whether the security reasons had something to do with Radovan Karadzic masquerading as Rowan Williams (see below); but the Archbishop later visited Dave Walker’s cartoon tent, and there was no hint of a Serbian accent.

Lots of press questions were about the presence of bishops from provinces that had previously announced that they were boycotting the conference. “Nigerian bishops” (10.30 a.m. press conference) changed to “a fax from a Nigerian bishop indicating that he was coming” by 1.30 p.m. “So,” a German reporter asked dryly, “the fax is here but not the bishop?”

After a tetchy discussion about all these restrictions, a journalist asked, without a hint of irony: “What, then, is the point of our being here?” A member of the media team said grumpily afterwards: “Well, you asked to come here.”

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pam
pam
12 years ago

Really, for such a large and established organization, the C of E and the Communion in general are really behaving like the “not quite ready for prime time players” (to steal a phrase from Saturday Night Live). The amateurish nature of the press relations is astounding. It seems to play directly into the meme that the Communion and the Conference are in disarray and unraveling at the seams. An adversarial relationship with the press seldom produces an atmosphere where you can get your positive message out. It just makes it seem that you are hiding something (and not doing it… Read more »

Tom Allen
Tom Allen
12 years ago

I think the whole press assumption and attitudes around Lambeth have been deeply revealing and depressing – why should they have any access when their only agenda is to stir the whole gay question with stunts like the Daniel Deng interview by The Times. The answer to the journalists question is that there probably is not any point in being there unless they are prepared to genuinely report what is actually happening (rather than what their Editors and the demands of the front page want to happen)- and of course it is a dated media which has been superseded by… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
12 years ago

As a sometimes journalist, I can tell the Lambeth organizers that the only thing you get when you bar journalists from your meeting is bad press. The first question will always be “what do they have to hide?” And both “security” and “privacy” as reasons to deny a list of the attendees is pure bovine manure. Does anyone really think there’s some great conspiracy to “off” a bishop somewhere? And “privacy” makes no sense at all–all these bishops had to make travel plans to get there. For the ones from outside the UK, that means visas, passports, etc. When your… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

“Journalists do actually know how to behave themselves during services.”

Like the journalist who interrupted the Service at St Mary’s Putney after Gene Robinson’s sermon and seconds before the prayers, asking if there was time for questions?

Göran Koch-Swahne
12 years ago

Mannes, Manners; where are the famed Anglican Manners of yore?

Cheryl Va.
12 years ago

Actually, it parallels the whole “why is Jesus here?” debate.

There are some who think that Jesus was sincere in his promise of gentleness to the Daughter of Zion, and thus to provide suitable dwellings for all beings in Creation.

There are others who think Jesus is aligned with those without compassion or mercy and only concerned whether they and their ilk are suitably acknowledged.

God exists independently of either camp and God will provide no less suitable dwellings for the non-Christians than they have tolerated for their own kind.

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
12 years ago

“The least the organisers could do is to lay on a public eucharist before the bishops’ service.” Why? The Lambeth conference is not something put on for the benefit of the media. Neither is there any reason why the public “has a right to know” how bishops come to their decisions. We are not some Crown Corporation. We are a part of the icon of the Kingdom of God. We as Anglicans must be concerned that we have discerned the will of God in selecting our bishops, indeed in everything we do. We are not answerable to the Press, nor… Read more »

Richard
Richard
12 years ago

The idea that the Communion can ‘treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen’ by keeping the media at arm’s length is a mistake. If you don’t give them the story you want, they’ll go get the story they want. Some are there to report on schism and disaster but some (most?) are not. Bishops are public figures on official business: their attendance is a matter of legitimate interest, and the quotation of ‘privacy laws’ (which, despite the Mosley case, don’t exist as such in the UK) is just daft. I know that the Communion Office feels hurt by recent reporting… Read more »

Roger
Roger
12 years ago

This may come as a shock, but the Lambeth Conference has not been arranged for the benefit of the Press! It is to enable Anglican bishops and their spouses from all over the world to meet, study the Bible, pray together and discuss how as bishops they are to fulfil their roles. It seems clear from all that the press have said in the months leading up to this conference that nothing less than stories of in-fighting and schism will do. So why should they expect to be given any special privileges or access, when the bishops and their spouses… Read more »

Pluralist
12 years ago

Good to see your own joke recycled. I’ll admit it is rather obvious.

One wonders now if the privacy laws operate; whether journalists can say too much about this gathering of consenting adults.

Spirit of Vatican II
12 years ago

O keep the press far hence that’s foe to all that Rowan Williams is attempting. The press have done much to exacerbate the problems. They remind me of the lamentable Abp Deng who complained that with all this indaba humbug we are not getting a chance to talk about what we came here to talk about, namely levitical abominations. Abp Deng would love to make Lambeth another Dar Es Salaam, and boasted, just as Akinola did, that Rowan will toe the line he and his cronies have come to lay down, the line, namely, of Biblical Fundamentalism — surely the… Read more »

Doxy
Doxy
12 years ago

Ford Elms and I *finally* agree on something! 😉

Lambeth is not a business meeting. It is a time of prayer and relationship-building—and neither of those things can (or should) be done in the media.

And the Eucharist is not a spectator event. I admit that the most likely reason they don’t want journalists there is to keep them from reporting on who refused to take communion with/from whom—but that still doesn’t change the fact that the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God…not the Guardian or the Telegraph.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
12 years ago

I am a voting member of my parish in TEC. I have an absolute right to attend and observe any vestry meeting or committee meeting. I have an absolute right to attend and observe my diocese’s convention; I have an absolute right to attend and observe TEC’s general convention. TEC’s bishops are at Lambeth, in part, representing me. I have no right to know which ones are there? Or what they are discussing? I don’t think so. No, the conference is not held for the benefit of the press, but it is held for the benefit of the Communion as… Read more »

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
12 years ago

“Lambeth is not a business meeting. It is a time of prayer and relationship-building—and neither of those things can (or should) be done in the media.”

That seems to be the way that Rowan Williams and the people who planned the event are trying to define this particular conference. However, I don’t think it is an accurate description of previous conferences.

I think that one can just as legitimately define it as a meeting of leaders who have a responsibility to communicate with and be held accountable by the broader church membership. They need the media to do that.

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

Pat this is fascinating. Is there no provision in the Episcopal Church for confidential discussions among those who are responsible for the running of the parish? How do you deal with pastorally sensitive issues that need to be agreed on before making them public? How do you ever foster a sense of collegiality and safety and a place where people can speak their minds without having to worry about public consequences? Isn’s safe exploration of all issues and concerns a requirement of any decision making process? Accountability – absolutely! But complete openness at all levels? From my vantage point in… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

“I have no right to know which ones are there? Or what they are discussing? I don’t think so.” The other comment I would make here is that it is perfectly safe for US bishops to express their views. But some of the bishops’ blogs hint at delicate and conciliatory conversations with African bishops, there is a sense of small shoots of hope for changing hearts and minds. I treasure that enormously and I know that it would not be possible if the conference was completely open to the public. These bishops would have to toe the party line, divisions… Read more »

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
12 years ago

Jim Naughton reports that the Lambeth Conference has run about $2M in the hole on its expenses. Presumably they will be looking for people to help them cover that debt. More favorable press coverage could be very helpful in such an endeavor.

Stephen Bates
Stephen Bates
12 years ago

Erika Baker is quite wrong. It was not a journalist who sought to interrupt the service at Putney, but an elderly gentleman who may, or may not, have been a protestor. I was there and saw him. It is highly unusual for bona-fide worshippers to stand up to ask questions in mid-service after sermons (perhaps it ought not to be!) and so, bearing in mind the previous interruption by the biker, Giles Fraser, the celebrant, denied the man’s request and he sat down quietly. Who knows what his question would have been? In any event he didn’t try to raise… Read more »

WSJM
12 years ago

“And both “security” and “privacy” as reasons to deny a list of the attendees is pure bovine manure. Does anyone really think there’s some great conspiracy to “off” a bishop somewhere?”

Well, actually, now that you mention it….

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
12 years ago

“Ford Elms and I *finally* agree on something! ;-)” I don’t recall too many spats with you. Unsettling, though, isn’t it, when you find yourself in agreement with someone who has been on the opposite side of the fence from you on mostly everything. It really shakes me up when it happens:-) Seriously, I used to read Barbara Amiel’s columns in MacLeans magazine, and she is as far from me politically as someone can get. But every once in a while I’d find myself agreeing with her. Then I’d have to take a shower:-) So, feel free to do so,… Read more »

Cal McMillan
Cal McMillan
12 years ago

Oh, bosh! Lambeth IS of course, all those wonderful high sounding things. It is also like any other conference, and the deals do tend to get cut in back rooms at three in the morning after numerous bottles of scotch. Talk about the work of the spirit! Pat is right to remind us that this shindig will boil down to a very craftily worded and largely agreed upon set of statements communicated at the end. These things need to be as bland and innocuous as possible and that’s hard to manage when the GS+ is all for escalating them into… Read more »

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
12 years ago

Pat, I guess you vote for the President but don’t have a right of entry into the Oval Office. I don’t think even TEC accords the ‘right’ of other folk to attend its House of Bishops. Let’s let the bishops do what it is their business to do at Lambeth without telling them how to do it. Some of the press have behaved badly. I was interested to see the Primate of Sudan ‘set up’ by manipulative questioning. At least one of his questioners has, I suspect, done her professional reputation some lasting harm. I thought Jim Naughton very wise… Read more »

drdanfee
drdanfee
12 years ago

Oh how I wish I could rest confident that this meeting was for my real good. Instead, it is likely to contain at least some mawkish and superior exclusively straight elements which delight in talking badly to me, talking down to me about everything from science to faith to hermeneutics, and talking bad and down about me to any number of other vulnerable audiences who will have little chance to test those horrible loud claims by knowing me accurately in my daily life. All realignment sound and furious talk of unity, signifying that I am the problem and the target.… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

Stephen
I apologise, I assumed that the man must have been a journalist as I could not imagine any regular churchgoer believing it would be appropriate to interrupt a service.
My fault!

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
12 years ago

Erika: Of course the vestry can go into “executive session” to discuss certain matters–but those matters are spelled out quite specifically in the by-laws of most parishes, and are usually limited to personnel issues. It’s important to realize that in the US, most parishes are not-for-profit corporations, subject to the laws regulating such institutions, and those laws (in most states) require open meetings of the vestry who are, for legal purposes, the board of directors of the corporation. Now–I just completed a three-year term on our vestry and it’s true that in those 36 months we never had a non-vestry… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
12 years ago

“Pat, I guess you vote for the President but don’t have a right of entry into the Oval Office. I don’t think even TEC accords the ‘right’ of other folk to attend its House of Bishops. Let’s let the bishops do what it is their business to do at Lambeth without telling them how to do it.” Not without warning, no. But if I petition to meet with the President, I have a right to have that request considered and responded to. Many “ordinary citizens” meet with the President (or members of his staff) every year for various purposes. As… Read more »

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
12 years ago

It is the Executive Committee that governs TEC between general conventions, not the House of Bishops. The meetings of the Executive Committee are open to the public unless they go into executive session.

Tom Allen
Tom Allen
12 years ago

Stephen Bates once again misses the point about the relationship with the Press – the suggestion is that the nationals are not interested in the real story of Lambeth only the sensationalised gay stories or that the Press arranged Daniel Dengs press conference – it was evident from Ruth Gledhill’s video coverage who planned it for that Day and hence the sense of set-up with a newly elected Archbishop with limited experience with the UK press. Readers should simply compare the amount coverage given by the quality papers for that Press Conference with the two others which the Archbishop has… Read more »

BillyD
BillyD
12 years ago

Ford, maybe the suggestion was made to hold a public Eucharist before the Bishops’ Eucharist because there are others at the conference, like reporters, who might want to worship and make their Communions.

The Eucharist is primarily a public service of the Church. I understand the need to give the Bishops their space, but barring hoi polloi from the Eucharist unsettles me.

Malcolm+
12 years ago

In my secular life, I am an accredited public relations practitioner. I’m sure that would automatically disqualify me to do media relations for the Anglican Communion. You know, there is something between giving the media untrammeled access to every damned thing and keeping them locked in a box. But as someone has noted, the media are going to write a story. This kind of imperious (and idiotic) approach to media relations i virtually guaranteed to ensure that the story they write is the last bloody story you want them to write. Everyone involved in the Lambeth media relations team should… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
12 years ago

This is all too funny. Tanzania. Lots of Anglicans behaving really badly, and the press watched and recorded it happening. Lambeth. Some of the worst Anglicans from Tanzania haven’t shown up (thanks God). This conference’s organising Anglicans bar the press from somee events, which means they can’t witness Anglicans behaving badly. The press wonder why they are there. The same Anglican organizers say it was because they asked to be there. God chuckles, the whole thing about Anglicans behaving badly has simply been exposed once again. You see the “evil” secular state wants to see what is going on behind… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

Stephen Bates I think it was Jim Naughton who said at the beginning of the conference that a successful conference would mean extremely little news would emerge, and that he wondered whether the press might find that satisfactory. I appreciate what you’re saying, and I particularly appreciate Malcolm+’s comments about PR. There are, of course, extremely trustworthy journalists. You have always been one of them, so is Jim. But on the same day I had to apologise to you for posting a wrong statement, I also had to applologize to another poster here on another thread because I had taken… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
12 years ago

Erika:

The problem is that, without open press access, there are those–on both sides–who will question the process by which this “coming together” takes place. Who was pushed? Who was doing the pushing? Who will be–at heart–responsible for the writing of the final statements of the conference?

The recent suggestion of something like a “Holy Office” for the Communion is a case in point. Where did it come from? Who proposed it? What are the real chances it will come to pass?

Paul H
Paul H
12 years ago

Oh Erika… “lambada groups”!

What a wonderful pun – I haven’t laughed so much for ages, at the thought of all those bishops engaged in hot Brazilian dancing…

I’ll be chuckling all day now – thank you!

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

Pat “Oh Erika… “lambada groups”! ” – see, Paul worked out who does the pushing and the pulling and the jigging! Oh dear… do not post before the 1st coffee, do not post before the 1st coffee, do not post before…. Yes, not having open access does make things difficult. But even with access people will disagree about who said what, when and way. There are still those who insist that Gene Robinson’s consecration started this debate, for crying out loud! And no pointing them to actual historical truth will change their reading of history. If the groups work then… Read more »

Robt. Zacher
Robt. Zacher
12 years ago

It’s payback time for the all those press, media and Internet scoundrels who have played such a destructive part in the development of “The Anglican Crisis.” I couldn’t be happier to see most of them locked out and fed scraps. Right now we are being subjected to this “Holy Office” baloney which is nonsense. On Thursday and Friday it was “Bishops Stuff Themselves at Lambeth Palace” … on and on and on. It’s been anything goes to sell newspapers or to feed the predudices of crazed partisans who hate religion or Anglicans or both. After all the press and and… Read more »

Pamela Grenfell Smith
12 years ago

Erika – The Bishops do lambada while the press are left in limbo?

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

Pamela
Yes, and at the end they all do the Lambeth Walk together.

riazat butt
riazat butt
12 years ago

@Tom Allen – I take exception to your assertion that Ruth G arranged the press conference with the Sudanese ++ – I arranged it for 3.30 that afternoon and that was because someone had very kindly left the position statements on homosexuality and genocide (the two are unrelated) in the press room. The same happened with the second observation report from the WCG. The two age document was very casually dropped off. For the rest of the posters, while I agree that the conference is not for the press, keeping us out is rather like denying children sweets. We just… Read more »

Tom Allen
Tom Allen
12 years ago

“it was evident from Ruth Gledhill’s video coverage who planned it for that Day and hence the sense of set-up with a newly elected Archbishop with limited experience with the UK press”. Sorry to have stirred a bout of professional jealousy but I did not say that Ruth Gledhill “arranged” the conference – it was her video which revealed who was behind it – the same people who ” very kindly” left the press statements for journalists to be picked up and they have a Gafcon style agenda. The question is not whether it was right for the voice for… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
12 years ago

I assume Tom Allen is referring to the person who, in Ruth’s video, appears repeatedly behind the speaking archbishop, and who Tom assumes had a hand in proposing to the archbishop that he should find a way to talk to the press about his views. The same person is not to be seen as far as I can tell in the ENS complete recording of the event, and furthermore is the only question asker who does NOT have the ENS camera swung to show him when he asked the archbishop a question during the press conference. Does this mean that… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

“Where is the matching coverage to a Nigerian Christian leader being granted political asylum here in the UK because of death threats in his home country because he is gay?”

Thank you, Tom Allen.

Tom Allen
Tom Allen
12 years ago

Simon Having not seen the ENS coverage of the event I am not sure I understand what the second paragraph means – I am not suggesting that ENS or any of the press are part of a pro-Gafcon conspiracy – just that it is interesting to see who is “assisting” the Archbishop at his press conference – and their motives (and their awareness of the significance) might be different from the Archbishops. The main point of my original post is that the press got what they wanted in terms of Editors demands and “Gay Bishop scoop stories”, and that the… Read more »

riazat butt
riazat butt
12 years ago

@Tom Allen – I’ve noticed on this thread that there seems to be an assumption that the press are the bad guys and that we’re intent on destroying the Communion by luring bishops into the lion’s den and provoking them. There is no big conspiracy or agenda setting by reporters or their editors. By being excluded from many of the scheduled events we are not able to report on the “tender shoots” Erika refers to so it is inevitable that people who are not happy with the conference, or its direction, will find us out.

Tom Allen
Tom Allen
12 years ago

Riazat Butt: I make no assumptions about the press being “bad guys” – I judge by what is written and have come to a conclusion that there is one agenda – you continue to deny this. I like many other Anglican Guardian readers will remember July 25th for a long time to come – there was a gift of story about Anglican Bishops walking down Whitehall to a meeting with Gordon Brown to protest about world poverty – what was your headline for the day on P15 of 25th July “Bishop accuses church of manipulating summit over ‘tolerance guide’ to… Read more »

John-Albert Dickert
12 years ago

I believe that we as a People of G-d, in the redemption of Christ and the Love of the Holy Spirit are coming to terms with the idea given to the Galation community so many years ago that , ” There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female-for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) We have a hard enough time with the covenant G-d gave to us on Sinai by commandment, and Jesus on earth who gave us our commission to ” You must… Read more »

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