It’s Holy Week, so I wonder if our national Church is in the news at all? Let’s see…There’s a story this week about a long dead bishop called Bell, accused of child sex abuse, to the anger of some. Don’t confuse Bell with Ball, an undisputed episcopal abuser. And don’t confuse Bishop Peter Ball with Bishop Michael Ball, the disgraced Ball’s twin brother – there’s also a story about such confusion. There’s also a simmering story about a recent archbishop, George Carey, allegedly failing to pass on a specific allegation of sexual abuse relating to Peter Ball. So: Bell, two Balls and Carey – that’s pretty much the Anglican news this Easter.
Paedophilia has taken over from divisions over homosexuality, as the ‘meta-story’ about the Church of England in our day. Maybe the gay split will soon regain its pole position, and a more familiar tedium will resume.
Look, I’m not complaining that such stories get a lot of attention. Part of the problem is that nothing much happens in religion, besides a lot of worship – so controversies about sex are the media’s way of acknowledging that it’s part of our culture. You can hardly print a news story about a successful baptism taking place, or a Lent discussion group going rather well.
This might sound cynically PR-ish, but the Church has to be more proactive in securing better publicity. It has to create a new meta-story (ie. a long running story that generates hundreds of sub-stories) for the media to report. How? Just by doing its thing more boldly and creatively – doing its worship in new ways that our culture finds compelling. If that happens, a newsworthy narrative will emerge. That’s the challenge for any budding Luther (the original media-circus star). How can the Church create a media meta-story that (unlike the gay row and paedophilia) actually conveys the truth and force of the story of Christ?
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