*** DEBUG END ***

Press: Up to a point, Lord Copper

14 March 2012

by Andrew Brown

Yet another poll: support for gay marriage in The Sunday Times

Yet another poll: support for gay marriage in The Sunday Times

A TRULY curious story in The Daily Telegraph, which was the only secular paper to have followed the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome. “Rowan Williams used a joint prayer service in Rome to call for a renewed drive to ‘restore full sacramental communion’ between the Anglican and Catholic Churches”, wrote the newly appointed religious and social-affairs editor, John Bingham.

This is no doubt factually defensible, though I have read the sermon quite carefully without spotting it. But it is, of course, ludicrous in the wider context of the Anglican schism. What made it seem a great deal more absurd was the headline: “Archbishop of Canterbury in fresh push to stop Anglicans from converting”.

The subhead was an even wilder stab in the dark: “The Archbishop of Canterbury signalled a fresh push to dissuade traditionalist Anglicans from defecting to the Roman Catholic Church as he joined the Pope in stressing moves to bring the two Churches together.”

This went up over the weekend when four dioceses in England rejected the Anglican Covenant, thus showing — at least to a Roman Catholic eye — that they don’t want to be united even with other Anglicans.

Still, this isn’t entirely the journalists’ fault. Imagine, for a moment, the sensations of a hard-bitten news reporter told to generate a news story from a speech that starts: “The monastic reform movements of the 11th century have in common the strong commit­ment to a return to the gospel.”

THE other Roman Dr Williams story was a claim that he had denounced the wearing of the cross. This appeared to be connected with the row over Nadia Eweida, currently in the courts over the right to wear one with her British Airways uniform. That’s certainly how the Telegraph spun it. “Wearing a cross is just a ‘religious decoration’ for many people and not an essential part of Christianity, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.”

I quite see that, after ten years in office, Dr Williams might recoil like a vampire from the sight of a pectoral cross, but it’s unlikely that he was thinking at all of Ms Eweida when he spoke. The sermon from which those quotes were taken did not stray far from the 11th century either.

IT WAS bad luck on Catholic Voices, the conservative pressure group, that its poll purporting to reveal that 70 per cent of the population opposed gay marriage should have been squashed out of most papers by Ruth Gledhill’s interview in The Times with the new Dean of St Paul’s, which appeared to suggest that he was in favour of it. Only the Telegraph gave the poll the hoped-for showing; and then The Sunday Telegraph came up with another poll, indicating that a majority of the population are, in fact, in favour, though few people think it is very important.

Ms Gledhill also had the first interview for a long time with the Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, and it was a cracker. She quoted him saying: “I was very struck by David Cameron’s statement that he is in favour of same-sex marriage, not in spite of being a con­servative but because of being a conservative.

“I am not a political animal, but I want to say something very similar as a priest. I am in favour of same-sex marriage not because I am a wild liberal but because I am instinctively a traditional Anglo-Catholic.

“Not only gay people are repelled by all this. Many more people of goodwill who in­stinctively expect the Church to uphold justice and truth are scandalised when it so obviously does not.”

This is not only a good story in itself (which was picked up by the Telegraph), but it made clear yet another divide between the liberals and conservatives in the Church. Both sides are more or less agreed that English society now sees gay people as normal, and sometimes admirable. But the conservatives think that the Church loses influence because it does not resist this trend; the liberals, because it does not lead it.

So here’s a perfectly simple question to which I do not know the answer: is the Church more or less likely to be disestablished if it is seen to resist gay civil marriage?

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)