Matthew 27:24 – You Decide

I grew mad as I read this article in the Scotland on Sunday (SoS), if there was ever a non story it was this one, but then I got livid, but first the mad bit.  It relates to this extract from Inspires Online which the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) circulates online.

Morag introduces her segment by writing:-

… I started to have that niggling worry of previous years. I am not quite the youngest person there, but pretty close. The number of members sporting beards is disproportionately high. The news is filled with the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Edinburgh and having read up on symptoms and discovered that men over 50 are the most likely to contract it, I hope that General Synod is not doomed to virtual wipe out.   I start to ponder what the SEC General Synod might look like in 20 years time. Who will be left at the table?

I was also in Edinburgh for the General Synod and the talk not only at Synod itself but also in the local hotels, shops and restaurants was about the Legionnaires outbreak.  There was also a bit of uncertainty before hand by members as to whether the Synod might even go ahead because of it.  Morag wasn’t the only one hoping that no-one else would contract it, there was plenty concern around both inside and outside of Palmerston Place.  As indeed the TV news reported there was in general in Edinburgh, while the Scotsman the SoS’s weekday cousins headlines for the two days before Synod and first day of Synod cry:

Legionnaires’ was on everyone’s lips and pens and keyboards but all this is but a preamble to a very good question that ends the introduction.  Just what might the SEC look like in 20 years, who will be left at the table?  If there was a story that was it, in that good question and indeed one which was to be discussed at Synod; as also reported commentd on through Inspires Online:-

Bishop David Chillingworth highlighted the work of the ‘Next Steps Group’ currently looking at a greater emphasis in attracting younger vocations to ensure the church has a good pool of younger life-committed clergy to grow into being its future bishops and leaders.

In fact one of the people who got up to speak during this debate was one of the youngest priests in the province who also happens to be a beard wearer.  Beard wearing in the SEC isn’t an age related thing, that is another bit of SoS misreading/reporting.

So again I say Morag you aren’t alone, for I for one strongly agree with you that this question needs asked and answered. I also think your piece was a wonderful breath of fresh air and will continue to defend it.

Okay, I think that deals with the actually words that created the rumpus, it certainly does as far as I am concerned.  It was an accurate piece of reporting which highlighted a question which the Synod itself was dealing with.  So that is that, or rather that should be that but unfortunately it isn’t, for if you remember I ended up being livid.

The SEC which I love dearly, to which I have dedicated my life, which I have supported and defended time and time again and have the bruises to prove it, has over this, managed to produce that final straw for this particular camel.  Rather than saying there is no story; rather than saying there was, and is, a general concern about our age profile; rather than saying the whole of Edinburgh was talking about Legionnaires, this is what comes out as the last paragraph in the SoS article:

A spokesman for the SEC said: “An insensitive and unfortunate personal remark was made following the General Synod. The remark was a personal view and was not made on behalf of the Church.”

I also was asked to give a report for this particular edition of Inspires Online.  I received a very formal letter from the SEC’s Communications Officer, on behalf of the conveyor of the SEC’s Information and Communication Board to write one of the reports (yes I have checked I was definitely asked to write a report).  This report was to be circulated via Inspires Online instead of the Synod Summary (the official report of Synod) which had been produced in previous years.  So my understanding was that this was going to be the new version of the Synod Summary and the official report that was circulated. Indeed to that end I pointed out to those concerned that they might wish to remove a word from my own submission, which had I thought it was a personal reflection I wouldn’t have – they didn’t remove it btw.  It wasn’t until re-reading everything before doing this post, I discovered that the notice that goes out with, but which is not part of Inspires Online, says: “Please find below a special inspires online giving some personal reflections from General Synod 2012.”  My point is this – there was no indication that this was anything other than the official General Synod report at the time of request, writing or submission.  Indeed even when I originally read it didn’t click with me that it wasn’t ‘The General Synod report’ but some personal reflections, but that is my fault as I didn’t read that bit knowing what it contained from the subject matter line.  Those of us who wrote the reports which were actually reflections were instructed what sections of Synod we were to write about, the copy then had to be submitted back to the Communications Officer, who one would suppose would have then read and checked them, before they were circulated in an offical SEC communication, even if they were personal reflections.  Despite what that ‘spokesman’ says this was someone who was performing a service that the SEC had asked them to do on behalf of the SEC for general circulation.

BTW if you want the ‘official’ report of General Synod you have to dig around the web site to find it on different pages.  Personally I prefer the Inspires Online version, for its accessibility, its readability and because it actually tells you what motions 5-16 are, but that is my personal reflection!

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