11 September 2003

Methodist Church House hosts launch of new Churches' Media Council

More than 100 guests attended the launch of a new ecumenical agency for the media at Methodist Church House on Tuesday evening, 9 September. They were welcomed by the Rev David Deeks, the new General Secretary General of the Methodist Church in Britain.

The Churches Media Council (CMC) has been launched as an official agency of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland to represent the Churches on media issues - including consultation with Government and other public bodies. The CMC also provides a forum for Christian journalists, broadcasters and others working in the media, as well as church leaders and officers, to meet and share experiences.

The CMC replaces the former Churches Advisory Council on Local Broadcasting (CACLB), whose officers felt that a broader approach was needed in an age of ever growing flexibility across the media. Broadcasters are increasingly required to switch between radio and television, journalists are writing for both printed publications and websites.

Former Catholic priest, Oliver McTernan, broadcaster, author and Fellow of Harvard University's Centre for International Affairs, delivered the keynote address at the launch.

Speaking on 'Churches Using the Media', Mr McTernan said: "This evening is a tribute to the vision, wisdom, professionalism and dedication of a number of Christian broadcasters but in particular to Agnellus Andrew and Stuart Cross who in the late sixties recognised the opportunity and challenge that the introduction of local radio presented to the Christian Churches. These two dedicated Churchmen and highly experienced broadcasters firmly believed that Christians had a responsibility to utilise to the full the opportunities offered by the new developments in broadcasting to communicate the truth of the Christian message.

"To pioneer an ecumenical approach in the mid-sixties required a depth of personal courage, faith and commitment that thankfully few today can appreciate. This fact in itself is an acknowledgement of the enormous contribution that CACLB in particular and religious broadcasting in general has and is making to the promotion of ecumenism.

"The fact that the successor organisation of CACLB, the Church's Media Council, is being launched today as an official agency of Churches Together in Great Britain and Ireland and of Churches Together in England is a clear indication of the progress that has been made and that the Churches have come to recognise, at least officially, the need to be more professional in our approach to the media.

"As Christian broadcasters we have an enormous responsibility. We need to help to promote a more honest and objective debate that will help the political world. We must be ready to uphold the right of different faith traditions to have the level of access to the media that we ourselves enjoy. I believe it is to uphold in practice the most fundamental Christian belief that life is a sacred gift that should be respected and cherished in all circumstances.

"Our engagement with the media should be a two-way dialogue. If we want to use the media to communicate our message we should also be open to how that same media perceives us. There is always the temptation for any institution or group to want to use the media to present a positive image. We must never forget that the glare of publicity can attract the attention that highlights our failings as well as our achievements."

Bishop Tom Butler, Anglican Bishop of Southwark and CMC Chairman said: "Our mission is to develop, encourage and promote Christian involvement in all aspects of the media in the UK and Ireland. God's values and His personality are communicated to us in His Son's life and in His continued living. What we have received compels us to communicate this to others. We must communicate the Love of God and the Salvation message to His people, using all available means.

"Christ - and John Wesley - were the great communicators of their times, using the most powerful and effective means of their times. We must do the same; and in today's day and age that means using the media, in all its various shapes and forms. The Churches' Media Council is committed to lead that effort and I commend its formation to you as a valuable step forward in bringing our message - His message - to meet the people where they are and enable them if they wish to connect with the Almighty."

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