Methodist Church House hosts launch of new Churches' Media Council

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

The Churches Media Council (CMC) has been launched as anofficial agency of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland torepresent the Churches on media issues - including consultationwith Government and other public bodies. The CMC also provides aforum for Christian journalists, broadcasters and others working inthe media, as well as church leaders and officers, to meet andshare experiences.

The CMC replaces the former Churches Advisory Council on LocalBroadcasting (CACLB), whose officersfelt that a broader approachwas needed in an age of ever growing flexibility across the media.Broadcasters are increasingly required to switch between radio andtelevision, journalists are writing for both printed publicationsand websites.

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

Speaking on 'Churches Using the Media', Mr McTernan said: "Thisevening is a tribute to the vision, wisdom, professionalism anddedication of a number of Christian broadcasters but in particularto Agnellus Andrew and Stuart Cross who in the late sixtiesrecognised the opportunity and challenge that the introduction oflocal radio presented to the Christian Churches. These twodedicated Churchmen and highly experienced broadcasters firmlybelieved that Christians had a responsibility to utilise to thefull the opportunities offered by the new developments inbroadcasting to communicate the truth of the Christian message.

"To pioneer an ecumenical approach in the mid-sixties required adepth of personal courage, faith and commitment that thankfully fewtoday can appreciate. This fact in itself is an acknowledgement ofthe enormous contribution that CACLB in particular and religiousbroadcasting in general has and is making to the promotion ofecumenism.

"The fact that the successor organisation of CACLB, the Church'sMedia Council, is being launched today as an official agency ofChurches Together in Great Britain and Ireland and of ChurchesTogether in England is a clear indication of the progress that hasbeen made and that the Churches have come to recognise, at leastofficially, the need to be more professional in our approach to themedia.

"As Christian broadcasters we have an enormous responsibility.We need to help to promote a more honest and objective debate thatwill help the political world. We must be ready to uphold the rightof different faith traditions to have the level of access to themedia that we ourselves enjoy. I believe it is to uphold inpractice the most fundamental Christian belief that life is asacred gift that should be respected and cherished in allcircumstances.

"Our engagement with the media should be a two-way dialogue. Ifwe want to use the media to communicate our message we should alsobe open to how that same media perceives us. There is always thetemptation for any institution or group to want to use the media topresent a positive image. We must never forget that the glare ofpublicity can attract the attention that highlights our failings aswell as our achievements."

Bishop Tom Butler, Anglican Bishop of Southwark and CMC Chairmansaid: "Our mission is to develop, encourage and promote Christianinvolvement in all aspects of the media in the UK and Ireland.God's values and His personality are communicated to us in HisSon's life and in His continued living. What we have receivedcompels us to communicate this to others. We must communicate theLove of God and the Salvation message to His people, using allavailable means.

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