Can there be anything more injurious to a free and democratic society than censorship of the press? It is shocking therefore to read the following in the Media information for the 2022 Lambeth Conference: “The Lambeth Conference reserves the right to deny or withdraw accreditation of journalists from media organisations whose activities run counter to the principles of the spirit of the conference, or put the accreditation to improper use or act in a way not consistent with the principles of the organisation.”
Are they really expecting the secular media to be willing or able to pledge support of the ‘principles and spirit’ of Anglicanism in order to report on the Lambeth Conference?
The question logically follows, what are these ‘principles and spirit’ to which the press must adhere lest they lose their credentials? Are these principles theological? If so, which theology? Will it be the official theology of the Church’s Formularies – the Scriptures, Creeds, Articles of Religion, Book of Homilies, and the 1662 BCP – or will it be whatever is the ‘woke’ theology du jour surging through the chambers of Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office?
Alas it is unlikely to be the former. Do the official formularies – still the Canonical standards of the Church of England and the most of the Anglican Communion – carry weight with those organising the conference?
Will the principles and spirit of the Conference allow those holding classical Anglican theological commitments to cover the gathering? Will they be allowed to cast a critical eye in reporting proceedings? Or, will such news outlets be given the cold shoulder as if their questions or news reports are beyond the pale of acceptability? Who now decides what is acceptable to be written about the Lambeth gathering? Is it possible that an agnostic or atheistic journalist from a favoured media organisation will be deemed suitable, whereas a Christian with classical Anglican theological convictions will be excluded? Does ‘mutual flourishing’ give a place to the conservative press?
Censorship is dangerous and those planning the 2022 Lambeth Conference appear to embrace it, if only those guaranteed to provide favourable reports are to be recognised. Indeed the organisers have plainly announced their intentions to be censorious.
Imagine the Prime Minister’s press office announcing that only news outlets in agreement with the ‘principles and spirit’ of the Conservative party would be allowed to cover their party conferences? How would that come across? The weeping and gnashing of teeth would not be surpassed until the Day of Judgment. The journalists at the Guardian and BBC would condemn this offence against free speech. The TV experts would be trotted out continually to decry the fascistic, dictatorial tendencies that have come to the fore. Radio 4 presenters would pronounce in most solemn tones the abominable decision.
Sadly, the most likely response to Lambeth’s announcement will be a collective shrug of the media’s shoulders. In recent years, most of the daily newspapers have eliminated dedicated Religion Correspondents. This makes control of the news agenda much easier. Reporting on the Church is a specialist’s area and without journalists experienced in the ways of the institution, censorious bureaucrats have a free hand in setting their agenda without vital questions being asked.
This decree from the Lambeth organisers, and the treatment of ordinand Calvin Robinson, which we also report in this issue, would indicate that a ‘cancel culture’ has taken hold at the higher levels of church governance in this land. Diversity of all kinds is to be promoted and celebrated, it seems, except diversity of opinion.