Anglican Communion News Service smears GAFCON and manipulates Archbishop of Canterbury
david at virtueonline.org
Fri Oct 6 20:38:45 EDT 2017
Anglican Communion News Service smears GAFCON and manipulates Archbishop
October 6, 2017
You'd think, wouldn't you, that you could trust the news reports which
emanate from the official Office of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
You'd hope, wouldn't you, that the Anglican Communion News Service
(ACNS) might issue factual statements of reliable and verifiable truth,
as all good reporting should be, instead of tinted opinion with a
tainted political agenda, as all journalism so often is.
A few days ago, the ACNS carried an account of the Primates' Meeting in
Canterbury Cathedral, entitled: 'Archbishop Welby "taken aback" by Las
Vegas prayer criticism'. It was shocking in its content -- that,
basically, conservative Anglican Primates were "put.. in a difficult
spot" when Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the US
Episcopal Church (currently under discipline for permitting same-sex
marriage), had been asked to lead them in a prayer at Evensong following
the Las Vegas shooting atrocity. Speaking at a press conference, the
media spokesman for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the
Rev'd Canon Andrew Gross, who also speaks on behalf of the Global
Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), was reported to have said that the
GAFCON Primates were "forced to look like they are walking together when
they are not walking together".
So trustworthy and reliable was this report deemed to be that it circled
the Worldwide Anglican Twittersphere and Blogosphere in 40 minutes: 'Las
Vegas shooting: Anglican Primates complain about having to pray
together'. Tweet after condemnatory tweet after incredulous Facebook
post followed. What petty, narrow-minded, not to say bigoted and
self-righteous pharisees these GAFCON Primates must be. And what a piece
of uncharitable work the Rev'd Canon Andrew Gross must be, totally
devoid of grace, mercy or compassion.
At some point the next day (and certainly after this blog had published
its comments on the matter) the Anglican Communion News Service issued a
correction, or, rather, a clarification:
This article was amended on 4 October, to make clear that Canon Gross
was not thought to be speaking on behalf of any Anglican primates and
that his church, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is not part
of the Anglican Communion or involved in the Primates' Meeting.
Not thought to be...?
Didn't they bother checking?
Setting aside the status of the ACNA, how can the official Press Officer
@Gafconference & Director of Communications @The_ACNA speaking at an
official press conference not be speaking on behalf GAFCON Primates, on
whose behalf he speaks?
It is interesting, is it not, that while the ACNS was eager to correct
the impression (which they certainly gave) that GAFCON Primates had
objected to being ambushed by Bishop Michael Curry's prayer, they were
content to leave the Rev'd Canon Andrew Gross hanging out for the crows
and vultures to peck and pick at his Christian sincerity and character
integrity. And so they did: "What a marvellous model of mission he must
have. What a vision of visible unity he must possess. What an
inspirational witness to the world his purity must be..."
For which comment this post is an unequivocal apology to the Rev'd Canon
Andrew Gross, and a sincere attempt to set the record straight.
And doing so must begin with the observation that the Anglican Communion
News Service is not merely an Anglican news service, but a journalistic
enterprise with a theo-political bent and a distinctly smeary mission to
defame Anglicans whose moral worldview it doesn't particularly like.
In fact, it is not beyond the wit of the ACNS to propagate Anglican Fake
News to tarnish ACNA/GAFCON Primates (and other members) for holding
their divisive orthodox Anglican views. The article 'Archbishop Welby
"taken aback" by Las Vegas prayer criticism' is a misleading story which
has propagated a number of falsehoods. It appears that the Rev'd Canon
Andrew Gross was, in fact, set-up and has been unjustly accused.
Long before this Primates' Meeting, the leaders of GAFCON recognised the
difficulty (but necessity) of keeping church politics out of worship at
such gatherings. For them, divisions in the Anglican Communion are
perceived to be very serious indeed, and they are of the view that the
Communion's entire future demands honesty about this lack of unity. For
others, the issues are secondary theological matters which do not affect
the fundamental Anglican koinonia. At a Primates' Meeting,
notwithstanding some notable absentees, there is a temptation to convey
a unity -- "walking together" -- which not all feel is remotely near the
The agreement that was put in place at the 2016 Primates' Meetings was
that no act of worship would be publicised, precisely because such
publicity could be improperly used (or at least be perceived to be used)
for political gain. GAFCON Primates assumed that the same agreement
would obtain in 2017, by which their members might come to Canterbury
and worship without distraction (or fear of being 'used').
Unfortunately, pictures and reports about Bishop Michael Curry's leading
prayer dominated the front page of the ACNS website, publicising what
should have remained a private moment among the Primates. This was
perceived as a breach of trust. GAFCON Primates had no problem with his
prayer, or any objection to praying with him: what they found difficult
was the politicisation of the praying.
On Tuesday, GAFCON held one of their regularly scheduled press briefings
which covered a range of topics. An ACNS representative, Gavin Drake,
arrived at this press conference without accreditation, and without
agreement. There was some discussion about whether he ought to be asked
to follow agreed procedures and withdraw, but generosity of spirit was
considered the nobler course of action, so he was permitted to stay.
After all, neither the ACNA nor GAFCON have anything to hide.
Although they were not happy with the ACNS publicising the worship in
Canterbury Cathedral, the GAFCON comms team had no intention of bringing
the matter up. But the Rev'd Canon Andrew Gross was asked directly by a
Times journalist whether it was difficult for GAFCON to have the
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church preside over worship at
Evensong. Canon Gross, hearing that key word 'preside', said that it
puts those Primates in a difficult spot because it can portray a false
sense of unity. It was a straightforward answer to a direct question
which simply reiterated the 2016 agreement. It was certainly not said
with any animus, but was merely the re-stating of a fact. The
conversation swiftly moved on.
Gavin Drake, who is also staffing the official Primates' Meeting
communications team, used their official press conference later that
afternoon to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury about Canon Gross's
answer, giving Justin Welby an impression which was some distance from
Canon Gross's intention and meaning: the context was transported from
the Primates' 2016 agreement and the question of TEC's bishop presiding
at Evensong to an issue about the TEC's bishop praying at Evensong about
the Las Vegas atrocity. Mr Drake then turned the Archbishop's "taken
aback" reply into the next front-page story on the ACNS website. It was
not accurate: it was a smear. It was fake news at its Anglican worst.
The Times journalist was perfectly free to ask a leading question: the
task of the Christian press officer (and certainly of a Christian
director of communications) is to respond factually and truthfully,
mindful of the questioner's motive. It appears that Gavin Drake took
Canon Gross's response, manipulated it, and planted it at another press
conference for the Archbishop of Canterbury to condemn.
Indeed, the Archbishop could do nothing but condemn it.
If all he had to respond to was a terse oral extract from the ACNS
report, he would be wholly justified in castigating Canon Gross for his
grossly insensitive remarks.
But the purpose of putting the question to Justin Welby (presumably
without warning) was to slander the ACNA and the GAFCON coalition of
Primates. And to that end, it appears to have been successful. They have
been universally scorned and derided (including on this blog).
It helps to know some of the relational history.
At the 2003 Primates' Meeting, the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola,
and two others, refused to participate in a service of Holy Communion
with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev'd Frank
Griswold. The Very Rev'd George Conger broke that story for the Church
of England Newspaper (which the ACNS said was a lie, but he had the
account first-hand from Archbishop Akinola himself). That fissure in
communion has evolved over the years so that the Primates as a collegial
body have not worshipped together at the Eucharist since.
When Canon Gross was asked by a journalist to comment on the matter of
Bishop Michael Curry presiding at Evensong, the context was not linked
to the Las Vegas shooting. Only later, in fact, was it learned that the
Primates had asked Bishop Curry to lead them in prayer for Las Vegas,
but he had not presided over anything, as Canon Gross had been led to
When Gavin Drake (who, you must remember, is editor of the Anglican
Communion News Service) put his question to the Archbishop of Canterbury
(his ultimate boss), it was not a casual query to elicit grace and
enlightenment, but a pointed attempt to score a hit against GAFCON. It
was not only premeditated slander wholly lacking in Christian virtue and
professional journalistic integrity, but an egregious manipulation to
elicit outrage from the Archbishop of Canterbury who was asked to
respond to a false accusation that GAFCON had said it was wrong for
Bishop Curry to lead prayers in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting.
They had said no such thing.
The Rev'd Canon Andrew Gross had never said any such thing.
Apologies to him, once again, for simply trusting the ACNS story, which
was, in fact, nothing but Anglican fake news.
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