The new Chair of the Church and Media Network has called on the Church of England to move beyond "defensive self-interest", ahead of a debate at the Church's General Synod.
A private member's motion to be debated at the Synod next week will call on Ofcom to “explain why British Television, which was once exemplary in its coverage of religious and ethical issues, now marginalises the few such programmes which remain and completely ignored the Christian significance of Good Friday 2009.”
Regular religious programmes on BBC television include 'Songs of Praise' a weekly act of Christian worship on BBC1 on Sunday evenings and 'The Big Questions' an hour long weekly debate in front of a live studio audience on Sunday mornings. The BBC has also just screened the series 'A History of Christianity', and is currently broadcasting the fourth series of 'An Island Parish', which follows a year in the life of the remote Isles of of Scilly off the western coast of Cornwall.
In 2006, the BBC staged The Manchester Passion, an ambitious live passion play about the last hours of Jesus, retold using a backdrop of the contemporary music of Manchester.
Elaine Storkey, who takes over as Chair of the Church and Media Network from the Rev Dr Joel Edwards this week, urged members of the church and media to forge a new relationship and seize the opportunities of the digital media environment.
“I welcome the fact that Synod is going to discuss the media,” said Dr Storkey, who is a long-standing member of the General Synod. “We need to recognise that the industry has changed and continues to change at a dizzying pace. I hope we will go beyond defensive self-interest. This is a time for prophetic and supportive voices. In this new digital media environment the Church needs to find fresh ways of working with the major broadcasters.”
The Network has issued a briefing paper to Synod members outlining the “huge missional opportunities” offered by the new digital environment and calling on the Church to find “a new positive mode of engagement.”
“We need to find new strategies to ensure that faith-based programming is lively, vibrant and plentiful,” she said. “We also need to encourage and support other key areas such as quality children’s programmes.”
This year’s Church and Media Conference will take place from 7th – 9th June and will look at religion in the digital environment. Its title is Voices from the Cloud. More details of the conference are at http://www.churchandmediaconference.info