Anglican Communion life impeded by insufficient communicators

Posted Apr 30, 2012

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion faces a shortage of qualified communicators, according to an international Working Group on communications. The group — consisting of communications professionals from five continents — concluded that the Communion life was at risk of being detrimentally affected by some Provinces’ inability to source and share their news and stories widely.

“The narrative of the Body of Christ is very powerful,” said group member Revd Dr Joshva Raja “and currently the Anglican Communion is not properly equipped to share that narrative.”

Raja, originally from the Church of South India, explained that an informal survey had revealed that only a third of provinces have full-time communications staff.

“In many cases the job of telling the story of the church is left to busy provincial cecretaries, unqualified volunteers or, in some cases, the bishop or primate,” he said. “How can the world hear about the best of our church life if we do not hire people with adequate time and/or the skills to source and share the stories of our part in God’s mission?”

During its recent three-day meeting in London, the Anglican Communion Communications Working Group, identified that strategic communications — that is, communicating proactively as well as reactively—is now, more than ever, a vital ministry of the church.

“The world has changed massively in the past decade,” said the Anglican Communion’s Director for Communication Jan Butter. “The Internet and mobile phone technology is challenging the way the Anglican Communion can and should engage in God’s mission: sermons now reach global audiences; evangelism is happening via Google’s Search Engine; church notices reach Anglicans in remote areas via text messages.

“Increasing access to social media also means there is greater, often instant, dialogue between everyone; church communication is no longer simply ‘top down’. The Anglican Communion needs to do all it can now to seize these new opportunities to work together to share God’s good news.”

The group — that also included members from the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Hong Kong, Southern Africa, the United States, England and Mexico — reflected on the effective communication that is taking place around the Anglican Communion. Examples include communication via text message (SMS), Facebook and Twitter, printed material, websites, video, radio and television.

However, it was clear that there is still a way to go before all Anglican Communion provinces are equally able to share news and information domestically and intra-provincially. An imbalance in the availability of resources, technology and training means that only a few provinces prioritize communications as a life-giving ministry of the church.

“The group has made several recommendations to strengthen Anglican Communion communications,” said Bishop Anthony Poggo of the Episcopal Church of Sudan.

These include conducting a communion-wide audit to identify gaps in provinces’ communications systems and structures; strengthening the Anglican Communion website and News Service; and providing training in communications for both communicators and clergy.

“A key recommendation, however, is that every province should have at least one paid, qualified communications director,” he said. “We know this will be a challenge for many provinces, but we are committed to finding ways of making this happen.”

The members of the Anglican Communion Communications Working Group were invited to participate based on their expertise in communication and experience. They were:

John Allen – South Africa (Attended via Skype)
Nick Clarke – England
Joey Fan – Hong Kong
Linda Hanick – USA
Bishop Anthony Poggo – South Sudan
The Rev. Dr. Joshva Raja – India
Emily Shepherd – England
Michael Wright – England (Chair)
Evangelina Zarco Osnaya – Mexico (Attended via Skype)

Facilitator: Jan Butter – Anglican Communion Office