Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Are we wobbling off piste? Reporting the same Lambeth Conference launch, Riazat Butt in the Guardian concludes “Gay Climate of controversy clouds Anglican gathering” whilst, probably more accurately, Ruth Gledhill of the Times reports “Sexuality will barely be on the Lambeth Conference agenda.” The blue train is wobbling on the tracks, friends. Entirely as an exercise in communications studies (and not theology, you understand) may I humbly propose a facetious little something to help keep this thing rolling, along the lines of Fr Ronald Knox's Ten Rules for Writing Detective Fiction?
1. Nobody must ever win outright. Every complexity must be reduced to two simple contradictory positions, or the readers lose interest. Whoever heard of a boxing ring with a blue corner, a red corner, a green corner and a pink corner? Forget it. No question raised in the dispute may ever have a particular answer, and every particular answer must always be twisted to produce a further generalised question.
2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. The Archbishop of Canterbury must always be brought as directly as possible into everything. His Grace is always right in principle, but wrong in practice.
4. Wrap up your proposed next step in each particular event you report, and you can sustain interest. As in Volleyball, drop the ball and the game's over.
5. Reference can only be had to a very limited number of real Anglicans, or the public will become confused and lose the plot. In particular it is necessary to cover up the almost complete lack of manic anxiety about this subject in 99·99% of Anglican parish churches in the world, and confine yourself as much as possible to internationally rated single issue fanatics. You've got their numbers, and they are very talkative.
6. Litigious Yanks, or, even better, Litigious Southerners, bring plenty anger to the plot, but their actual legal system is complex, finely balanced and basically fair. American litigation is even more boring than American football. Therefore the rule when reporting US courts is quick in, quick out. Sound-bite the result, but for Pete's sake, don’t get bogged down in the contents or process.
7. Only Africans with American PhD's can be allowed to appear in the story. No Indians, thank you. Forget Canada. Remember Voltaire? Even with global warming, it's still only miles of snow.
8. The Bible is a powerful iconic juju, but you mustn't ever open it, or people will tumble to the simple fact that there is next to nothing directly about “gays” in it — not surprising since the word was first used this way in 1934 by Cary Grant. “Homosexual” dates from 1892. 4 out of 31,240 verses makes Jack a dull boy. Again, keep it general, and keep it moving. It’s OK. Most of the punters never read the Bible anyway.
9. Ecclesiology is a very long word. Don't go there, except for the anoraks on your blog. You have to pretend that the Church of England is a reduced form of the Roman Church at all times, because in fact autocephalous churches are structurally incapable of having schisms in the Roman sense. If that got out the game would be up. Dust over the line between “province” and “diocese” at all times — like Iran and Iraq. For most of the public, what the hell's the difference anyway?
10. The Reporter must not, themselves, be homosexual. Or if they are they must pretend not to be. As far as in you lies, keep everyone talking about somebody else at all times.