i Editor's Letter: The St Paul’s debacle

 

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The Independent Online

There are some subjects about which, after a year, we are pretty sure we know most i readers’ opinions — and then there’s the St Paul’s debacle.

By and large, over the past year you have revealed you’re largely centrist on most political hot potatoes; leaning a little right on immigration, Europe and law and order, and to the left on education, the NHS and the bankers.

I am sorry to generalise, although this is at least based on cumulative anecdotal evidence from our inbox, Facebook site and Twitter feed. But St Paul’s is tricky, as it mixes moral dilemmas. Your views are far less polarised than they might be, say, on Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s columns. In fact, they reflect some of the muddle, fudge and cant that have so bedevilled the Church’s handling of what has become a self-inflicted crisis.

Although Christina Patterson argues that for the CofE, success may yet be plucked from the gaping jaws of disaster, on the evidence to date, it seems unlikely. When the protesters were barred from the Stock Exchange and set up camp at St Paul’s, the CofE found itself in a place with which it is unfamiliar these days: at the centre of the story, moreover one which is at the heart of a national debate. It was also a rare opportunity to show that it was in touch with “the people”.

Some put the feeble response down to “self-hate”, reflecting badly on an institution that doesn’t believe in itself. Others believe it has betrayed both the protesters and its own principles. A minority argue that it is right to try to clear the tents.

There is little doubt that the whole affair has been a PR disaster for the Church and has thrown up a clear lack of natural authority amongst its leaders. Given the situation it finds itself in, there is a need for a new professionalism in how it handles its PR, but spin alone won’t save the Church, it needs to find some cojones!

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