Disciples don suits for Christian poster campaign

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The Independent Online
AN ADAPTATION of Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting of the Last Supper portraying the disciples as brand managers of multi-national companies is being used to sell the Christian message for 2000.

The campaign comes from a group of Christian advertising executives who hope churches will buy their posters.

Jesus is depicted telling the executives that "God's mission statement for the millennium" is summed up by the Beatles song "All You Need is Love".

The companies represented are IBM, Disney, Microsoft, Mercedes Benz, Coca-Cola, Gillette, Nokia, Sony, General Electric, Kodak, and Intel. The twelfth company logo is blank, not a reference to Judas' betrayal but due to a company complaint about being used in the advertisement.

The poster was designed by members of Christians in Media, a group advertising professionals who give their services free, for the Churches' Advertising Network (CAN).

Its previous campaigns include the Virgin Mary having a "Bad Hair Day" and Jesus as the communist revolutionary Che Guevara with the strapline: "Meek Mild As If. Discover the real Jesus. Church. April 4."

One member of CAN, the Rev Peter Owen-Jones, rector of Haslingfield, Cambridge, and a former advertising executive, explained the point of the latest campaign. "Much of the focus of the millennium, especially in the UK, has been on the Dome and its sponsors. What we are saying is that if Christ came in the year 2000 he would, strange as it may seem, choose to sit down with the people who pull the strings. We can't get away from the fact that companies are cast as pariahs, but Jesus's love would have extended to them."

CAN is run largely by Anglicans although the Baptist and Methodist Churches send a representative to meetings. The Catholic Church gave up its involvement earlier this year because it felt the Che Guevara campaign was ill-conceived.

Monsignor Kieran Conroy, director of the Catholic Media Office, said the message of the Last Supper campaign seemed ambiguous. "It is not clear whether Jesus is criticising or approving of the businessmen."

"If a campaign simply causes controversy it calls into question the church's own grasp of its message and its ability to communicate it."|

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, yesterday accused the Bishop of Edinburgh of preaching a morality that was not "fully Christian".

Dr Carey said he disagreed with the central thesis of the Rt Rev Richard Holloway's book Godless Morality, which he said claimed "divine authority for the commandments and their prohibitions".

"To conclude that we must turn our back on scriptural insights and teachings ... is unacceptable for us," he said.